Categories
Infrastructure Urban Planning

Ontario’s land use scandal: Another greenfield hospital for Niagara

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Recently, I discussed the greenfield locations of new hospital and post-secondary institutions in Ontario, focusing on the new St. Catharines Hospital site and the Orillia campus of Lakehead University, but also mentioning the proposed sites of a new hospital for Windsor, and an university campus in Milton. Hospitals and educational institutions are primarily funded by the province, which likes to promote sustainable development policies such as the Greenbelt, and mobility hubs at major transit nodes.

The trouble with these new sites, located far from each city’s urban centre, is that they are difficult to reach by walking, cycling, or public transit. They don’t support downtown businesses, they ignore other potential urban land parcels (often former industrial sites), and are not in accordance with the province’s own land use policies.

I recently returned to Niagara Region to examine Niagara Health’s plan to consolidate health services outside of St. Catharines (where it already merged two urban hospital sites to a single suburban location). It proposes consolidating most health services located in five municipalities (Niagara Falls, Welland, Port Colborne, Fort Erie, and Niagara-on-the-Lake) into one site, at the corner of Biggar and Montrose Roads, south of Niagara Falls’ urban area, but adjacent to an interchange with the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW).

Niagara Falls, like most of urbanized Niagara Region, is de-industrializing, with modest population growth. Employment is largely dependent on public sector jobs, such as the education and health services, and the city’s tourism industry. As a large employer, the hospital should be as accessible to its employees, as well as its patients, as possible.


Map of current Niagara Health sites and proposed new hospital

The proposed hospital site is at the corner of two two-lane country roads, in an area without sidewalks. To the north and west is a golf course; to the south is a Hungarian community hall, farm fields, and a few exurban ranch houses. The land was donated in 2013 by a local business family, but last fall, Niagara Falls City Council was considering purchasing an additional 20 acres for staff parking.

Categories
Cycling Travels

Cycling the Greater Golden Horseshoe

IMG_4179You never know who you might meet when you ride through Toronto’s ravines

Spring is here!

One of my favourite things to do is go for a ride, either within town, or on a day trip or an overnight excursion. Toronto’s ravines are a treat; and the further away from Lake Ontario you get, the quieter the trails are.

Two years ago, I was riding up the Humber River Trail north of Highway 401 when I saw a deer wandering down the path. I stopped, and the deer passed by, within metres of where I was standing. Not much further north, I saw two deer — a fawn and its mother — fording the Humber. Tommy Thompson Park, better known as the Leslie Street Spit, is another favourite place to go. The Spit was created from clean landfill to create a new outer harbour in anticipation for St. Lawrence Seaway shipping that never came. Instead, it has become an important migratory bird sanctuary. The views of Downtown Toronto are great, and there are no ferry lines to wait in.

For longer distances, GO Transit is especially helpful. All of their buses are equipped with bike racks and their train (outside of rush hour, of course) can handle over 25 bicycles each. (The seasonal Niagara trains have dedicated bike coaches as well.) GO Transit can get you out of the city for more rural rides, or for longer one-way rides to or from Toronto.

At least twice a year, I ride out to Hamilton on the Waterfront Trail, opting to enter that city by going around Burlington Bay and taking Cannon Street in from the east. It’s an 85 kilometre trip that takes the better part of the day. I’ll have dinner and drinks at one of the many Downtown Hamilton establishments before loading my bike on the bus at the Hamilton GO Centre. Other times, I have used GO Transit to get out to rail trails in Peterborough, Uxbridge, Guelph, or Barrie.

I prefer rail trails as they’re more relaxed than rural roads or highways; I’m not able to keep up with roadies, and I’m okay with that. Rail trails are flat, but they’re also usually unpaved, and some sections are very quiet. (I have gone 20 or 30 minutes without meeting another trail user in some rural areas.)

Here is a summary of some of my favourite long-distance rides.

Categories
Cycling Travels

Riding the Niagara Circle Route

17959785808_ed39cf7cad_kThe Friendship Trail, part of the the Greater Niagara Circle Route

Back on Victoria Day weekend, I took advantage of GO Transit’s summer weekend train service to go for a two-day ride around Niagara Region, on a circle to and from Niagara Falls via the Niagara River, the Welland Canal, and a rail trail connecting Port Colborne and Fort Erie, a circle tour of just under 150 kilometres over those two days.

For several years now, special GO trains operate on weekends and holidays from Canada Day weekend to Labour Day weekend; and on Victoria Day and Thanksgiving weekends. On the Niagara trains, GO operates two specially-equipped cars with bicycle storage on the lower levels to accommodate cyclists looking to get out to this bicycle-friendly corner of Southern Ontario.

Day 1 – Niagara Falls to Port Colborne

I cycled from the GO train at Niagara Falls, down and up the Niagara Escarpment, mostly following the official Greater Niagara Circle Route, stopping at Brock’s Monument, Queenston, Niagara-on-the-Lake for food and libations, then to the Welland Canal and following that to Port Colborne. There are many historic sites and wineries along the way to visit, and you’re likely to spot several lake and ocean-going freighters along the way in the canal. Except for the escarpment, the ride is very flat and forgiving to the less experienced cyclist.

Port Colborne, about half-way on the two-day ride, is a lovely place to stay overnight; there are several good bed and breakfasts that welcome cyclists, as well as a few good food options downtown. Several people, including the B&B host, recommended an Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant located in an old railway station. That busy little place also had bike racks and a bike repair stand provided by a well-known independent Toronto brewery.

Port Colborne is now the home of the Jadran, better known as Captain John’s, as it awaits scrapping.