Alexis Edghill Whalen
Alexis spent much of her childhood in the great outdoors where she developed a strong connection with the natural world. Her most significant early memories are of efforts to persuade others to see the world the way she did: a woodlot wasn’t just waiting for a highway to burst through it, but a habitat for native species; a pristine river system wasn’t a potential storm sewer for urban sprawl, but a vital source of clean water; silence and darkness weren’t a void awaiting development, but a space in which to breathe, listen, and imagine a world where the economic benefits of preservation would exceed those of development. Alexis is a graduate of the School of Hospitality & Tourism at the University of Guelph (B.Comm) and brings a range of work experiences in marketing, consulting and photography to her role with Land Over Landings. She has been a board member since 2013.
Stephen Marshall has lived in the area for 38 years, raising a family in the provincial expropriation area in Markham. He became involved with Save the Rouge Valley System in 1987, resolved that the countryside his children grew up in would be there when they were adults. The house they grew up in is now in Rouge National Urban Park. Mission accomplished.
Well, not completely. Ensuring that the remaining Federal Lands become a diverse, vibrant, productive agricultural and natural area, and not just another industrial landscape, is of multigenerational importance. What Land Over Landings envisions is the way to survive and thrive in the future, an adaptive and resilient response to the formidable challenges unfolding here and around the world. This is very important for the whole GTHA, and by example and as a ‘seed’ source of examples, knowledge and experience, for all of Southern Ontario.
Raised in a family of educators, environmentalists, and social justice advocates, Mary felt she’d come home when she and her husband began renovating a mid-19th century farmhouse on the Federal Lands in 1980. Within weeks they joined a People or Planes’ march celebrating the airport’s ‘cancellation’. Little did she know that decades on she would still be fighting for these Lands! First as a journalist and later as a museum educator, she researched North Pickering’s involvement in ‘the Farmers Revolt’, and realized she lived on rebel lands! Mary is the proud mother of three environmentalists, each of whom would willingly surrender the old farmhouse to a new generation of farmers once the Lands have been saved!
David has been involved in the fight against a Pickering airport since 1998, first with V.O.C.A.L. (Voters Organized to Cancel the Airport Lands) and then with Land Over Landings. He strongly believes there is no business case for an airport but that there is one for agriculture, research, and tourism. He is amazed by the local politicians’ belief in “Build it and they will come.” They have only to look at the experiences of Hamilton and Waterloo. David is a CPA and lives in Claremont.
When Gabrielle first stepped into the house that became her home on the Lands it was March 1985, and with the empty fields all around she was reminded of her childhood growing up on a farm on the edge of Exmoor in England. With her husband she quietly cared for the 1870s leased farmhouse and extensive property, riding the waves of the shifting political sands, keeping a low profile, planting trees, raising a son, growing vegetables…But by 2005 the future was looking increasingly precarious. With the birth of Land Over Landings, staying under the radar was no longer an option: the shy piano teacher had a steep learning curve but it was a small price to pay for the wonderful friendships made within the group and the incredible opportunity to contribute to a cause so absolutely, fundamentally right.
Pat has vivid childhood memories of the family farm just south of Ottawa but she spent most of her life as a city girl in downtown Montreal and Toronto, in the graphic design and publishing/communications worlds. When she and her husband moved to Durham Region in 2007, the plan was to ease into retirement. Instead, she found the once-vibrant farming community of North Pickering depopulated and economically diminished by the spectre of a decades-old airport threat. A life-long armchair protester and writer of letters to editors, and an acolyte of Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, David Attenborough, Oliver Rackham, and Jon Stewart, she was attracted to Land Over Landings like an iron filing to a magnet. Snap. And all previous experience took on the aspect of simulations and field exercises leading up to the real thing.
Member at Large
Susan grew up in what is now a 9th generation farming family in the former Township of Markham. She recalls being a 12-year-old who was deeply moved by the 1972 expropriations for the Pickering airport on land a few miles to the east of her family’s farm. She even made her own roadside People or Planes sign. Fast forward 40 years: she and her husband live in a 150-year-old house in Rouge National Urban Park (formerly Federal “airport” Lands) and Susan re-engaged with the fight to stop the airport, joining the Land Over Landings Executive Committee. She is thrilled that two large sections of the Lands have been designated for the Rouge National Urban Park for farming, natural habitat, and tourism, and is committed to achieving a similar outcome for the last piece of the Lands.
Member at Large, Head of Research
Jim Miller co-owns Thistle Ha’, a national historic farm adjacent to the Federal Lands near Claremont, ON.
Member at Large
In the mid-sixties, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring pulled Heather, an artist, straight into the environmental movement. In the late 1970s she leased a house on the Federal Lands for herself and her young son and soon learned about the airport fight and People or Planes. In 2005, when evictions and demolitions were again rampant on the Lands, she and a handful of like-minded individuals formed Land Over Landings, an extension of POP, to try to convince the federal government to re-establish a sustainable, profitable agricultural community on the Lands. Heather’s art includes land art: large-scale, three-dimensional installations, with food sovereignty as the central theme, leaving the public with a question to ponder: “How can we feed our expanding local population without harming the environment that sustains us?” Heather is currently preparing a new field drawing – A Field Guide for Honeybees – for an environmental/educational centre north of Toronto.
Gord, a teacher, and his wife Myrna, moved their young family to the lovely little hamlet of Brougham in 1967, only to have their world turned upside down by the 1972 expropriation of 18,600 acres of land, including Brougham, for an international airport. Gord and Myrna joined People or Planes, partly to save their home and partly to fight the ill-conceived plan to destroy the area’s high-quality farmland. After POP’s hard work got the airport shelved in 1975, Gord and Myrna chose to stay in Brougham, hoping that their property would be returned to them. They have wound up leasing their own home from Transport Canada for more than 40 years, and have joined or led protests whenever new airport threats periodically surfaced. In 2005, when the federal government began evicting long-term tenants, the newly formed group Land Over Landings, with Gord as chair, succeeded in getting the evictions stopped. Mary Delaney became chair in 2013 and Gord was named honorary chair in 2015 in recognition of more than four decades of tireless commitment to this cause.
Member at Large
Carmen Lishman has a multi-generational connection to the Pickering federal lands. Daughter of Bill and Paula Lishman, who were expropriated from their residence on concession 7 in 1972, Carmen was brought up with the People or Plane (POP) protest stories. The original POP folks shared with her a strong conviction for cultivating farmland-community connection. She trained as a conservation biologist, completing her Master’s in Biology in 2008 on a rare bird from Patagonia: the Magellanic Plover. She acquired a second career in 2014 in Speech Language Pathology and now works full-time in Durham’s schools as a speech-language pathologist and part-time as an associate with the International Conservation Fund of Canada. Carmen is raising her young family in Whitevale and participates in the Common Ground Garden project as a member.
Member at Large
A long-time resident of Pickering, Helen is a retired RN/MBA and senior health care executive who is passionate about gardening and nature. Wanting to give back to the community, and recalling the day in 1972 when her friends came to school devastated that they were being expropriated from their century family farms for a Pickering airport, Helen reached out to Land Over Landings. Through this connection, she joined local residents working to save Duffin’s Creek and Carruthers Creek Watershed from development. Currently, she co-leads Stop Sprawl Durham, which advocates for sustainable development goals, with the objective of protecting farmland, watersheds, and Natural Heritage Systems. These areas need to be left untouched to retain their ability to help mitigate the ravages of climate change. Helen’s goal is to see the plans for an airport in Pickering abandoned and the Federal Lands protected in perpetuity for future generations.
Member at Large
Abdullah is a community and civic activist passionate about healthcare, education and the environment. Originally from Toronto, he chose Pickering as his adopted home because of the perfect blend of urban and rural living. He got involved in land use, environmental protection and planning after the provincial government’s flagrant removal of the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve from the Greenbelt. He strives to build a healthy, vibrant, environmentally diverse and economically prosperous community. Abdullah is a graduate of the University of Toronto, and brings experience in public administration, business and public speaking to his role with Land Over Landings.
Member at Large
Details to come.