Voice For Nature

Voice for Nature

The Board of Directors writes letters on matters important to our members. Here are some of our most recent letters.

January 10, 2024

Re: The GRCA Proposal to Close the Laurel Creek Nature Centre

Dear Chair Chris White and GRCA Board of Directors,

Waterloo Region Nature (WRN) is a nature club and charity engaged in conservation activities to protect and preserve wildlife, plants, and ecosystems and to promote public interest in nature and its preservation. We serve all parts of the Region of Waterloo and represent nearly 350 members with activities and outings for adults, youth, and children.

We write today to submit our strong opposition to the Grand River Conservation Authority’s (GRCA) proposal to close Laurel Creek Nature Centre along with two other outdoor education centres in our wider community. The proposal includes moving the education programs at Apps Mill, Taquanyah, and Laurel Creek to area Conservation Parks. 

We note Laurel Creek Nature Centre is located beside the 240-hectare Laurel Creek Conservation Area and boasts the best natural infrastructure for outdoor education in the region. Approximately 10,000 students each year visit Laurel Creek Nature Centre, which has hosted 400,000 students on field trips since 1977. For many years, Laurel Creek also hosted the Waterloo Region Nature Young Naturalists club, and continues to be a popular location for both WRN Kids and Teens monthly activities. 

The proximity of diverse habitats including old fields, a stream, hardwood bush, swamp, and a pond built for outdoor education use, all within easy access of the centre results in an ideal set-up for nature-based programs. This location allows for accommodations often required with outdoor learning (e.g. unpredictable weather) and mitigates some common barriers to participation (e.g. warm facilities, accessible spaces, extra clothing and equipment). 

We urge you to further consult with educators, students, and the broader community before committing to the closure of Laurel Creel Nature Centre. This long-serving location offers unique educational experiences that are intrinsically linked to the land and habitats in which they are held. The same quality of programs simply cannot be replicated through hybrid or virtual learning.

Under the amendments to Bill 229 enacted by the current provincial government, we realize Conservation Authorities can no longer charge municipalities a levy for “non–core” activities (as defined by the legislation), and that includes aspects of operating outdoor education at the nature centres. However, the government did allow time for Conservation Authorities to reach out to municipal governments to seek novel methods of funding. Bill 229 was introduced in the fall of 2020 – why haven’t the Region of Waterloo and the City of Waterloo been approached about this shortfall?

There is an urgent need for more consultation with municipal officials, previous donors, school boards, education staff, parents, and all stakeholders. We ask for further consideration and consultation to find a solution that does not require the closure of Laurel Creek Nature Centre.

If you see a role for community partners, we are interested in meeting with you to discuss how we may be able to help keep this invaluable education space open in our community. We appreciate being kept informed regarding the timeline and next steps for this decision and would welcome additional opportunities to advocate for the continued operation of Laurel Creek Nature Centre.


Heather Polan WRN President 
Brett Fried WRN Vice-President

On behalf of the full Waterloo Region Nature Board of Directors.

CC: Lisa Stocco, Manager of Strategic Communications and Environmental Education

January 26, 2024

Re: Donation of the Schneider property to rare Charitable Research Reserve

Dear members of Wilmot Council,

Waterloo Region Nature (WRN) is a naturalist club and charity engaged in conservation activities to protect and preserve wildlife, plants, and ecosystems and to promote public interest in nature and its preservation. We serve all parts of the Region of Waterloo and represent nearly 350 members with activities and outings for adults, youth, and children.

We write to you today on behalf of the members of WRN (a number of which reside in Wilmot Township) to express our concerns about delays surrounding the donation of the Schnieder property to rare Charitable Research Reserve. You will recall that, in May 2023 WRN sent you a letter concerning the proposed donation of more than 230 acres of land to rare by Mrs. Jane Schneider.

This land transfer to a community organisation involves severances needing approval by the Township, and we remained concerned, both about the slowness of the process and, especially, about the insistence that the Schneider family make a car park on the property at their own expense. The Schneiders have stated their present position on the issue in a posting on the rare website (https://raresites.org/schneider-call-to-action/ ) and remain adamant that they intend for the entirety of the land to be used for conservation purposes and do not want to encourage intensive recreation. The proposed severances do not present a change in land use, so there is no justification for requiring a parking lot in a situation that has worked well for decades. At the very least, allowing the donation to move forward would maintain the status quo as all parties continue to work toward an adequate parking solution.

Last year, Wilmot Township undertook to consult with the City of Waterloo about possible provision of parking on the Waterloo side of the town line. Regrettably, this process appears to have been abandoned by Wilmot, without explanation.

We are deeply concerned with the four years of bureaucratic delays to this worthy gift of land to the community. The whole process has been placed in jeopardy solely by the Township’s glacial pace and by the lack of enthusiasm demonstrated by Council. We know that rare is on side. We know that the Schneiders are on side. We know that the community is enthusiastically on side. Is Wilmot Council on side? If not, they should state this formally and publicly, and respond to a community that is sorely frustrated and becoming angry.

We urge Wilmot Township to go forward with the severances with alacrity, and to work with the community on this magnificent project. We are sorely in need of your leadership, and we need it now!


Heather Polan, WRN President 
Brett Fried, WRN Vice-President 

On behalf of the full Waterloo Region Nature Board of Directors.

CC: Grand River Environmental Network – Kevin Thomason, Grand Valley Trails – Patrick Connor, The Avon Trail, Grand Valley Trails Association – Annie Cote-Kennedy, Ontario Nature, Waterloo County 4-H Club – Cathy Nederend, Wilmot Horticultural Society, rare, WRN membership, and Jane and Peggy Schneider