Environmental activist Carla Carlson is still reeling from the bombshell revelation that the city granted permission to a developer to destroy a protected frog pond that she and many others fought so hard—and so long—to save.
“I was shocked, completely shocked,” Carlson says, in an emotional interview with ThoroldToday. “I trusted the city, I trusted the people that are in charge to respect how hard we all worked. You wouldn’t believe the stress and work we put into that.”
Back in the 1990s, Carlson started a group called 'Friends of the Richmond Street Forest' to save the frog pond and neighbouring forest from encroaching development. A long legal battle followed and in the end, Carlson convinced the city and developers to sign a memorandum of understanding that the forest and pond would never be touched.
Yet earlier this month, the developer DG Group sent in heavy machinery and decimated the protected pond on the corner of Decew Road and Richmond Street.
The city says it issued DG Group, which is building a storm pond in the area, a site alteration permit to remove some dead trees in the frog pond. In the process, however, workers churned up the mud where frogs and salamanders were hibernating, squishing them to death.
Carlson still doesn’t understand how City Hall was not aware of the longstanding memorandum of understanding to leave the pond alone.
“You would think the city would have the ability to bring forward important documents,” Carlson says. “That maybe when you open a file on a piece of land, those documents would be attached to that file.”
The fact remains that, despite a concerned letter sent to City Hall by former Thorold mayor Malcolm Woodhouse in October 2021, the pond was completely levelled. Which begs the question: Was the destruction of the frog pond intentional?
“I don’t want to say those words out loud, but how could it have been missed?” Carlson wonders.
Carlson blames herself for not doing her part in following up on the memorandum of understanding after it was established.
“I’m kicking myself,” she says. “All these years I didn’t see anybody doing anything with the forest and the frog pond, they were just sitting there quietly. I knew that we were supposed to, with the Friends group, work with the city to develop trails and educational signage, and park benches. And I didn’t take those reins back up, and nobody else did. It’s taken an emergency to get me to pay attention again and I’m very embarrassed about that.”
The support Carlson received in the wake of the destruction has inspired her to start fighting again.
“I’m getting people emailing me, thanking me for noticing and bringing it forward into the public view,” Carlson says. “I have people who want to help, so I’m trying to set up a schedule of what needs to be done and who can do what. We’re getting the 'Friends of the Forest' back up and running. I’m going to go through the list and find the people who were involved before.“
At the end of the day, Carlson wants to turn the experience into a positive story.
“This should be an example for all of Ontario about something that has gone really wrong and from now on these things just never happen again,” she says. “What we need is the people to call me and to get on board and become members of the 'Friends of the Forest'. Let’s do something positive!”
If you’re interested in joining the 'Friends of the Forest' you can email Carla Carlson.