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LECC Caretaker Position

The Lake Erie Country Club (175 Lake Erie Country Club Drive, RR#5 Harrow, ON) is offering a unique opportunity for applicants interested in filling a full-time caretaker position with residential accommodations on site. Located between Amherstburg and Harrow on the shores of Lake Erie and bordered by Holiday Beach Conservation area, Malden Beach and Big Creek Marsh, this member owned community has been operational for over 100 years, with members enjoying exclusive use of common areas and facilities. The Caretaker’s duties include general maintenance and repair of common grounds, Club facilities and equipment. The Caretaker’s residence is a 3-bedroom, one bath home with recent renovations, attached to the Clubhouse but set back from the lake. The residence is being offered as a part of a one-year contract at a significant discount to offset the value of the Caretaker’s duties.

All interested parties to send an electronic copy of cover letter, resume and at least one letter of reference to secretary@lecc.ca on or before May 7, 2021. Experience in property maintenance / management considered an asset. The intent is to have the position filled for the month of June or July 2021. A more detailed list of duties is available upon request.

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LECC Environmental Awareness Newsletter, Issue 4

THOSE STRONG, SILENT TYPES:

TREES

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.
The second best time is now.” Chinese Proverb

There is little, if any dispute among scientists and other experts about the many valuable qualities of trees. Even ordinary humans sense and experience the quiet, calm, serene feeling of walking through a grove of trees. As the effects of climate change increase and strengthen, the number one response from every quarter is “plant more trees”. Governments are pledging millions of dollars to the planting of trees, an initiative touted as the “number 1 technological response” to counteract global warming.

It is estimated that a healthy ecosystem with some kind of reasonable flood resilience will have 30 percent trees and 10% wetlands at a minimum. Windsor-Essex County is currently covered by about 3% trees and 1.5% wetlands at a maximum. While the great majority of municipalities and counties in the southern half of the province have tree-cutting by-laws that cover both public and private properties, Essex and Kent stand out on the Provincial map for their lack of regulation of tree cutting activities.

The many positive attributes of trees include:

• they filter particulate matter (pollution) out of the air;

• they absorb and store carbon dioxide (a primary greenhouse gas);

• they produce and give off oxygen so we can breathe easier (or at all);

• their shade cools both buildings and outdoor spaces (it can feel 15 F (8C) degrees cooler beneath an old oak or maple);

• they boost mental health (Japanese physicians are known to prescribe walks in the woods for some of their patients);

• they provide a bug banquet for birds as well as nesting habitat for them and other woodland creatures;

• their roots anchor soil and protect land from erosion by both wind and water;

• and, last but not least, trees increase property values.

They are an important and vital natural resource for communities.

In southern Ontario, we live in the Carolinian forest zone, with many varieties of hardwoods, deciduous trees, reaching their northern limits here. The estimated 75 different tree species found in this area of the province (swamp oaks, sycamore, black walnut, bur oak, hackberry, ironwood, bitternut hickory, to name a few) account for more than half of all the tree species found in Canada. With such choice, it should be easy to find native species to plant for almost any circumstance.

At LECC, as in many surrounding communities, tree cover has been decimated from several directions. Of course, first and foremost, is the human factor: clearing woodlots for agriculture; bulldozing woodlots for maximum profitability/density in the construction of subdivisions; or simply cutting a tree because it’s “messy” (its leaves fall in the winter or it doesn’t fit with the landscaping plan). In addition to the deforestation toll at human hands, past decades have seen natural destruction via wind storms, flooding and beavers. Dutch Elm disease and the emerald ash borer have essentially eliminated these hardwoods from our landscape. Oak leaf wilt is moving into the area from Michigan, where it is estimated to have killed millions of trees. Beavers, re-inhabiting the area, are gnawing down the cottonwoods and willows that aptly line the edge of the marsh and are an essential component to curbing the effects of flooding.

Trees in many jurisdictions are considered municipal assets like roads and sewers, but they don’t require anywhere near the costs of upkeep of these manmade assets. They are environmental and survival necessities. Not only should we heed the advice of the ancient Chinese proverb and the directions of our, and most other international governments, to plant trees, but, on the flip side, let’s protect what we already have and stop cutting down our healthy trees for the good of our own health.

“What we do to the ecosystem, we do to ourselves” –John Hartig, GLIER scholar

Gloria Mitchell,
Environmental Awareness Representative,
March, 2021

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LECC Environmental Awareness Newsletter, Issue 3

PHRAGMITES, THE INVADER

Phragmites (pronounced “fragmitees” by some), are those very tall (up to 15 feet) feathery fronds that clog ditches and ponds. They have the dubious distinction of being labeled as the “worst” invasive plant species in all of Canada by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada in 2005. Their incessant march through the watercourses of Southern Ontario has only continued since that time. Their reputation as worst invader is well deserved. The dense root systems of phragmites, in addition to choking out native plants, also produces two distinct toxins, which destroy virtually every plant with which they come into contact. Phragmites thus decrease biodiversity, destroy habitat for other species and (because of the dense root systems) don’t allow for areas to drain properly. They are often the first plants to establish themselves in disturbed areas – just watch what grows up in ditches that have been scraped clean of other vegetation. It has even been suggested that nothing will nest in them and, unlike the cattails that they often choke out, phragmites do not process the nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural runoff.

Phragmites are difficult to get rid of. The Province of Ontario has strict regulations on both what herbicides can be used and when they can be applied (only when there is no standing water as millions of people depend on these watersheds for drinking water). The Province also has regulations on the cleaning of any equipment that goes near stands of phragmites because they are spread so easily. Controlled burns are sometimes used as is mowing or cutting (which should be done when the plants are just into flowering). Often multiple methods are used together and are still not always successful.

Here at LECC, we see the invader everywhere. It stands in the shallower water throughout the marsh, towering above the remaining stands of cattails that survive in the deeper water; fronds dangle into the road along the marsh; and, at the east end the invader has completely taken over large areas. When we travel on county roadways, our view of oncoming cross traffic is often obstructed by a thick curtain of phragmites. What can we do? Do not disturb the edge of the marsh. If you find one or two plants on the north side of your leased land, pull them out or cut the flowers before they seed. Do not take ATV’s, golf carts, tractors, etc. near the edge of the marsh so the seeds are not carried to other areas. And, finally, appreciate those gently swaying cattails that don’t kill other forms of vegetation; that provide welcome nesting habitat for many species; that process agricultural chemical runoff; that, in other words, have been a longstanding symbol of a healthy watershed, and deservedly so. Nurture the cattails.

Your Environmental Awareness Representative, Gloria Mitchell
January 2021

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LECC Environmental Awareness Newsletter, Issue 2

THE MARSH

Essex County has the distinction, among all of the counties in the Province, of being surrounded on three of its four sides by water. All three of these bodies of water are part of the Great Lakes system (an immense reservoir of fresh water). So as far as waterfront properties are concerned, we are fortunate to have a relative abundance of this in Essex County. Those of us who reside at Lake Erie Country Club have the further unprecedented, and likely unique, privilege of having waterfront on our south side and relatively undisturbed wetland marsh on our north side.

The marsh is a priceless jewel whose value increases with each passing year as flooding, global warming and polluted water supplies all become of greater and greater concern. Estimates are that more than 70% of wetlands in Southern Ontario have been destroyed through human habitation efforts, poor land use decisions and planning. Tax payer dollars are now being directed to the restoration of these valuable, life-sustaining environments. Ontario’s Environment Commissioner, as quoted in a Windsor Star article (April 06, 2019) stated, “Even a wetland as small as two hectares can retain water runoff from an area 70 times its size.” As the author of the same article writes, “Trees and wetlands are critical to flood mitigation. They store water during heavy rains, slow storm water runoff and reduce flood peaks.”

If one takes the opportunity to just sit and watch the marsh, you may be astounded by the activity there, seeing muskrats, ducks, fish, many different kinds of birds including waders (herons, egrets) and song birds in addition to the swans and geese. You may even encounter a frog, turtle or small snake. It is a calm, unhurried and unassuming environment. We are extremely fortunate to have it on our doorstep and it doesn’t stop at the water’s edge. Many of the waterfowl spend considerable time on land rearing their young; frogs of several varieties go through much of their life stages in the water but spend much of their adult time on dry land. Nor do the several breeds of turtles confine themselves to the limited definition of the marsh, coming onto the land in search of the ideal nesting sites critical to the continuation of their species. Even insects (such as dragonflies) require both the marsh and dry land to complete their life cycle.

We are the stewards of this rare environment and have an obligation to protect it from being torn up, filled in, used as a dumping ground, or paved over. This is recognized in the mission statement of the Board of Directors of LECC and was a value of previous generations, as evidenced by the many dilapidated piers that jut out into the marsh. We are able to enjoy the many environmental, health and psychological benefits of this special place. We must ensure that this same opportunity is passed on to our children and grandchildren.

Gloria Mitchell, Environmental Awareness Representative

September 2020

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LECC Environmental Awareness Newsletter, Issue 1

TURTLES

May and June are busy months for most turtles. Many clutches of eggs laid during the previous Spring, especially those of the painted turtle, hatch during the month of May. Then, within just a few short weeks, in June, mature females leave the marsh to secure suitable nesting habitat in which to lay their eggs and begin the life cycle anew. Turtles are slow to mature, only reaching egg laying status anywhere from 6 to 20 years of age, depending upon the species. Of the 8 species of turtles in Ontario, most reside within the Big Creek watershed. All are covered under the Endangered Species Act, with some designated as “at risk”, some designated “of concern”, and 2 species considered “endangered”. The painted turtle, which is most common in this area, was the last of the 8 species to be placed on the list, as a “species of concern”, in May, 2018. In 2017, Ontario placed a hunting ban on snapping turtles (which only reach sexual maturity anywhere between 17 and 20 years of age - later than humans!).

Most turtles lay their eggs in sandy, gravelly soil that is not too moist nor too dry. Because they often travel considerable distances to find suitable nesting conditions, they are frequently hit by cars as they cross roads. They face other perils as their eggs are dug up by racoons, skunks, foxes, etc. and development destroys more and more suitable nesting areas when sandy soils are covered by cement, asphalt, or heavy crushed stone. Despite these perils, hatchlings do emerge, often the following May, (although they can surface throughout the first summer). Baby turtles, smaller than a quarter (if painted offspring), then have to immediately find their way back to the marsh. Many are casualties on the roadways.

As a pedestrian, when you are out for a walk, you can move any live babies that you see to the marsh side of the road. If you encounter an adult, they should be moved to the side of the road in the same direction they are travelling. As a home owner, you can maintain some open lawn/ground on your property and ensure that access to the marsh is easily gained (keeping in mind that this access is for something smaller than a quarter climbing over obstacles). Even with this help and having survived against almost overwhelming odds, baby turtles still face predation by marsh birds and bigger snakes once they reach the water. However, if they are the lucky one in a hundred (or hundreds) to attain adulthood, their only predators are human, and they can live for many decades, enriching our lives and the ecosystem.

Environmental Awareness Representative, Gloria Mitchell June 2020

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