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Unpaving paradise

McMaster giving up 300 parking spaces for buffer zone near Ancaster Creek

The Hamilton Spectator, November 27, 2012 (online version)

A McMaster University parking lot will scale back more than 300 spaces to create a 30-metre buffer between the asphalt and a local creek.

Parking lot M is located off Cootes Drive next to Ancaster Creek and at present, it can accommodate more than 1,300 vehicles.

The move comes after a campus environmental group called Restore Cootes urged university officials to create a naturalized buffer at the lot, because a campus master plan calls for such buffers and the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority requires a 30-metre buffer when new parking lots are constructed.

Gord Arbeau, McMaster’s director of public and community relations, says 200 spaces in the same area — previously out of use because of a construction project — will be put back in circulation, lessening the impact of the move. He said more than 1,400 staff and students have transponders allowing them to use the lot, but the usage is spread out over the week and not everyone wants to use the lot at the same time.

Arbeau said he does not know the final cost of removing the asphalt and naturalizing the landscape.

Restore Cootes has been leading an ongoing series of Ponds to Parking history-hikes since last December that raised awareness about the issue of parking lots affecting natural areas that used to be ponds, streams and wetlands, said spokesperson Randy Kay.

Creating the buffer is “a small but significant step toward a goal of full rehabilitation of the floodplain that was previously known as the Royal Botanical Gardens’ Coldspring Valley Nature Sanctuary, paved over in the late 1960s when McMaster took over the RBG property,” the environmental group said in a statement.

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