Skip to content

David Hawke honoured with legacy award for 'remarkable work'

'To be presented this recognition ... is truly gratifying. It comes from my peers and my community, and is truly a very nice ‘thank you’ to receive,' say OrilliaMatters columnist
David Hawke Sept21 (1)(1)
David Hawke was recently honoured with the SSEA's Environmental Legacy Award for his lifetime commitment to nature conservation and education. He also writes a regular column for OrilliaMatters. | File photo

A popular OrilliaMatters columnist was recognized by the Severn Sound Environmental Association (SSEA) at the organization's annual SSEA environmental champions awards and partners reception.

Local environmental champion David Hawke, whose column appears weekly on OrilliaMatters, was honoured with the Environmental Legacy Award for his lifetime commitment to nature conservation and education, as well as his positive impact on the Severn Sound region.

“Dave's unwavering dedication to creating a sustainable future has ignited inspiration and hope for many of us,” said SSEA excecutive director Julie Cayley. “We are honoured to acknowledge his remarkable work proving that one person's commitment can truly make a difference.”

Hawke said he was surprised and honoured to receive the award.

“This prestigious award was first called the Bob Whittam Award, acknowledging his life-long commitment to education,” Hawke said. “And I had the great luck to be mentored by Bob in my early years of nature interpretation at the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre.” 

Hawke has been involved with teaching, researching and sharing information on the local natural environment for 45 years. Since 1989, he’s been writing a weekly nature column that has appeared regularly in a number of publications. 

“My goal in sharing information about nature is to create an informed community so that when an issue or concern is raised, the general population will at least be aware of the many species that may be impacted,” he said. “If people are unaware then they simply won't care, and that will only escalate the destruction and poor management of our natural resources.”

The recipient of several provincial and local awards, Hawke said this one is special.

“To be presented this recognition from SSEA is truly gratifying,” he said. “It comes from my peers and my community, and is truly a very nice ‘thank you’ to receive.”

J.J. McTague took home the Student Environmental Champion Award for his work at St. Theresa’s High School in Midland, including school-yard tree planting and cleanups, raising more than $300 in e-waste recycling to purchase bird and bat houses for his school yard and promoting the school's Earth Day campaign.

Farlain Lake Community Association members Scott Dales, Emily Thorne, Barb Columbus, Brian Columbus, Mike Johnson and Mark Simpson won the Volunteer Champion Award for their work on the Farlain Lake Algae Causation Study.

The Sustainability and Stewardship Champion Award was given to Roy Patenaude for his battle to manage invasive species in Penetanguishene, and Meg Whitton for her dedication to championing the SSEA cause and advocating for the environment as a community and media leader.

The awards were presented at a recent open house hosted by the SSEA. Such events are important, says Caley.

She noted that when it comes to making a detrimental impact on planet Earth, there’s more than enough blame to go around.

From the deforestation of the world’s tropical rainforest to over-fishing the oceans, humans have had a long history of pushing nature to the brink.

But she says the days of blaming and shaming should be behind us.

“The only way to make a difference is to not point fingers,” Cayley said during an interview at the SSEA’s recent open house in Elmvale. “I say that because of my experience, which showed everybody was part of the problem and everybody was part of the solution.”

Julie Cayley, executive director of the Severn Sound Environmental Association, enjoys a short break during the association's open house event in Elmvale. Wayne Doyle/BarrieToday

According to the Canadian government’s Environment and Natural Resources website, Severn Sound, which is a collection of bays in the southeast portion of Georgian Bay, was designated an Area of Concern (AOC) in 1987 under the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. 

Pollution from wastewater, agricultural land uses and shoreline development led to degraded water quality and environmental health. Five out of 14 beneficial use impairments (BUIs), which measure the environmental, human health or economic impact of poor water quality, were identified. 

In 2003, Severn Sound became the second Canadian AOC to be delisted. The government removes an AOC when monitoring shows that targets for all BUIs have been met and environmental quality has been restored.

Monitoring confirmed that environmental quality was restored through:

  • upgrades to reduce phosphorus from nine municipal sewage treatment plants, 600 private septic systems and use of best management practices at farms
  • the restoration and protection of 411 hectares of wetlands and connected watersheds, planting of 132 vegetation buffers to protect against stream erosion, the creation of habitat corridors and the adoption of Natural Heritage Strategies by townships and municipalities
  • progress in establishing a healthy trumpeter swan population at the Wye Marsh through a federal ban on toxic lead shot and the use of a sediment management technology to ensure existing lead shot pellets are out of reach of the swans.

With the cleanup fully behind them, municipalities in the area took the initiative and created their own environmental association.

“The municipalities decided they should have a vision for the region and they created the Severn Sound Environmental Association, a joint municipal services board under the Municipal Act,” Cayley said.

“The eight participating municipalities — the towns of Midland and Penetanguishene and the townships of Georgian Bay, Tiny, Tay, Severn, Oro-Medonte and Springwater — own the organization and help provide direction around what they want to see in terms of water quality and environmental health in the area," she added. 

According to Cayley, the SSEA is the environmental arm of each municipality and delivers benefits beyond environmental expertise.

“Instead of the municipalities hiring full-time staff and consultants, they share the cost of having a bunch of experts available to them at any time to do the work they want done,” Cayley said. “They entrust us with our expertise to do that for them.

"We really are like a department within each of the eight municipalities that support us.”

Cayley said the SSEA provides numerous additional benefits to residents, oftentimes without residents even knowing the SSEA is involved. 

“The value of the SSEA to the average person is that you’ve got these experts working to protect what you’re using for life,” she said. “Whether you want to go out for a walk and enjoy nature or want to drink water out of the tap or be able to swim in the lake, we’re here to help make sure that’s as protected as we can make it.”

SSEA programs that generate instant brand recognition are the programs where the organization works directly with the public: tree planting and tree seedling distribution, citizen science monitoring programs for shore and stream watch, invasive species spotters, ice spotters and water level watchers.


Verified reader

If you would like to apply to become a verified commenter, please fill out this form.

Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Wayne Doyle covers the townships of Springwater, Oro-Medonte and Essa for BarrieToday under the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI), which is funded by the Government of Canada
Read more