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New group forming to 'restore Cootes'

By Craig Campbell
Staff Writer Dundas Star News (Wednesday, August 8, 2001) Page 7

Imagine Cootes Drive - the four lane access between West Hamilton and Dundas - completely torn up and replaced by the natural marsh land that was there over fifty years ago.

It may seem unrealistic, but a Dundas resident is starting a group to push for the change. And an ecologist with the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority actually likes the idea.

"It's quite interesting," said Bruce Duncan, of the HRCA. "Can it be done? That's the million dollar question."

Last week, Randy Kay sent out a press release to 500 people on an e-mail discussion list.

It called for a permanent closure of the road that separates the nature preserve of Cootes Paradise and the Spencer Creek Watershed.

Cootes Drive is temporarily down to two lanes during construction this month.

"We're totally serious about getting the road out of there, at some point," Mr. Kay said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Kay said he has already had favourable responses from friends, activists, and ecologists who have apparently offered their help.

"It's a tragic position for a road," he said. "It could be more special if the integrity of the natural habitat was still there."

Mr. Kay wants the whole issue of transportation to be discussed as a result of his proposal. With so many roads, he figures people don't realize how detrimental cars can be to the environment.

"If we really felt the impact - if people sat in traffic jams, they'd have to think," he said. "Roads are not the answer."

Mr. Kay said public transportation should be further developed.

His proposal calls for the natural Spencer Creek/Cootes Paradise area to extend all the way down to East Street.

"It can only have a positive effect," Mr. Kay said. "There are very few car free areas in the regions -especially in walking distance."

Bruce Duncan of the HRCA has spoken to Mr. Kay about his idea before. He also received a copy of the press release.

"Ecologically, it makes wonderful sense." Mr. Duncan said.

He explained that before any of the area was developed, Spencer Creek flowed through what is now Dundas and into Cootes Paradise.

"It's not completely blocked, it flows under Cootes," Mr. Duncan said. "But the road is a long division."
"It's certainly something to look at. Maybe parts of it could be done."

The Conservation Authority was already working on a plan to improve the Spencer Creek habitat surrounding Cootes Drive, and improving the connections under the road.

"There are smaller ideas we'd like to put into practice."

Going all the way and taking Cootes Drive right out would be difficult because of public objections, the sewer and water lines under the road, and the cost of tearing it up.

"That doesn't mean it isn't worth taking a look at," he said. "There's a big piece of wetland down there that could be improved."

Improving the connection between Cootes Paradise and Spencer Creek would give Atlantic Salmon and Pickerel more spawning areas, Mr. Duncan said, and restoring habitat could benefit a number of different species.

"I sent Randy an E-Mail," Mr. Duncan said. "I told him to propose it to the city, and work co-operatively with them. That's the way things happen."

Highway 102 was apparently built in the early 1950s, and renamed Cootes Drive in 1966.

Rob Shamus, of Hamilton's Transportation, Operations and Environment department, found a reference to Cootes Drive in a 1963 transportation report.

"The road has been there for a long time," he said.

Though Mr. Kay is asking for a transportation study of Cootes Drive and the effect of its closure, Mr. Shamus said that's unlikely to be done for a while.

"It would probably be one component of a major study of the transportation patterns of all of Dundas," he said.

"There have been studies in the past, but they're not up to date. It's on the books, but it's not a priority. That road carries a substantial amount of traffic. It's one of only a few ways into Dundas. To take it out would have a big effect."

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