Protecting the Natural Ecological Systems of the Oak Ridges Moraine

Rob Thomson, Head of Middle School
As Holy Trinity School started to grow in its number of students, the school recognized the need for a larger space. In 1983, the school purchased land on Bayview Avenue to construct their new site. It was recognized that this site would need considerable work to combat the naturally wet ground conditions, as it was located on the edge of the Oak Ridges Moraine. After zoning and planning approval from the Town of Richmond Hill, tree and brush clearing began in late 1984, and excavation and construction began in early 1985. The school officially opened its doors in September 1985.
Building the new school wasn’t the only construction in Richmond Hill at the time, family houses were being developed just south of the school’s site as well. The Town of Richmond Hill recognized the need for growth and development, while also recognizing the need to protect and enhance the natural ecological systems. One of the recent larger projects that Richmond Hill has undergone that our community is familiar with is the widening of Bayview Avenue between Elgin Mills and Stouffville Road.

Families and staff at HTS have spent the last few years navigating lane diversions and construction vehicles as York Region went about their business of widening Bayview Avenue. Commuters can now enjoy the nice new roads, but what many people may not know is the relocation of the natural habitats that run parallel to Bayview Avenue specifically the brook trout. Our Grade 7 students recently had the privilege of learning about the brook trout’s experience throughout the road expansion.

During the construction of the CN Rail bridge at 19th Avenue during the 1960s, the pressurized aquifer was punctured. Fresh cold water has since flowed down either side of Bayview in roadside ditches. Brook trout, sensing this new source of pristine water made the journey north and have been using the streams to lay eggs. In 2008, the Ministry of the Environment approved the plan to widen and reconstruct Bayview Avenue. As the existing ditches were home to the brook trout fish and other species, plans were being made to recreate the creek to the east of Bayview, moving it away from the roadside, giving it an important meander, and separating it from road pollutants.  

The Grade 7 students had the privilege of experiencing this newly created environment guided by Gerard Sullivan (see photo), Environmental Specialist, and Mark Nykoluk, Senior Project Manager. Burr-covered students emerged with an understanding of the human activity and nature’s needs that necessitated the design of a new and improved creek on the east side of Bayview.

The Oak Ridges Moraine continues to be an important feature of Richmond Hill thanks to the York Region government and the Town of Richmond Hill’s commitment made to protect, expand and enhance the region’s significant natural resources. HTS is proud to be nestled in the Oak Ridges Moraine where we have seen this commitment first hand since 1985.