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Abandoned legacy pits on Manitoulin island eyed for rehabilitation

May 13, 2022  By Lori Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative ReporterThe Manitoulin Expositor

The Management of Abandoned Aggregate Properties (MAAP) technicians will be on Manitoulin this summer, reaching out to landowners of about 30 legacy sites known to be located here.

Manitoulin Island was only designated under the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) in 2007, explained Danielle Solondz, project coordinator for MAAP. Many sites across the province, mostly in southern Ontario, were previously operating under the Pits and Quarries Control Act; those were grandfathered into the ARA. At that time, some areas in the province, mostly located in Northern Ontario, did not necessarily fall under the area.

Areas like Manitoulin Island, Bancroft, parts of Sudbury, northern Hastings County, Muskoka and Thunder Bay were all designated under the ARA in 2007.

The MAAP program has rehabilitated more than 600 pits and quarries across Ontario covering almost 900 acres, at no cost to landowners. The approximately $12 million tab was funded by aggregate producers through a levy per tonne.


There are three classifications for sites: active, surrendered and legacy, or abandoned. Active sites are sites that are currently licenced or permitted under the ARA and follow strict guidelines outlined by Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry,  Solondz said. Surrendered sites are no longer extracted from as they have been rehabilitated and no longer have a licence or permit. Legacy sites are pits and quarries that were extracted from before licences and permits were mandated, and rehabilitation may not have been completed.

“Legacy sites were really used in building municipalities,” she added. “There are a lot of these wayside pits (often located in farmers’ fields), where the municipality was putting in county roads. They’re called abandoned but they’re not actually abandoned. They belong to individuals in the province.”

There are currently 62 active licences on Manitoulin Island, of which three-quarters are Class B licences that limit the amount that can be annually extracted. Twelve sites have been surrendered. MAAP is looking for legacy sites on Manitoulin to rehabilitate. MAAP estimates there are 30 legacy sites on the Island, but there could be more.

Those 30 sites were identified in 2009 by the Ontario Geological Survey. MAAP is sending out its own technicians because “they have a better eye for what is and what isn’t a gravel or sand pit and whether it has good potential as a MAAP project,” said Paul Hartnett, a landscape architect and construction supervisor with MAAP. Many of the sites identified in 2009 were noted as ‘landowner not interested’ at the time. The big challenge now is getting enough people signed up to give MAAP a purpose to conduct rehabilitation work here.

Once an area is identified and enough landowners have signed up for the program, the work begins. “We fly the site with a drone to do a survey and gather data,” said Hartnett. “From that, I develop site plans and calculate the cut and fill for the area we’re going to reshape, then put together the drawings that direct the contractors on what’s expected of them in terms of earth work and hydroseeding. Then we hire the contractors and I oversee construction.”

Hartnett has been with MAAP for 12 years and has completed about 350 rehabilitation projects with them. He was lands manager for a fairly large company in the aggregate industry prior to joining MAAP, and started out in landscape construction before obtaining his master’s degree in landscape architecture. He tries to accommodate people’s wishes for the rehabilitation projects but said each site is typically unique and will “lend itself to what it wants to be.”

(Toronto Star)

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