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In Search of Gifford Hill

And now for something a little different... The following is a poetic response to the recent announcement that the Oshawa Port Authority has approved the building of an ethanol plant at the Oshawa Harbour, on the lands known as Gifford Hill or the old Gifford Farmlands.



This morning I set out to find Gifford Hill, a place I’ve never been, because I heard it would soon not be there. In its present form at least—which I discover is only historic land; it only abuts the shoreline, positioned between the city’s most popular park and the Second Marsh Wildlife Area; it only overlooks one of the country’s proudest lakes. Why not build an ethanol plant upon it?

There are neighbourhoods too, old ones, new ones, a school. So what? And the Oshawa Community Museum’s cluster of original homes on their original foundations attest to nothing but the city’s past. The lifeguard stations, the gulls, the families who walk along the pier, buy French fries and ice cream, the children whose cheeks redden as they dig in the sand, laugh, run past tables set with bright cloths and jugs of Kool-Aid—what importance are they next to the joys that ethanol will bring the community, the wetlands, the water, the air?

They say it comes with 50 permanent jobs.

Fifty. Imagine.

The hill is ringed with trees and can only be seen from a distance. Security fences are locked, signs prohibit trespassing, warn of prosecution to the full extent of the law. There are cameras.

I’m not sure what I was expecting. Something more celebratory perhaps, more welcoming (after all, they make it sound like such good news), or at the very least, men in suits, silently handing out notes of apology, a tented area within which to weep, an open house to close down yet another slice of nature. 

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