Monday, October 19, 2015

Whitcome honoured for conservation

The late Brad Whitcombe, a hog farmer from Puslinch Township south of Cambridge, has been honoured with the 2015 Grand River Honour Roll Award, the highest honour given by the Grand River Conservation Authority.

Whitcombe died suddenly in November, 2014, leaving a long record of environmental service to the Grand River watershed.

He was a long-serving politician in Puslinch Township, and Wellington County. Among his many accomplishments, he was co-founder of two very successful environmental programs.

He was a hog farmer in his early 30s which is also when he went into municipal politics in 1989 with the aim of serving farmers.

 “Stewardship captures Brad’s approach to life. He believed his role was to convene all the forces and resources necessary to care for his community,” said Lise Burcher, Whitcombe’s spouse, and a former City of Guelph councillor.

He was Puslinch Township mayor for 15 years, until 2010. He also served as Wellington County warden for three terms — in 2000, 2005 and 2006.

Whitcombe sought solutions to the water challenges within Puslinch Township. He was the chair of the Mill Creek subwatershed study which was completed in June, 1996.

The study identified the work that needed to improve the creek that runs close to Highway 401 through Puslinch and enters the Grand River in the former Galt section of Cambridge.

A broad-based committee established the Puslinch Township Groundwater Monitoring Program - the first of its kind in Canada. This program is still in operation, ensuring that water resources are understood and protected.

“Brad was the prime proponent of both the sub-watershed studies and groundwater monitoring program, which were considered visionary and ground-breaking at the time,” said Larry Halyk, who was stewardship coordinator in the area. 

In 1999, Whitcombe also chaired the committee that introduced the GRCA’s Rural Water Quality Program to Wellington County, the second municipality in the watershed to join the program that began in Waterloo Region.

He co-founded Friends of Mill Creek in 1998, a multi-faceted program that has become a model for community engagement in other areas.

He helped bring together environmentalists, business leaders, landowners and local agencies to work together to improve the creek, says the GRCA in a news release about the award.

‘In other communities, this would be a nearly impossible task. But in Puslinch, people set aside their differences when they entered the meeting room,” the GRCA says.

“They worked together. Many improvements have been made to Mill Creek and the brown trout population has expanded, while native brook trout have regained territory within the watershed.