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Scenes from a History Hike

At the Binkley Family Cemetery, photo by Szara Joy
A lucky group of 13 enjoyed the perfect weather during the hour-long Ponds to Parking lunchtime History Hike jointly conducted by Restore Cootes and OPIRG McMaster.

The history walking-tour includes the founding of McMaster University in Hamilton in 1930, the original six buildings meant to be "indistinguishable from the neighbouring Royal Botanical Garden parkland;" an overview of the importance of the ecology of neighbouring Cootes Paradise; the H&D Railway (1880), Cootes Drive (1936) as one of the first "modern" highways in Canada; and in the west campus, the loss  of Royal Botanical Gardens' land in the 1963 as McMaster expanded an ambitious parking plan into Coldspring Valley Nature Sanctuary (1958-1963).

[more photos on our Facebook page]

McMaster's parking expansion (1969) was based on projections that suggested 7,000 spaces would be required by 1980. Currently there are just under 4,000 spaces, with peak demand well below capacity (only 2,803 spaces required at peak) - this is where history helps define the future: with excess capacity, and a falling off of demand for parking, there is now an opportunity to apply the expertise of university researchers to actively restore the lost floodplain ecology.

Two separate projects initiated by Restore Cootes are currently underway: one, to work with the University, the Hamilton Conservation Area, and other agencies and groups like the RBG and Hamilton Naturalists Club to see a minimum 30metre naturalized buffer created between the Lot M parking and Ancaster Creek. HCA measurements suggest a loss of 318 parking spaces to achieve this important buffer to enhance the health of this cold-water creek.

The other more ambitious project involves several different faculty departments to gain access to a larger area beyond the 30m buffer, in order to restore the wetland buried beneath the parking lot in Lot M. Based on peak demand for parking, the majority of Lot M could be brought into a project such as this with no loss of parking for current users.

So history with a purpose: if you are interested in helping out in any way, please get in touch with restore cootes at dundastard@gmail.com or contact OPIRG McMaster at 905-525-9140 ext. 26026.

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