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Showing posts from 2010

sight versus sound

Out of sight, but not out of hearing range, the 403 disrupts the quiet on the Ginger Valley Trail at the eastern edge of Cootes Paradise. Cootes Drive does the same at the western end. Walking along the Ginger Valley trail my 15-year-old daughter commented that she can't remember ever walking on a trail where she couldn't hear traffic. Roads bisect and disrupt the natural areas we have, fragmenting both habitat, and the experience of habitat. Even when out of sight, traffic interferes with the enjoyment of nature, and has become the background soundtrack to our lives. The ironic thing is, to escape, we must get in cars and drive hours away, and even then, must work to get away from vehicular noise. Is there a place locally that defies the constant hum or drone of motor vehicles?

mind set

This biographical piece about  Herman "Jack Rabbit" Smith Johannsen by the NFB offers insight into the kind of thinking we need if we are to restore our human experience, that is, to reconnect with the earth that gives us all we need to live. Of course if we value money over the land, then the land will suffer. We will not imagine restoring Cootes if we do not share a relationship with the land. As Johannsen says in the film, getting closer to nature frees one from the cares of finances, and for him, offered the kind of life he wanted. We could, and should, do much more to make the natural world accessible to those who can't afford cottages or get-away weeks, by enlarging and restoring the natural gifts we have in this area.

another lap around the velodrome

Dundas councillor Russ Powers,  originally a member of the board for the National Cycling Centre Hamilton , is back in the middle of the Velodrome discussion , now as one of the city's reps on the Hamilton Velodrome Advisory Committee  - the other representatives from council are Whitehead, McHattie, and Pasuta. (the terms of reference require three councillors, but there appear to be four on the HVAC). The purpose of the HVAC is " to provide advice, input and support for the development of a permanent velodrome in Hamilton as part of the 2015 Pan Am initiative and legacy. The aims of the Hamilton Velodrome Advisory Committee are:  • To review and provide input on the site location for the velodrome;  • Review and provide expertise on the design of the velodrome. • To review and assist with the development of a funding plan for the future velodrome facility in Hamilton;  • To review and provide input in the implementation of the business plan with respect to sustainabili

Attention East End '68

The idea of enhancing the natural assets existing in the east end of Dundas are not new: in fact, in 1968, Dundas Councillor John Prentice put forth a motion after meeting with the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority and Royal Botanical Gardens board members, "to make Desjardin's Canal and the water in Cootes Paradise navigable for non-power boats, such as canoes. Also recommended was opening up nature trails, eliminating erosion problems by dredging, and general rehabilitation of the whole area. Included in the plan would be long range objectives such as deepening Spencer Creek, construction of parking space, wilderness areas, upstream projects to reduce erosion. Councillor Prentice thought action should be taken immediately the recommendations were approved. He said Dundas had control over the area." Dundas Star December 18, 1968 This area is still ripe for saving from inappropriate developments that would undermine the natural beauty and the ecological integ

city cycling committee against the Dundas Velodrome site

The Hamilton Cycling Committee, a council appointed committee, has this to say about the "Preferred Location for Velodrome" (from July committee minutes ) - (which supports what Restore Cootes believes to be best for Cootes, and the city - no velodrome in Dundas in a Environmentally Sensitive Area, and no new taxes to pay for this) - Support West Harbour location as well as other downtown locations - Within urban envelope and in vicinity of downtown in order to ensure accessibility to all Hamiltonians - Limits for consideration would be McMaster (westerly), Ivor Wynne stadium area easterly, water to the north, escarpment to the south (keep it in the lower city) - The above limits have the best transit service in the whole of the city - which is important.  - Accessibility to highways is important and the downtown is accessible from the highway (there are many ways to get downtown – there is a misconception that the downtown is not as easily accessed as locations off

What's this? More Velodrome?

Since Restore Cootes interviewed Dundas councillor Russ Powers, the Velodrome has once again come back from the dead in Dundas. What is going on behind the scenes? What follows is the relevant excerpt from the October 5 2010 Economic Development and Planning (E.D.P.) minutes: 8.2       Addition of Lands to the Niagara Escarpment Plan - Cootes Paradise Link (PW 176)(PED10228) Ferguson : [1:36:39] Okay, item 8.2 which is addition of lands to the Niagara Escarpment Cootes Paradise lands. Joanne, do you want to give us an overview of this. Hickey - Evans : The elevator speech? Ferguson : Yeah, the elevator speech, thank you. Hickey - Evans : Just very quickly, the Niagara Escarpment has received an order in council to add additional lands to their portfolio, as it were, their plan area, and it’s a two step process. And now as the second part of the process they’ve identified the appropriate designations for this land, and this land is simply a very small sliver adjacent to Oly

triple fatality and a new name

We are adding a new feature to the site: historical glimpses of the issues relating to the themes of Restore Cootes . The dangers of the modern highway become tragically apparent with the first triple fatality on the road (later found to be a result of combining high speed and alcohol consumption); From the May 26, 1966 Dundas Star News: "The death of 23-year-old Jerome (Jerry) Fritesh, 196 Caroline St. S. Hamilton last Thursday afternoon...brought the death toll in the fatal car crash on Cootes Drive (Highway 102) to three...." At the same time, the highway gets a name change to the one we now use: Cootes Drive: "Two of our major entrances to town have been named, or are in the process of being named. Highway 8 is becoming Osler Drive; Highway 102 is becoming Cootes Drive....These are colorful, historic names for Dundas. They should be put into common use." New name, same old problems. The contemporary situation reflects the historical: "In an effort t

Dundas and the Velodrome

Russ Powers has confirmed that he does not support a Velodrome at the Dundas site suggested by the National Cycling Centre Hamilton (NCCH). In a brief phone interview today, Powers said unless directed otherwise by the new council (after October's municipal elections) he was against the Velodrome being built on the soccer field across from the Olympic Arena. He listed several concerns about that site, which included the proximity to an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA), that it would have to built on the site of a former landfill, and the loss of a recreational soccer pitch. Powers, who was originally the city representative on the NCCH board of directors in the "early stages" of that organization, is no longer a director (though he was still listed as such on their web site as of today.) He said the Sierra Group did the site selection criteria for the Pan Am velodrome siting, and did not list potential locations. Sierra was hired by the city of Hamilton. So

POWERS that be...

A constituent of ward 13, AKA Dundas, has shared info with me regarding councillor Russ Powers' position on Olympic Park as a site for the velodrome - it appears that Powers' does not think this is a good place for the Velodrome. This is a relief for those of us who are concerned with this area abutting Cootes Paradise; naturalizing and capitalizing on the beauty of the area would be a benefit to Dundas and the ecology of the marsh and surrounding lands. The east end of Dundas has been a dumping ground for years. It's time we reclaim it and bring it back to health . Steps are being made in that direction by the Hamilton Conservation Authority and the Royal Botanical Gardens. We need to make our support for this direction heard.


It seems the siting of the Velodrome in the east of Dundas, like a slasher film villain, keeps coming back to life. When the discussion is of building something new, the players never mention any concerns about environment, or alternative visions for the site. This is true of the Velodrome as much as the much debated Pan Am/Tiger-Cats stadium where there is a risk of displacing high-tech research employment lands. Councillor Russ Powers seems to be siding with the Velodrome /Dundas players. So while they are looking for a plan that would separate the Velodrome from the Stadium (the two have been linked from the start of planning up to now) they also are looking "to find ways to double the $11.4 million budgeted to build a facility substantial enough to host programs that keep the velodrome sustainable in the long term" Of course I am interested in ensuring they don't dip into our tax money to pay for a high end facility for a very select few athletes. "Th

Trails on the South Shores of Cootes

Some Cootes Paradise south shore trails mapped out for you! Ginger Valley/Ravine Road trail   - a commute route! Caleb's Walk/Sassafras trail   - down to the water! Chegwin Loop  - from McMaster University, down to the water on a boardwalk! The description says it touches Grindstone Creek, which it most certainly does not. You can find more trail maps for Cootes here


I had the good fortune to present a history of Cootes Drive to the Dundas Historical Society as part of their 2009 Lecture Series. I have (finally) uploaded a pdf version of my talk, and added some images from the slides I used in the presentation. You can read it as a pdf (updated link)  here .   I would love your feedback as well, so feel free to comment, or e-mail me with any thoughts regarding this document. Again, my appreciation to the Dundas Historical Society board for making the request for this history, which forced my hand, and brought me to an ongoing relationship with the microfiche wheel at the Dundas Public Library.

oil and water

  The Yellow Fish program marks catch basins with the brightly coloured symbol to remind people not to pour contaminants down the drain, since the drain is part of a water collection system that will find it's way into our taps, and in some cases, into nearby bodies of water. This scene is from McMaster University, in front of the Life Sciences building. You can see the oily water in the puddle. McMaster University abuts Cootes Paradise, so of course any developments there have a potential (often negative) impact on the natural lands to the North and West of the campus.  A look at paved surfaces at the campus, and any further development that encroaches on Cootes, needs  attention. Replacing paved with permeable surfaces would help filter contaminants, and take the burden off the water collection/treatment systems which can be overwhelmed as water collects on paved surfaces before being channeled into these catch basins. Do you have any concerns relating to Mac and the Envi

How many cities have portage points?

Between Cootes Paradise and the Hamilton Harbour, a few steps are required to get a canoe across by the Desjardins Canal. The juxtaposition of this ancient means of travel with the noisy and polluting traffic roaring past on the 403 highway always makes me imagine how much more beautiful and intact this landscape, this ecology, and our lives might be without such overbearing infrastructure.

behind the scenes of the Velodrome

A reader of this blog sent the following background to me to share here. There appears to be a very interesting back-story to the ongoing Velodrome siting issue.  - - - - Regarding your recent web posting “ millions more to encroach on Cootes? ”, two main points need clarifying.  First, you say, “they are still talking about siting it in Dundas”.  Actually there is only one person/group calling for this.  This is Andrew Iler of the National Cycling Centre Hamilton. Iler is a politically connected lawyer from Hamilton who is directing a cycling organization created by the corporate right wing lobby.  This NCCH is not democratic and is not connected to the cycling community.  As well, it has no connection to the city of Hamilton.  John Kernaghan and the Hamilton Spectator (Torstar Corporation) have done everything they can to try and legitimize Iler and the so-called National Cycling Centre. The city of Hamilton and the cycling community want the velodrome in a promine

millions more to encroach on Cootes?

Is anyone really surprised? Cost estimates for the proposed velodrome for Hamilton's Pan Am games have doubled in price, an extra $15 million . They will be spending up to $25 million dollars for this cycling track, and they are still talking about siting it in Dundas , despite the fact the bid originally stated in would be built along with the Pan Am Stadium (and that's another story!). Problem is, the site in Dundas is in an area that is close to Cootes Paradise, on a former landfill and in the middle of an area that many hope will be developed as a natural park that will enhance the ecological integrity of this environmentally significant area. As we are seeing in the wranglings over the Pan Am Stadium, the warning of urban philosopher Jane Jacobs against these kind of projects involving "cataclysmic money" stands today. We should not hastily make decisions that will have a lasting impact on the quality of our natural assets, especially if we are interested in r

stepping up the battle for trails

I share the columnist's (see below) angst about some of the trail closures in Cootes Paradise and the observation that the impacts of walking on habitat are less damaging than driving. Nevertheless, I can appreciate that some of the trails can and should be closed to preserve sensitive habitat. It is because Cootes is surrounded by a city that the impacts of both cars and yes, even feet, can cumulatively degrade the integrity of this nature sanctuary. Blocking trails with bushes generally seems to occur on "unofficial" trails, though I have   previously expressed my concern with closing trails that once provided access through Cootes to hook up with the Spencer Creek Trail in Dundas. The utility of a trail as a path to someplace, rather than just a recreational loop, means a lot to me , and I have hoped the RBG would reconsider the trails layout with this in mind. Again, with so many people accessing Cootes, on foot and on mountain-bikes, the threat

Parks Protect Biodiversity

The Canadian Parks and Wildlife Service (CPAWS) has released their annual report and the findings, while not surprising, act as a reminder of the importance of limiting development where species at risk are concerned. The CPAWS report addresses large parks, but the findings are easily transferable to Hamilton's largest urban wildlife reserve in Cootes Paradise. Wildlife benefit from large uninterrupted natural areas,with roads and other developments being a negative influence, to the point of extirpation for vulnerable species. The report recommends: Creating new parks and expanding existing park boundaries; Maintaining and restoring wildlife movement corridors (so that wildlife have the large ranges they often need); Restricting roads and other damaging developments; Limiting recreational activities; and Practicing good park management focused on healthy ecosystems as a first priority.  We have seen the Royal Botanical Gardens move to limit some recreational activ

walk about vision

A chance to catch the vision for east Dundas!: Dundas Eco-Gateway Plan Walk-About What’s a Walk-About? It’s a tour of the study area to show the public the potential changes to the area when the Dundas Eco-Gateway Plan is implemented. It’s also a great way to get some exercise and see one of Hamilton’s beautiful natural areas that has the potential to be so much more. The Hamilton Conservation Authority, the City of Hamilton and Royal Botanical Gardens have developed a draft plan for the “Dundas Eco-Gateway Plan”. The plan presents a future vision for natural area preservation and trail linkages along Cootes Drive in Dundas, from McMaster University to Main Street. It also includes a more detailed design plan for King Street East in Dundas, from East Street to Olympic Drive. The detailed design includes a rehabilitation plan for the former Veldhuis Greenhouse site. Join us if you can, and wear appropriate footwear. Date: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 (weather permitt

best practices

The eastern end of Dundas could really use a vision , and this project has it in spades. The potential for the canal property to be the catalyst for beneficial and transformative changes to this area of town that has been the subject of so much recent controversy . The philosophy that guides the plan is absolutely what we need more of: restoration of natural habitats . The only bit of information I would add to the article is the danger the intersection of King and Olympic presents. I've seen some awfully close calls when cars make a left turn onto Olympic here. Closing King would not be a big deal, really . C'mon Hamilton, get over your cars first ideals. Plans for former greenhouse property move ahead Fundraising and approval for project are starting now Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News Staff,  Published on Jul 01, 2010 A phase three environmental assessment to determine if soil contamination is leaching into the Desjardins Canal will take place after Hamilt

work for free: free nature!

  Get involved in helping to protect and care for land in your community Come help us   protect natural areas   restore habitat   build and maintain trails Get outside   *   M eet new people    *   Le arn about nature and why it matters    *   J oin in the spirit and reward of doing important work!      Volunteer with the Head-of-the-Lake Land Trust program! Whether you're interested in exploring the magnificent natural areas in our region, or you're a "people person" with keen planning and organization skills, the Head-of-the-Lake Land Trust program has a volunteer position with your name on it. Several kinds of volunteer opportunities with the HLT program are available, including caring for the nature sanctuaries, helping with special events, fundraising, and communications.   Or tell us about your ideas or skills and we can work with you to create ways for you to hel


Very welcome news for Cootes Paradise!  Public wins Pleasantview fight Jun 16, 2010 The city and local residents have successfully preserved the Pleasantview area of Dundas from urban development. The provincial government has now refused a developer-sought amendment to the Parkway Belt West plan and is tranferring the rural Dundas lands to the protection of the Niagara Escarpment Commission. A June 2 provincial cabinet decision signed by the Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey adds the Pleasantview lands and five other parcels in other parts of Ontario to the Niagara Escarpment Planning Area. The shift takes effect on July 1 and affects “the lands lying west of the westerly limit of King’s Highway No. 6 and north of the northerly limit of King’s Highway 403 to the easterly limits of Olympic Drive and the northerly limits of Cootes Drive” between those boundaries and the current escarpment plan area. Tim McCabe, the city’s head of economic development and p


If you are scratching your head while leafing through your wild plant guide, don't be worried if you can't find mention of this one.   It seems Dundas has been invaded by a plant, originally from Asia, called Giant Hogweed. As with many non-native plants, they can often spread quickly with no natural predators to keep them in check, but this plant is different: "its sap can leave burns that last for up to six years" when exposed to sunlight.   The local daily reports that City workers are applying herbicides to control the spread.  So far they have found six along Spencer Creek near Cootes Drive. 15 in Warren Park a couple of plants on Old Guelph Road. "It seems to be travelling up the creek bed," said Sue Gilpin, a city superintendent."   If you find some on city property, call 905-546-CITY to report it

plenty of life in the layers

Dig this ... ancient riverbed Archeologists stumble on find Jenni Dunning , The Hamilton Spectator , (Jun 9, 2010)  Underneath an old lilac garden, researchers have found an ancient riverbed which the area's earliest residents may have called home. McMaster University archeology students recently uncovered a riverbed -- 10,000 to 30,000 years old -- on the north shore of Lake Ontario in Cootes Paradise, said the group's instructor Meghan Burchell. "It's sheer blind luck. It was a random sampling," she said. "People don't know there's so much archeology in Hamilton. This is really a living landscape." The team discovered traces of a deteriorated wood post along the river's edge -- the first evidence of a clear structure, now buried about 25 centimetres underground, Burchell said. It's likely the remains of a trap or drying rack for fish, she added. Researchers hop

reason to expand natural areas: eagles!

Photo Courtesy of Jamie Smith Bald eagles at Cootes are a rare pair - Local - Bald eagles at Cootes are a rare pair At-risk species making a comeback in area landscape Jenni Dunning The Hamilton Spectator (Jun 7, 2010)  A pair of bald eagles is sticking around Hamilton for a third summer, a sign the area's natural lands are improving, experts say. If the birds breed, that would make them the first mating pair of bald eagles on Lake Ontario in 50 years. Their presence in Cootes Paradise, along with growing numbers of at-risk species making a comeback, is encouraging for local conservationists. "One of the main things it means is we're doing something right," said Lee Oliver, communications manager at the Royal Botanical Gardens. "We're trying to bring back an ecological balance." Along with the two bald eagles, there are nine or 10 male

No plan for this place?

Two weeks ago, Restore Cootes was asking "How well thought out is this plan?" to put a Velodrome on Olympic Park. The question was mostly rhetorical, and our concern is borne out in this latest news from the Dundas Star. Zoning and soil do not support velodrome at Olympic Park, say city, RBG officials Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News Staff Published on Jun 03, 2010 Olympic Sports Park is on top of a former landfill and not capable of supporting a building, according to one conservation expert. City of Hamilton planning staff would not elaborate on the comment made by Tys Theysmeyer, head of conservation and natural lands for the Royal Botanical Gardens, which owns property not far from the Olympic Drive natural area. But according to the city’s planning department, the property’s zoning only permits outdoor recreation. The National Cycling Centre of Hamilton says a feasibility study it completed on building a cycling velodrome in the city concluded the Dundas park

Isolation or built into the fabric of a city?

Is Dundas more of a "cycling town" than Hamilton? Not sure I'd buy that, but regardless of the designation, the idea that NCC's Andrew Iler puts forth that "the Dundas location does not create barriers to use that exist at the planned west Harbour site" is very arguable. His reason against the west harbour site: “An urban core deadlocked by big urban streets is not ideal,” he said. We see, I suspect, a suburban bias in this decision from the NCC. How else does an urban core become a liability? It means being closer to more potential users of the facility, based on urban density, with decent public transit available. Other benefits of an urban location would be spinoff improvements to the "big urban streets" that could then sport bike lanes and wider sidewalks and the development of other urban commercial, retail and other amenities. Same can't be said for the Dundas site which is isolated and accessible primarily, if not exclusively, by car