Nature Wins

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When the new community Cornell was being planned in Markham, I was still with the city as Manager of Parks Planning and Urban Design.  The original plan called for 18 stormwater management ponds sprinkled across the hundreds of acres of development land.     I suggested (more like insisted), that the City would better benefit from having one major pond at the very south end of the lands next to the 407 which at the time was under construction.  I argued that it would be easier to maintain, it would offer a chance at creating a viable recreational amenity and it would buffer the new community from the 407.  It would also benefit from being physically connected to a large sugar bush that was to be protected and expanded.

Surprisingly, I won the argument.

Everything that you see in this photo was a Markham corn field 12 years ago. Everything.

I am pretty certain it is the largest storm water management pond in the country. (though I’m quite prepared to be corrected on this point).

I designed it in 2003 with Ecotech Engineering on behalf of H+R Developments, and the plan called for the construction of a series of interconnected pathways, overlooks and connecting municipal parks as well as the planting of over 2100 trees and 9000 shrubs, shoreline and emergent plants.

Most have thrived and new species such as Robinia pseudoacacia and numerous shoreline species have taken root.  It is now habitat for fish, wood ducks, mallards, geese, cormorants (though I’m not happy about that) egrets and swans not to mention a plethora of mice, rabbits, fox, coy wolf and grouse.

Who says urban development always negatively impacts the environment?  This project is a case study in the principle of environmental ‘net gains’.

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Author: paul nodwell

Paul Nodwell draws on almost 33 years of experience in Urban Design and Landscape Architecture. He is a passionate student of the public realm and believes that great 'place-making' cannot happen without listening to stakeholders, shaping the project around a big (not necessarily complex) idea, and wherever possible, introducing metaphorical and even poetic elements that engage the public in their own experience of the built environment. Early in his career Paul's work took him to Southern California with Peridian Group Landscape Architecture and to Paris, France with Walt Disney Imagineering, but he has enjoyed most, his participation in helping to shape the Greater Toronto Area. As part of the senior management team for the Town of Markham, Paul played a key role in bringing The New Urbanism to southern Ontario. In private practice, Paul has designed a myriad of public parks, streetscapes and condominiums. He has played a key role in the design of a number of new mixed use communities including Angus Glen, Cornell, The Galleria, Concord Floral, Vaughan Metro Centre and Markham Centre. Paul is the recipient of more than a dozen awards for urban design and landscape architecture. He has served on the City of Vaughan Design Review Panel for three years and continues to enjoy serving as adjudicator at the University of Guelph. Even more, he enjoys the dip of his canoe paddle in a northern Ontario wilderness and the challenge of paints and a blank canvas.

2 thoughts on “Nature Wins”

  1. It is my understanding that there is no such thing as a “coywolf.” Coyotes and wolves are two separate species that cannot inter-breed naturally. In a lab, maybe, but it doesn’t happen in nature based on what I have learned here in the Adirondacks of New York. The experts say that western coyotes migrated east over the last few decades and have in addition to expanding their range, they have gotten to be larger in the east due to a plentiful food supply, perhaps to a point where they resemble wolves, hence the coywolf description.

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