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Insensitive to sensitive wetland

Garbage litters land around new south Guelph student complex

Hannah Vettor, a resident of student housing complex Solstice 1 at 1291 Gordon Street, said she was so disgusted by the litter surrounding the brand new building that she had to do something about it.

Last weekend, she single-handedly stuffed garbage bags with trash that she believes is having a negative impact an environmentally protected wetland, and keeping wildlife away.

“I got 40 bags of garbage, the huge ones, and that was just by myself,” she said. “I was out there for about five hours.”

Much of that garbage was thrown over a 1.5-metre high chain link fence that was installed on the western side of the building to protect wildlife and native plant life.

Vettor said throwing garbage into the protected area is certainly insensitive towards the environmentally sensitive zone.

“I started realizing that there was just garbage everywhere, like people throwing bags and bags of it, full bags out there, whether out of laziness or ignorance, I don’t know,” she said.

HIP Development’s Solstice 1, and its in-progress Solstice 2 further north on Gordon, are built on the edge of the Hanlon Creek Provincially Significant Wetland Complex, a woodland and wetland natural area.

The developer was required to jump through a number of environmental hoops in order to build there.

A HIP Development notice to residents of Solstice 1, found on the City of Guelph’s website, highlights the building’s environmental protection features, and encourages residents to be aware of and respect the fragility of the wetland complex.

In the document, found here, the company highlights the measures taken to protect the land, including the installation of the fence, the provisions for a wildlife corridor near the property, and the storm-water management pond constructed to protect the quality and quantity of water running off into the wetland.

Both email and telephone messages were left for management of Kitchener-based HIP Developments, seeking comment on the protection measures and the garbage issues. There was no response.

Vettor said the garbage defeats the purpose of the environmental protection measures.

“I always see deer out my window,” she said. “But for the last six months they have just been gone. There’s no deer pellets, no nothing. No deer wants to drink water that’s soiled with cigarette butts.”

She said the parking lot of the property is typically littered with butts, as is the edge of the wetland over the protective fence. She said smoking is prohibited on the property, and no ashtrays are provided outside. She said there are no garbage bins at the back of the building.

Vettor put the word out on social media that she was going to carry out a clean-up on site, saying she informed HIP Developments of her intentions.

A number of people chimed in about how important it was to protect the wetland, clean up the garbage, and prevent further litter. But when it came time to put words of support into action, Vettor said she was on her own.

“I let people know that I was going to clean it up – not for my benefit, not for yours, but for the environment and the animals that deserve this land,” Vettor said. “People were hucking full garbage bags over on the protected land. There’s a window, there’s the outdoors, so they just huck it. It’s pure laziness.”

Awareness of the protected nature of the land immediately behind the Solstice 1 building is essential if a solution is to be found to the problem, Vettor said.

She said people need to know how important the land is for Guelph’s wildlife and water supply.

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Rob O'Flanagan

About the Author: Rob O'Flanagan

Rob O’Flanagan has been a newspaper reporter, photojournalist and columnist for over twenty years. He has won numerous Ontario Newspaper Awards and a National Newspaper Award.
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