A triumvirate of passionate preservationists, occasionally referenced as Pelham’s “Tree Amigos,” stands ready to defend the majestic maple and other trees which compose the overhead natural canopy in Niagara.
Mike Jones, Graham Pett, and Dave Nicholson are the movers and shakers of a non-profit environmental organization called Pelham Advocates for Trees and Habitat (PATH), formerly known as the Pelham Tree Conservation Society (PTCS). Cognizant of the ongoing effects of climate change, the group’s mandate is to “preserve and expand the tree canopy, wetlands, and natural heritage in Pelham and the surrounding area, by engaging local government and residents through advocacy, education, and action,” said Jones, who was one of the organizers of the PTCS back in 1999.
An ardent environmentalist since his teenage years, Jones, a retired industrial insulator, resides on Emmett Street in Fonthill, just a stone’s throw from the Steve Bauer Trail entrance off Port Robinson Road. He maintains the PATH website and social media presence and is a tireless cheerleader for all things green.
“I’ve been involved with a number of environmental groups over the years,” said Jones. “Way back, I worked with a group called the Niagara Residents for Safe Toxic Waste Disposal. We were opposing the Ontario Waste Corporation, which wanted to build a big dump site and incinerator in West Lincoln.”
Pett, a retired vocational rehabilitation consultant, first linked up with Jones 20 years ago during the days of PTCS.
“I was very active with a group that was working to ban cosmetic pesticide spraying,” he said. “Remember how the trucks used to go around spraying everything under the sun? Fortunately, there was enough pushback that we got some bylaws put in, and then the provincial government brought in a law to put an end to it.”
Both Jones and Pett have over 40 years of residency in Pelham.
“I guess I’m the newbie, with only 22 years here,” said Nicholson with a laugh, a retired physician who had a family practice in Niagara Falls for some 40 years, and worked in geology before he transitioned into medicine.
“I've always been interested in the environment,” said Nicholson. “I felt angry about the harm that was pending for the Steve Bauer Trail with the Kunda Park and Forest Park developments. The Trail, which has been in existence since 1992, must be recognized as a wonderful community asset. We really need to preserve its integrity.”
PATH was successful in its efforts to mobilize opposition to the cutting of proximal trees and natural vegetation, and to the planned roadways which had been intended by the developer to bisect the Trail.
The trio recounted a few of the organization’s many successes in preserving the local natural environment.
“The Town of Pelham accepted about 80 percent of our proposals for their tree maintenance policy,” said Jones, “and PATH was supportive of the restoration work on the Lathrop Nature Preserve in Pelham. We’re building our membership, and are coordinating around Pelham to start planting a lot more trees. PATH members wrote letters of support for grants for the Town of Pelham, and we just learned that Pelham received $15,000 from the Niagara Community Foundation for tree planting.”
“We continue to fight the Merritt Road extension project,” added Pett. “That's still that's on our radar, in terms of trying to preserve those woods and critical wetlands.”
The annual PATH rally and call to action on the environment will take place at the Meridian Community Centre on Saturday, April 22, at 1 PM. Indigenous singers “Strong Water Women” will perform, and guest speakers include Liz Benneian from Biodiversity and Climate Action Change, and Joe Shawana, and Indigenous youth activist.
For further information on PATH’s efforts to keep Pelham green, go to www.pelhampath.ca.