Chants of “hey, hey, ho, ho, this gravel pit has got to go” were bellowed in the County of Brant on Saturday morning as about 150 people marched through downtown Paris banging pots and pans to protest a planned gravel pit on Watts Pond Road.
“We get to have a bit of fun, raise some awareness and make a clear statement that this movement is not going away,” said Ron Norris, spokesperson for the Concerned Citizens of Brant, which organized the event. “As a community, we are not going to go silently into the night. This issue is going to get bigger and snowball.”
Dufferin Aggregates has plans to extract gravel on a site that includes more than 600 acres of farmland north of Paris. The company was granted a licence to extract the gravel by the Ministry of Natural Resources in 1974.
Members of the Concerned Citizens of Brant have made presentations to County of Brant councillors at several meetings during recent months, urging municipal politicians to lobby the provincial government to have the company’s licence reviewed or revoked.
The group has cited potential groundwater contamination, loss of farmland and impact on area roads due to increased truck traffic as among its concerns.
Paris resident Carol Ritchie said the planned gravel pit worries her because the company’s licence dates back to 1974.
“I’m concerned about it being a nearly 40-year-old licence,” Ritchie said. “We need a new environmental assessment on that site, which takes into consideration the water table and endangered species.
“Paris is just one of many communities in Ontario going through this. We have to stop it and we need mindful development.”
Following the protest, participants attended Syl Apps Community Centre for a rally featuring guest speakers.
“This is your community,” said Mark Calzavara of the Council of Canadians. “It is never a done deal…Nobody else will protect your water.”
The Council of Canadians will help the Concerned Citizens of Brant by mobilizing its large membership to assist in the fight against the pit, Calzavara said.
Ric Holt, president of Gravel Watch Ontario, said he encourages county residents to keep up their vocal opposition to the planned operation.
“You are supposed to be out there fighting,” Holt said. “It is the right thing to do.
“In the end, when these operations set up, communities pay. You have to work hard over a long period of time to win.”