The Coalition of Concerned Citizens

Local Heroes: The Coalition of Concerned Citizens fought to perserve our rural landscape

November 21, 2011 | | Back Issues | Community | Local Heroes | Winter 2011

The Coalition of Concerned Citizens: Some of our 2011 Local Heroes


Next time you are travelling south along Winston Churchill Boulevard approaching Olde Base Line, look left. If you arrive at some gracious old stone gates marking a driveway, you’ve gone too far. Back up 100 metres or so. Now, look again. You will see one of Caledon’s most historic barns. It’s a stone barn – a rarity in our hills. The house is stone too. The surrounding land, though beautiful, isn’t the best for agriculture. The farm is called Rockfort for a reason. Oftentimes the farmer’s plough would hit bedrock – but not just any bedrock, it hit dolostone, a sought-after commodity in the rapidly expanding Greater Toronto Area where it is gobbled up to construct highways.

Now, take a moment to thank The Coalition of Concerned Citizens. It’s due to this group of dedicated citizens that you are not cowering in your car as yet another loaded gravel truck rumbles by, not listening to the industrial din of a mining operation, and not looking into a quarry filling with water at the risk of neighbouring drinking wells.

When Penny Richardson looks over this view she is thankful the old barn is still there. “I just think it is the way it should be,” explains the woman who, with the staying power of Jean Chrétien, was at the helm of this group of determined citizens. In fact, the CCC started opposing the Rockfort Quarry application just as Chrétien started his second term in office. Formally organized in 1997, it stuck with the fight until its emphatic but hard-won victory at the Ontario Municipal Board late last year, some 13 years and three prime ministers later.

“Virtually no one thought we would win,” Penny recalls. It took a lot of “terrier DNA” and, she adds, a whopping $1.8 million to hire lawyers, biologists, geologists and more to battle it out with James Dick Construction Limited. Along the way they found allies in the Town of Caledon, Credit Valley Conservation and the Niagara Escarpment Commission, all of which believed, as the CCC did, that Dick’s application was flawed.

The 10 to 20 individuals who make up the core of the CCC and turned up at organizational meetings every Sunday morning (long weekends excepted) for 13 years, have to attend to two more duties. First, they must decide what to do with the several thousand dollars in excess funds they still had in their war chest when the fight was won. Ideas range from undertaking research, such as classifying Caledon’s wetlands, to passing the money to another group that is or will one day have to fight another battle.

But perhaps the bigger decision involves the future of the Great Big Garage Sale. Attracting thousands of people from miles around, this much-loved annual event raised about $300,000 over the years. Will the CCC keep it up or pass it along to another local group in need of funding? You’ll have to wait for the answer. After a well-earned break from activity, the group is reconvening this month to figure out their next move.

Meanwhile, Penny has some advice: “If the land means anything to you, then make sure you know what’s under your feet; be aware of municipal rules and pay attention to what is going on out there.”

Our fourth annual celebration of extraordinary people, meet our other heroes

About the Author More by Nicola Ross

Freelance writer Nicola Ross lives in Alton and is the author of the bestselling 'Loops and Lattes' hiking guide series.

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