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One thing leads to another: with Restore Cootes' founding focused on Cootes Drive's negative impact on habitat, further historical research deepened our understanding of the massive changes wrought on this special place by human development. Our selected chronology touches on some key moments in the pursuit of restoring the natural connections lost to car-centric development, and the amazing opportunity we are presented with today to gain ground, literally, for rehabilitating the ecology of lost floodplains and specialized habitat. 

August 2001 - Restore Cootes founded with proposal to restore wetland lost when Cootes Drive built by removing Cootes Drive: “Ecologically, it makes wonderful sense." HRCA Ecologist Bruce Duncan quoted in Dundas Star News 

March 2002 - Reading through the McMaster Campus Master Plan reveals a project on paper that we will later pursue on the ground:

“7.3.12 A number of opportunities exist for campus development to contribute to enhancing the water temperature, water quality and fish habitat of Ancaster Creek. A continuous stream buffer with a minimum width of 30 metres will be provided between the stream bank and the parking lot edges. This will in certain cases involve cutting back the edges of existing parking lots. The University will work with community partners to naturalize the buffer with native trees and shrubs”

May 2003 - An article in PIRGspectives (OPIRG McMaster) brings more attention to the expansionist parking plans of McMaster: “Despite the University's ‘Balanced Transportation Strategy’ stated goal of maintaining parking supply at the current level of approximately 4500 spaces, there are plans to build an $11.5 million parking structure on campus as well as plans for a parking area at Cootes and Olympic Drive in Dundas.” These projects never come through due to push back from Dundas residents concerned with loss of turtle habitat. McMaster eventually builds a satellite lot on Ward Avenue.

May 2005 - Article in PIRGspectives about McMaster parking and Cootes Paradise "Wondering Why the White Bus" - "it must be said, a lot of potential down there in zones 6 and 7. The flood plain, of course..." and mention of Campus Master Plan.

8 April 2009 - Randy Kay presents The History of Cootes Drive to Dundas Historical Society. "From the standpoint of Dundas this new highway was not a necessity" (Dundas Mayor Manning) - follow-up research on the history of McMaster's parking reveal that Lot M was until 1963 part of the RBG's Coldspring Valley Nature Sanctuary.

18 April 2009 - Work Begins on Combined Sewer Overflow Tank, South-West section of Lot M closed (still closed April 2014) - RC first noticed that closing this large section of the lot had no negative impacts on parking.

McMaster's Sustainability Office mentions plans to repave closed section with more expensive but ecologically better permeable paving. It is unclear if this will be applied to the 30m buffer or just the closed section, and on second thought we question the need to repave the closed section at all. The response from parking:

30 March 2011 - (e-mail response to RC from Terry Sullivan, McMaster Director of Parking) “We will be cutting back the parking surface perimeter several feet on the west end that will increase the buffer zone between the parking lot and the creek. More importantly we are committed to install a parking lot that is permeable...I think this will be a huge improvement in storm water management delivering less water runoff and that that is delivered to the creek will be substantially cleaner than it is currently done.
“the cutback this is around the perimeter that's associated with the construction site and not the entire Lot M. As we rebuild other lots we will likely apply the same treatment that we are testing on the reconstruction area.” 

31 March 2011 - RESTORE COOTES sends our first letter to the University Planning Committee with the following recommendations:
1) Leave the parking area closed due to the construction of the CSO tank vacant as prime rehabilitation lands i.e. no overflow parking
2) Reconfigure remaining parking along the creek edge to create a naturalized 30m buffer in the short to medium term
3) Create a long range plan to phase out parking in the lots west of Cootes Drive.
10 May 2011 - Response from UPC is a pretty clear rejection of our suggestions:
“Unfortunately, the demand for vehicular transportation continues and the need for parking remains. We do, therefore, need to restore the parking Lot M. In doing so, we have changed the design of the lot to ensure compliance with our 30 m buffer zone policy and extended it beyond the previous lot-design. We have reduced the number of parking spots and as you recognize, we will be using permeable paving to reconstruct the lot.”
14 December, 2011 - First RESTORE COOTES “History Hike” into West Campus. Randy takes a small group of Undergrads for an inaugural history hike, first of many over the next few years.

9 March, 2012 - RESTORE COOTES’ follow up letter to UPC restates expanded goals for Lot M based on new information and interest from researchers at McMaster
it is our position that
  • no money be spent on resurfacing the section of Lot M marked for permeable paving.
  • that a parking plan be undertaken with the comprehensive goal of reducing parking demand and reducing parking surface in the west campus parking lots to allow for habitat restoration [this is taken up by TLC in December 2012]
  • that the minimum 30m naturalized buffer zone be exceeded so as to restore the natural integrity of the area adjacent to Ancaster Creek
  • that university departments be encouraged to seek ways to provide assistance and offer research opportunities to rehabilitate this area, and where applicable with permeable paving. [this develops into McMarsh proposal]
30 March, 2012 - 1st Profs meeting convened by RC - Guo - Civil Eng; Waddington - Geography; Coleman - English; Quinn - Biology

2 April 2012 - Restore Cootes/Transportation for Liveable Communities meeting with City (Gary Moore, Councillor Brian McHattie) and University - Terry Sullivan (Parking and Security), Gord Arbeau (PR), Mohamed Attalla (Facility Services) - and Wayne Terryberry of President’s Advisory Committee on Cootes Paradise (PACCP) (invited by RC) - RESULT: University agreed to send Lot M issue to PACCP. Moore tells us that city money for parking lot not tied to repaving.

3 April 2012 - Professor’s Group sends letter to President Deane

18 April 2012 - President Deane responds to profs and agrees to hold off any paving in Lot M to give profs time to make a case for outdoor research facility (McMarsh)

Oct. 8, 2012: McMaster still downplaying buffer size and still talking about permeable paving: "McMaster] Spokesperson Gord Arbeau told The Spectator this year the parking lot is still needed, but some spots have been removed and the university plans to add permeable paving and more natural landscaping. (Hamilton Spectator)
February 2013 - Mapping Paradise: McMaster student art show and visiting professor Gregg Schlanger, organized by McMaster Art Prof. Judy Major-Girardin. Schlanger surprises us by making his central artwork based on Lot M. Vaults to the top of our favourite artists list!

May 2013 - Forward with Integrity Grant awarded for McMarsh project to gather baseline data for a hoped-for ongoing project of rehabilitation in Lot M:
“Title: McMarsh – An Environmental Sustainability Research and Teaching Study
Applicant: James Michael Waddington, Jim Quinn, Susan Dudley, Chad Harvey, Nancy Doubleday, Daniel Coleman, Ken Cruikshank, Brian Baetz
Faculty/Area: Science, Humanities and Engineering
Summary: This study involves the acquisition of baseline hydrological data via the installation of groundwater and stream stage wells in parking Lot M to assess flow paths, pairing this with ecological studies of the area to determine species diversity, and researching the historical land-use assessment, land ethics and social policy to evaluate the past, present and potential (restored state) of watershed resilience in this area of the campus. The study will involve students and faculty from multiple departments and is intended to instill in students a sense of stewardship for the natural lands that form part of and adjoin McMaster’s campus.”
Several false starts and then this final false start:
August 5, 2013 - E-Mail from Terry Sullivan, Director of Parking to RC.
“The engineer is completing diagrams, which will be sent to Tender for a contractor and the work beginning mid September.”

30m Buffer along North and West edges of Lot M - removing asphalt
April 2014 - 30m Buffer begins without any communication from McMaster. This is a very significant advance considering McMaster was initially reluctant to undertake it at all. We will now watch the progress and continue to support the creation of McMarsh in the section of Lot M closed since April 2009.


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