Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Healthcare / Access to nature

Support of Indigenous community paves way for preservation of hospital site

By Andrew Sansom 25 Jan 2021 0

Canadian regional health system Niagara Health has partnered with local community members to recycle and preserve the natural elements of the site for the future South Niagara hospital, and has developed an outdoor landscape design strategy to provide a healing environment for patients.

Following extensive due diligence work, Niagara Health will be commissioning the removal of a woodlot thicket, located on the southeast portion of the South Niagara site, to make way for construction of the hospital.

Last autumn, volunteers harvested pin oak acorns from the thicket and are now preparing the acorns to be replanted on the north edge of the project site this spring. In the coming weeks, Niagara Health will be investigating opportunities to select harvest-suitable trees from the southeast corner of the site to be repurposed and used in, and in support of, the new hospital.

In consultation and partnership with Indigenous community members, Indigenous knowledge keepers spoke to the land to pay respect and explain the new purpose of the area, both its past and its future, connect with Mother Earth, and take time to recognise that the site will be a place of healing for many. Prior to the thicket removal, community members from the Indigenous community were invited to extract and harvest materials for their use.

In partnership and in consultation with the City of Niagara Falls, Niagara Region, and Niagara Peninsula Conservation Association, the health system has completed site assessments and reports on the site including: archaeological reports; environmental site assessment reports; a natural heritage assessment; and a tree inventory report.

The assessments and reports noted that:

  • no species at risk (SAR) or SAR habitat were observed on the property;
  • the thicket measures 3.87 hectares in size – too small to be considered a designated woodland;
  • the woodlot thicket contains only younger trees;
  • no significant natural areas are located within or adjacent to the woodlot thicket; and
  • no watercourses or waterbodies are located within 30 metres of the woodlot thicket.

Based on the reports’ recommendations and support from the City of Niagara Falls and Niagara Region, Niagara Health is planning to remove the woodlot thicket in February, following province-wide shutdown measures, to avoid the risk of new habitat species inhabiting the area and to avoid bird-nesting season.

Looking ahead, Niagara Health has devised an outdoor landscape design strategy to set the overall goals and priorities for the outdoor spaces of the South Niagara site. The outdoor landscape will be designed to make the best use of nature, provide a connection to nature for all, and provide a healing environment for patients. Included in the strategy is the planting of at least 600 new trees to restore the natural environment of the site.

In partnership with Infrastructure Ontario, Niagara Health plan to release a request for qualifications to advance the new hospital project early this year.