Archive for July, 2007

CLC Hires Toronto Consultants to Mediate Fate of Upton Farm

July 29, 2007

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Jules and family enjoying the cool breezes at Upton Farm.

The Canada Lands Company recently hired the Toronto-based Canadian Urban Institute to confer with interested groups in Charlottetown about the best use for the Upton Farm property.  According to its website, www.canurb.com, the CUI is:

“…a national non-profit organization established in 1990 by the City of Toronto and the former Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. It is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in urban areas across Canada and internationally. It provides contracted services, research and strategic solutions to important urban issues to private sector corporations, international development agencies, governments and voluntary sector organizations.”

Last week, CUI reps Jeff Evenson and Nicole Swerhun spoke with several local groups and individuals, including PEI Trails; Friends of the Farm; Charlottetown city councillors and planners; Catherine Hennessy; and, of course, members of the Upton Farm Preservation Network;  about potential uses for the Farmland.

It appears the goal of this consultation with individuals and groups is to mediate some peaceful conclusion on the fate of the Farmlands. The comments of CLC manager Ron Pachal in a CBC radio interview printed below indicate that Canada Lands has no intention of allowing this land to remain as greenspace for the enjoyment and use of all Island residents and visitors. It is clear the plans are to develop this property, even if it takes “ten to fifteen years to get it right,” according to Mr. Pachal.

“Getting it right,” in the opinion of the Upton Farm Preservation Network and its supporters, would be doing what environmental groups, oyster fishers, history lovers and trail walkers are asking; that is, to keep the property as greenspace. Unfortunately, CLC is only interested in making a multi-million dollar profit from this land. Upton Farm was purchased piece by piece from local farmers by the  taxpayers of Canada between 1948 and 1953  for a paltry $19,500. It was valued by Agriculture Canada at $1 million when CLC was contracted to sell it a few years ago.

It is interesting that CBC radio reports that CLC proposes a 20-house subdivision for this property. The plans CLC presented for approval to Charlottetown City Council and residents at a public meeting were for a 350-unit subdivision.

Was the change in housing numbers simply an error in CBC reporting? 

Or does CLC now plan to flog this priceless greenspace to the real estate market in order to build 20 executive waterfront homes; homes that would prevent the many people who now enjoy the amenities of the publicly-owned Upton Farm from access to the shoreline? Is this not a microcosm of what is happening all across this beautiful Island of ours? 

As has been said so many times before, our forefathers had the foresight to preserve Victoria Park for the use and enjoyment of future generations. Charlottetown has grown and expanded exponentially since that time. Where is the Victoria Park for the 21st century? It appears to be held for ransom by a Crown Corporation owned by the federal government.

Please read the CBC news transcript below, and please, especially note the comments of Des Lecky, a Charlottetown resident who walks Upton Farm every day.

“I think there’s probably enough residential land vacant [to build on] around Charlottetown.  I think if you look back in 50 years you’ll really regret it if you develop it at this point in time. There’s no more land, so this is a prime piece of real estate that should be kept for future generations,”  he says.

Mr. Lecky is correct; there are presently over 290 serviced lots available to be built on right now in the West Royalty area of Charlottetown alone. Do we need to use the Upton Farmlands, a beautiful piece of property at the western gates of Charlottetown, which was bought and paid for by the taxpayers of Canada a half-century ago, for yet another subdivision?

Consultants conferring on Upton Farm

Friday, July 27, 2007

CBC News

Canada Lands Company has hired planning experts to help it decide what to do with Upton Farm, a large green space in the north of Charlottetown.

Those in favour of keeping Upton Farm as a park would like to retain the views to the water.

The 100-hectare property was approved last summer as the site of a new subdivision, but public protests against the development have sparked a new round of consultations. The Toronto-based Canadian Urban Institute is meeting with interested people and groups this week to see if some kind of agreement can be reached.

“The fact is that everybody who lives in Charlottetown has a say in how Charlottetown grows and how the assets that are available to Charlottetown contribute to Charlottetown’s future,” Jeff Evenson of the Canadian Urban Institute told CBC News.

“What we’re interested in is how to talk about that.”

The institute met Thursday with representatives of Island Trails, who want to see the space remain green.

“We’d like to see a lot of trees there but still have it open, so people can enjoy what view there is down on the riverside,” said Tim Connor of Island Trails.

This dialogue is coming after Canada Lands Company got municipal approval to build a 20-home subdivision. The resulting protests prompted city council to ask the Crown corporation to withdraw its development plans.

But Ron Paschal, Canada Lands Company real estate manager, said the corporation is willing to take more time to consult.

“It’s [the institute’s] job to go speak to people and hear the folks, whatever their issues might be. That’s what we’re taking this time to do,” said Paschal.

“We had the approvals here, but we’re not going to have a bulldozer here or something if we don’t have what we think is a proper development.”

Paschal said the corporation is willing to take 10 to 15 years to get the development of the property right.

For people who are already using the property as a park, the only right development is no development at all.

“I think there’s probably enough residential land vacant around Charlottetown,” said Des Lecky, who walks his dog on the old farm property three times a day.

“I think if you look back in 50 years you’ll really regret it if you develop it at this point in time. There’s no more land, so this is a prime piece of real estate that should be kept for future generations.”

The Canadian Urban Institute said it will return to Charlottetown for more consultations.

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July at Upton Farm

July 24, 2007

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There are no words to describe the view that one is privileged to see when walking the path at Upton Farm.  Just look, and enjoy, or better still, come out and see it for yourself. The breeze off the North River cools the hottest summer evening.

Eagles’ Rest

July 24, 2007

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Well, they’re not the best homebuilders in the neighbourhood, as a matter of fact, they could use a little advice on how to straighten things up so their dwelling place isn’t driving down the area property values. Despite their lack of talent in the exterior decorating department, the  eagles flying home to roost in this nest every evening is a welcome sight to regular visitors to Upton Farm.

Same Old, Same Old

July 20, 2007

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Clifford Bernard, President of the PEI Shellfish Association, strongly supports keeping Upton Farm as greenspace because of the potential effects that developing the property as a mega-subdivision would have on the shell fishery in the North River. He received this reply from CLC to his letter of concern to Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon. It is the same boilerplate memo many of you have received in response to your letters, despite the fact that Mr. Bernard represents legitimate concerns about the continuing livelihood of his membership.

June 12, 2007

Mr. Clifford Bernard

President PEI Shellfish Association

PO Box 82

Ellerslie PE COB 1JO

Dear Mr. Bernard:

 I am writing to respond to your letter of May 20, 2007, which was sent to the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, the Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities, and then referred to me. Your letter was on the future of the Upton Farm project in Prince Edward Island. In it, you urged the Government of Canada to support efforts to preserve the Upton Farm lands as an urban forest/green space.

As you may be aware, 60 acres of the approximately 250-acre site have received municipal approval for development. Canada Lands Company is, however, aware of the concerns raised by several stakeholders and is currently assessing its plans regarding the site.

Thank you for your interest in this project and Canada Lands Company.

Sincerely,

Robert Howald

Acting President and CEO

CANADA LANDS COMPANY CLC LIMITED

Mr. Bernard then received this letter from Lisa Berthier, a staff member representing the Atlantic Region in Minister Cannon’s office:

Dear Mr. Bernard:

Thank you for your correspondence of May 20,2007, regarding Canada Lands Company CLC Limited’s (CLC’s) development of the former agricultural research lands in Charlottetown. Minister Cannon has asked me to reply on his behalf.

As you may know, CLC is a self-financing, non-agent Crown corporation that operates at arm’s length from the federal government. CLC’s mandate is to ensure the commercially oriented and orderly disposition of selected surplus federal real properties, while providing optimal value to Canadians. CLC is subject to all municipal and provincial/territorial planning processes.

As Minister responsible for CLC, Minister Cannon’s role is to determine the broad policy direction of the corporation, while respecting its operational autonomy. Therefore, discussions and business opportunities related to the development of the Upton Farm lands are the responsibility of CLC.

I have taken the liberty of forwarding a copy of your correspondence to Mr. Robert Howald, Acting President and Chief Executive Officer of CLC, for his consideration.

I have been informed that, in order to formulate the Development Concept Plan submitted to and approved by the City of Charlottetown in 2006, CLC consulted extensively with members of the planning industry and the public. The plan is based on principles such as the protection and enhancement of the unique aspects of the site; stewardship of the ecosystem, and a livable and interconnected community.

As you may be aware, before making a decision on the future of the property, CLC has agreed to hold off on developing the site pending confirmation of the City’s concerns with respect to the proposed development.

The Minister appreciates your taking the time to share your concerns with respect to the development of the Upton Farm lands. Again, thank you for writing.

Yours truly,

Lisa Berthier

Special Assistant – Atlantic

Copies to : Office of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P. : Office of the Honourable Loyola Hearn, P.C., M.P. ; Office of the Honourable Peter MacKay, P.C., M.P.; Office of the Honourable Pat G. Binns, M.L.A.; Office of the Honourable Robert Ghiz, M.L.A.; Office of Mr. Robert Howald

CLC Replies to MP Shawn Murphy

July 16, 2007

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Charlottetown MP Shawn Murphy received a reply from the Canada Lands Corporation (the Crown Corporation which presently owns the Upton Farmlands) in response to his letter requesting an 18-month moratorium on development of the lands. As you can see, CLC is making no promises to anyone, and we must keep up the hard work.

We are sincerely grateful to MP Murphy for his efforts in Ottawa to save this land for the good of the environment and for the health of his constituents on the Island.

June 11, 2007

The Honourable Shawn Murphy, P.C., M.P.

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario

K1A OA6

Dear Mr. Murphy:

I am writing to respond to your letter of April 11, 2007, which was sent to the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, the Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities, and then referred to me.

Your letter was on the future of the Upton Farm project in Prince Edward Island. In it, you requested an 18-month moratorium on development at Upton Farm and the creation of a task force with federal, provincial and municipal representatives to discuss future development on the property.

As you may be aware, 60 acres of the approximately 250-acre site have received municipal approval for development. Canada Lands Company is, however, aware of the concerns raised by several stakeholders and is currently assessing its plans regarding the site.

Thank you for your interest in this project and Canada Lands Company.

Sincerely,

Robert Howald

Acting President and CEO

CANADA LANDS COMPANY CLC LIMITED

c.c. The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, P.C., M.P.

PEI Trails “Fully Supports” Preservation of Farm

July 11, 2007

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The PEI Island Trails Inc. sent the following letter to the Minister Responsible for Canada Lands. We thank this organization for its support and look forward to posting the response it receives from Lawrence Cannon.

Hon. Lawrence Cannon
Minister Responsible for Canada Lands Act
Parliament Hill
Ottawa, Ontario
July 9, 2007
Dear Minister Cannon:
Prince Edward Island Trails Inc. wishes to inform you that our organization fully supports the aims and objectives of the Upton Farm Preservation Network.
Island Trails Inc. was incorporated in 1990 with the stated aim, inter alia, to provide leadership in encouraging the designation and development of a network of recreational trails throughout Prince Edward Island. Although not specifically stated, the preservation and development of unique land spaces, especially those having a significant historical aspect, is part and parcel of the mandate of Island Trails.
The lands in question, beyond a doubt, meet the criteria for preservation as green space for present and future generations of Islanders. The argument for development fails the test in many respects. There is no demonstrated shortage of developmental land within the boundaries of Charlottetown. There are presently 200-plus serviced lots available for building in the immediate area of the Upton Farm property. Again, shortage of development opportunities is not a legitimate argument for allowing development on this magnificent acreage.
As the Upton Farm property is publicly owned, a marvelous opportunity exists to protect and enhance this property as an enivironmentally friendly example for all to see and enjoy.
Mr. Minister, we respectfully request and urge you to preserve and protect this resource as an urban forest green space in step with your government’s emphasis on environmental enhancement wherever possible and practical. We submit that the Upton Farm property meets this test.
Thank you for your anticipated favourable attention to this submission.
Yours truly,
Denis Dunne
President
PEI Trails Inc.
c.c.
The Right Honourable Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Hon. Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hon. Robert Ghiz, Premier, PEI
Hon. Pat Binns, Leader of the Opposition, PEI
Hon. Kathleen Casey, MLA, District 14
Clifford Lee, Mayor, Charlottetown

 

Upton Airfield Plays Part in 1931 Aerial Wedding

July 9, 2007

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The first airfield on PEI opened for business in 1931 on Upton Farm. This entertaining story by Syd Clay is about about the airfield and the part it played in the first airborne wedding in the Maritimes. It was featured in the June issue of the Voice for Island Seniors.

An Aerial June Wedding

BY SYD CLAY

In August 1931 the first airfield on Prince Edward Island was granted a licence and opened for business with an air display and exhibition staged by many visiting aircraft and attended by hundreds of local citizens. It was situated on land bordering the North River, approximately two and a half miles northwest by road of the then boundaries of Charlottetown and was the end result of much effort and expense on the part of Doctor J. S. (Jack) Jenkins and his wife Louise. They had cleared and levelled a portion of their “Upton Farm” and erected a small hangar in a far-sighted venture to establish air travel to and from the province. Mrs Jenkins was also the first licensed woman pilot in the province, owning her own plane which, by special dispensation of the federal aviation authority, bore the registration – CF-PEI.

Three years later, at ten o’clock on Friday morning, the 8th of June 1934, a plane lifted off from the grass field and slowly turned and climbed in a south-easterly direction. The “Fairchild” had already earned a reputation as an outstanding “bush” carrier of freight and passengers, helping to open up the vast reaches of the Canadian North and the type was now being used by Canadian Airlines Ltd. to link Maritime centres, operating the first licensed air mail services between Prince Edward Island and the mainland from the Upton Airport. In the winter, fitted with skis, it used the ice-covered harbour off Victoria Park.

On this sparkling, blue-skied June day, the “Fairchild” followed the south coast of the Island down the Northumberland Straits, piloted by W. W. Fowler, the Maritime Superintendent of Canadian Airlines Ltd. His “load” comprised four passengers, Margaret Littlewood and Russell Lent, both of Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia; Mr Walter Grant, Manager of the Island Telephone Company and President of the PEI Flying Club, and the Reverend J. G. Wakeling, North River, PEI. As Mr Fowler climbed the plane to 5000 feet, the land and seascapes lay in all their glory for all to see.

Although almost “state-of-the-art” by the standards of its day, the “Fairchild” was small and primitive in comparison of those of today. Of metal and wood construction, covered in tightly stretched linen with no insulation or soundproofing, it was powered by a single air-cooled engine in the nose and thus very noisy and prone to chilling draughts. The pilot sat alone in the cockpit with the passengers seated quite close together behind him in the cabin in which it was not possible to stand.

After following the coast for a while, the pilot changed course over the open water and within minutes Pictou Island, Nova Scotia, appeared. Climbing still further to 7000 feet, he throttled back the engine to reduce the noise level and circled the small island in a gentle glide in the smooth air. It was the signal for the minister to commence the ceremony which united Margaret Littlewood and Russell Lent as man and wife. In short order, the vows were recited and the marriage documents signed and witnessed.

Within five minutes it was all over, the course set for return to Upton Airport where the party was met by a “throng of people” upon landing after almost two hours in the air at 11:50 a.m. The accounts in the “Guardian” and the “Patriot” newspapers record that the bride wore a blue ensemble with hat to match. Immediately after landing, the couple entered their automobile and motored back to Granville Ferry.

It was claimed that it was the first airborne wedding in the Maritimes and possibly Canada.The choice of aircraft was dictated by it being the only one in the Maritimes with the necessary passenger-carrying capacity and it was based at the Upton Airport. A good deal of planning must have been undertaken, even to acquire the services of a minister to officiate. Unlike the prospective bride and groom, the Reverend Wakeling had never flown before.

Superintendent Fowler offered similar services to anyone wishing to be married “up in the air” while it was even suggested that a gramophone and records playing the “Wedding March” and “Here Comes The Bride” be added to the ceremony! Apparently there were no takers, then or since.

Another piece in the lore of Upton Farm which has been much in the news of late.

**Thanks to the “Carl F. Burke, MBE” Chapter of the PEI CAHS for the historical photo of Upton Airfield.