Following extensive mandatory and elective due diligence, Niagara Health will be commissioning the removal of the woodlot thicket, located on the southeast portion of the South Niagara Site, to make way for future construction of the new hospital.
In preparation of the thicket removal, Niagara Health has partnered with local community members to recycle and preserve the site’s natural elements.
In the fall of 2020, volunteers harvested pin oak acorns from the thicket and are preparing the acorns to be replanted on north edge of the project site in the spring. In the coming weeks, Niagara Health will be investigating opportunities to select harvest suitable trees from the southeast corner of the site to be repurposed and used in, and in support of, the future South Niagara hospital.
In consultation and partnership with Indigenous community members, Indigenous Knowledge Keepers spoke to the land to pay respect and explain the new purpose of the area, both its past and its future, connect with Mother Earth, and take time to recognize that the site will be a place of healing for many. Prior to the thicket removal, community members from the Indigenous community have been invited to extract/harvest materials for their use.
In partnership and in consultation with the City of Niagara Falls, Niagara Region, and Niagara Peninsula Conservation Association, Niagara Health has completed site assessments and reports on the site that include: Archeological Reports; Environmental Site Assessment Reports; a Natural Heritage Assessment; and a Tree Inventory Report.
The assessments and reports noted that:
- No Species at Risk (SAR) or SAR habitat were observed on the property.
- The thicket measures 3.87 hectares in size – too small to be considered a designated woodland.
- The woodlot thicket contains only younger trees.
- No significant natural areas are located within or adjacent to the woodlot thicket.
- No watercourses or waterbodies located within 30 metres of the woodlot thicket.
Based on recommendations within the reports and support from the City of Niagara Falls and Niagara Region, Niagara Health is planning to remove the woodlot thicket in February 2021, following provincewide shutdown measures, to avoid the risk of new habitat species inhabiting the area and to avoid bird-nesting season.
Looking ahead, Niagara Health has developed an Outdoor Landscape Design Strategy to set the overall goals and priorities for the outdoor spaces of the South Niagara Site. The outdoor landscape will be designed to make the best use of nature, provide a connection to nature for all, and provide a healing environment for patients. Included in the strategy is the planting of at least 600 new trees to restore the natural environment of the site.
The South Niagara Project remains on schedule. Niagara Health, in partnership with Infrastructure Ontario, plan to release the request for qualifications in early 2021.