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Showing posts from 2012

Oak Quote

"I said that I would not like to go again inside the buildings to participate in the setting up of so-called artworks. I wished to go completely outside and to make a symbolic start for my enterprise of regenerating the life of humankind within the body of society and to prepare a positive future in this context. I think the tree is an element of regeneration which in itself is a concept of time. The oak is especially so because it is a slowly growing tree with a kind of really solid heartwood. It has always been a form of sculpture, a symbol for this planet ever since the Druids, who are called after the oak." Joseph Beuys  Oak in Dundas Valley, Main Loop Trail, photo by rk

The Ghost of Coldspring Valley

RBG Trail Map of Coldspring Valley Trails laid over Lot M Parking  We have learned a lot about the history of Coldspring Valley in recent years. The desecration of this nature sanctuary belonging to the Royal Botanical Gardens as it was paved to create parking lots for McMaster University started in earnest in 1963, the year McMaster University purchased the land from the RBG. The land was taken from the RBG under duress, as the RBG's Annual Report of 1962 reveals: "Negotiations pertaining requirements of McMaster University for its projected expansion programme, have caused much soul searching on the part of the Board of the Royal Botanical Gardens. The Board is well aware that it was not established by Provincial Statute in 1941 to witness the disintegration of this property. Indeed it is particularly sensitive about this at a time when governments at all levels are striving to amplify rather than reduce such holdings." What we are highlighting he

Looking for Stewards of the Cootes Watershed?

A recent successful litter/garbage removal from Cootes Paradise got some nice media in the local daily, but somehow they put Restore Cootes in there as the place to go for more info. That would be wrong, because Stewards of the Cootes Watershed is something we at RC admire and support, but to get them you would need the following info: e-mail -   or our facebook page: Stewards of Cootes Watershed

Litter Lows

Low water level exposes litter in Cootes Paradise Cootes Paradise boosters are looking for last-minute volunteers for a weekend cleanup of years of accumulated trash. Water levels in the fish sanctuary at the west end of the harbour remain at historic lows. That gives volunteers the chance to walk in and root out the equivalent of 100 bags worth of trash that has blown into a corner of the environmentally sensitive area for years, said Alan Hansell, co-ordinator for the Stewards of Cootes Watershed. His group is organizing litter pickups between noon and 4 p.m. this Sunday and Dec. 16. Volunteers will meet at the front gate of the Royal Botanical Gardens arboretum on Old Guelph Road. For more information, call 289-239-7649. The Hamilton Spectator

Cross Connections

Hamilton Spectator Matthew Van Dongen Thu Dec 06 2012 20:19:00 High bacteria levels in Chedoke Creek The city has more work to do rooting out illegal sewer connections along Chedoke Creek, a university student study suggests. Analytical chemistry students at Ancaster’s Redeemer University College presented tests results Thursday to city and Royal Botanical Gardens officials showing high bacteria levels near Mountview Falls relative to four other test sites along the west-end creek. “Our hypothesis is it was probably coming from underground, likely in sewage,” said second-year student Matthew Horvath, one of 10 students in on the study. “There were high levels at a few locations, but the Mountview location really stood out.” That’s quite possible, said Mark Bainbridge, the city’s harbour cleanup point person. He said the city is doing “cross-connection” tests as part of a pollution-seeking project in Dundas, the Red Hill Valley and along Chedoke Creek. Cross-c

Give something to grow

Lot M or Ward Avenue?

View Satellite Parking in a larger map The way to free up parking in Lot M to allow for more wetland recovery on Ancaster Creek's floodplain is to better use existing campus parking lots. McMaster wants to repave 200 spots on the floodplain in Lot M, which this map shows is almost exactly the distance from the almost vacant 490-space parking lot on Ward Avenue, which McMaster's data shows with 409 EMPTY spaces at peak demand! Moving permit holders from one lot to another could be managed to allow for wetland restoration on Lot M.

Canal land plan 1968

Another contested site in Dundas, near the Desjardin's Canal, was marked for its recreational potential back in 1968. It is an interesting area, with things still not settled as conflicting uses continue to vie for space there. Will it become an ecological park and eco-gateway to Dundas as more recently envisioned, building on this historical precedent? Or will other less ecologically sensitive uses be brought into the mix? You know where we stand... Dec. 18, 1968 Dundas Star News Recommendation had followed meeting of the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority and Royal Botanical Gardens board members to make Desjardins' 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 a parking space, wilderness areas,

Mac agrees to ‘small but significant’ buffer

Thursday, November, 29, 2012 By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News McMaster University says it will eliminate 380 parking spots in a lot west of Cootes Drive to create a natural buffer between the concrete and Ancaster Creek. The move would meet the minimum buffer required by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, but falls short of a a separate request to eliminate more parking and rehabilitate the entire floodplain. Gord Arbeau, the university’s director of public relations, said the plan is to create a continuous 30-metre landscaped strip between the entire creek and the parking lot – as recommended in the university’s campus master plan. He said work will begin in the spring. “The vision includes some naturalized swales,” Arbeau said, explaining runoff from the parking lot would flow into those swales. He said the next step is to tender the project and find a partner to work with. McMaster University and the Hamilton Conservation Authority have been discussing the 30-m

Paradise Found: Mac Creates an Eco Buffer Zone

McMaster student's weekly newspaper the Silhouette published this article on Lot M today: Paradise found: Mac creates an eco buffer zone . (click on link to read article) Coming soon to a riparian zone near you! One part of the otherwise good article stands to be corrected. I'm not sure if I misspoke or if the writer got it wrong, but whatever the case, let me amend this line (as it appeared in the SIL) “You’re kind of left in this one-way vacuum where you don’t get anything back. It goes into this black hole of administration,” he said of his early attempts to get the attention of the President’s Advisory Committee. “I could see that being a barrier, for citizens and other interested people around the campus to get involved.” The quote is correct, but I was referring to the University Planning Committee (UPC), not to the President's Advisory Committee (PAC) without whose help this battle would still be waging. The UPC does not acknowledge receipt of corresponden

Meanwhile on the Main Campus C1968

While McMaster expanded onto former Royal Botanical Gardens' property in the late 1960s, much of the attention and opposition to the expansion was focused on the main campus property, and less concern was given to the flood plain in west campus as Coldspring Valley was filled-in and paved.  You can almost understand why the focus was on the main campus, given this was the location of  RBG's Sunken Gardens: As Margaret Houghton's book "Vanished Hamilton" tells it,  "In 1963, the Royal Botanical Gardens gave the university 130 acres for expansion but the university stressed that they were not eyeing the Sunken Garden property.  “I know of no future plans to remove the Sunken Garden. The university intends to maintain the natural beauty of all the land,” stated a university spokesman.  A short time later, McMaster announced plans for a health sciences centre on the grounds of the university and the province agreed to grant them $65 mill

Call Joni!

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

Creek Buffering Success!

November 26, 2012 MEDIA RELEASE RESTORE COOTES SCALED BACK PARKING MAKES ROOM FOR EXPANDED CREEK BUFFER AT McMASTER A grassroots campaign to enhance the natural habitat and protect the health of Ancaster Creek at McMaster University's west campus parking lot “M” has resulted in the University agreeing to remove parking to allow for the minimum standard of a 30 metre naturalized buffer zone between parking lots and this coldwater creek. While scaling back parking means 318 less parking spaces according to measurements taken by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, a surplus of available parking at peak demand of over 1,000 spaces means no drivers will lose the ability to park on campus. The news comes from a presentation given by university administration to the President's Advisory Committee on Cootes Paradise on Friday, November 9/12, at McMaster University. The 30m campaign began with a letter from Restore Cootes to the University Planning

One step ahead of the Ash holes

The RBG is 'attempting to round out our number of planted trees and shrubs to around[w]hen the ash trees fall, you’ll be thankful there was something to replace them!"

A case for an argument based on evidence

Source: Campus Capacity Study, April 2011 When McMaster attempts to justify adding to the parking supply in west campus (which would nullify an attempt by professors to use the space for wetland recovery research on the former floodplain) they have been saying that any new buildings on the main campus are going to be built over existing parking lots. Losing these central campus parking spaces means they would have to transfer the parking to west campus lots. Well... If we look at the possible building sites on the main campus as identified in the Campus Capacity Study (April 2011) , we see that half the potential sites on the main campus are NOT parking lots, but under-utilized "temporary" buildings (which look more like airport hangars than university buildings) - the report also suggests that the "incremental" nature of the future building space needs are not pressing due to the availability of these potential sites. The report goes further to suggest  &qu
Click on photo for larger image.  Coldspring Valley intact (wooded area from top left of image to where it meets Cootes Drive toward the right side top of image) in 1957, west of Cootes Drive/McMaster University. From 1958-1963 Coldspring Valley was a nature sanctuary operated by the Royal Botanical Gardens. McMaster purchased the property and filled in the ponds and floodplain of Ancaster Creek, moved the creek west in a man-made channel and built a parking lot adjacent to Cootes Paradise. With over 1,000 empty parking spaces available for the main campus at the busiest moment of the week, there is room to restore the lost wetland.

Binkley Neighbours

Ken and Glen, taking Restore Cootes on a history hike today in Lot M.  Nothing like living history as Ken and Glen, who are neighbours on Binkley Crescent above McMaster's Lot M parking, took Restore Cootes on a very informative hike through the property between their homes and the parking lot on this beautiful autumn morning. Binkley's Pond, looking south-westerly from what is now McMaster Parking. Image from "West Hamilton: A village and a Church" by David N. Jardine Do we know where Binkley's Pond was? Now we do. It most definitely was fed by the springs still bringing water to the surface on the southern hills sloping toward the parking lots. The pond was partially man-made by using some earthwork to hold the spring water from the streams forming to the south of the wetland/now parking. Later, when the Royal Botanical Gardens owned the land, the pond was diminished in size as the spring fed streams were allowed to return to a more natural flow, sn

The Kids are Alright

With a Transportation Demand Management policy there is much room for improvement to reduce parking demand at McMaster University.  Modal split for McMaster faculty and staff is as follows: 18% choose to walk or cycle 65% drive a personal automobile 13% ride the HSR Modal split for students is as follows: 37% choose to walk or cycle 24% drive a personal automobile 39% ride the HSR Source: Office of Sustainability McMaster October 2011 Demographic shifts are pointing to a weakening demand for cars for young people (1), with more young adults choosing public transit over private automobile use. As faculty and staff retire, will their replacements be as eager for parking as previous generations? (1) “Transportation and the New Generation: Why Young People Are Driving Less  and What It Means for Transportation Policy”, Davis, Benjamin and Tony Dutzik, Frontier Group, Phineas Baxandall, U.S. PIRG Educa

Beyond Parking

Ancaster Creek, steps from its paved floodplain

Future Site of Wetland Recovery Research Project?

A view of the west campus parking in "Lot M" that has been closed for over three-years now. Even without the lot there is ample parking available. A group of professors at the university are lobbying to have this land turned into a research area that would see it restored as a wetland. In the hills (to the right) are springs that used to feed into a creek, but are now diverted into drains. We will have more on the professors' work in the near future.


Combine good transit with a strategy to reduce parking and you have a recipe for success. The transit doesn't have to be light rail necessarily, but having excess parking supports single-occupancy car use. At McMaster, that means the university's parking department insists they need to keep almost 4,000 parking stalls for less than 3,000 cars at peak. A successful strategy in Edmonton used "Promotion of transit ridership through the gradual reduction of long-term parking in the downtown core relative to growth in the area" to contribute to the move away from car-dependency. Yes, McMaster needs a transportation demand management plan.   Mac report illuminates issue of LRT for city Senior Hamilton bureaucrats are carefully studying a  report  produced by McMaster University researchers that suggests that light rail transit has the potential to succeed in Hamilton but will be a “long, challenging and costly process.” The study looked at successful and failing

Depave for natural system resiliency

Hamilton Conservation Foundation: "If we're going to continue to see storms like Sandy in the coming years we're going to need to increase the resiliency of the natural systems in our watershed."   Lot M is (was) the floodplain for Lower Ancaster Creek What a filled-in paved floodplain looks like (Lot M with Ancaster Creek in foreground) Restore Cootes' advocacy for restoring Lot M into a floodplain is exactly where we need to be going at this turning point in our ecological history. Demographic shifts in transportation away from private automobile use in favour of transit, cycling and walking, combine with the heavy costs to our water resources by damaging storms related to climate change to create the perfect opportunity to get a jump start on a new way of living on earth. Sustainably.

Looking for Clues

Armed with an old trail map and a historical description of a hike though Coldspring Valley in 1961, a group on interested (and interesting) people retraced the steps of W.J. Lamoureux, the Royal Botanical Gardens' Conservationist back in the days when Coldspring Valley was still an RBG Nature Sanctuary and not McMaster University parking. A checklist of plants that Lamoureux mentioned in this description of his walk along some of the trails was made available to the 20 people who came to this event last evening, and we tried our best to navigate a route that approximated the steps of Mr. Lamoureux, searching for relatives of the vegetation he described. We also took time to discuss events playing out in the West Campus parking lots, which include Restore Cootes' initiative to have McMaster create a 30metre naturalized buffer between the parking and Ancaster Creek, which forms the western boundary of the parking lots, and another project that would see the southern sectio

The Sting of Disintegration

From the Forward in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Annual Report, 1962: " progress respecting land requirements of McMaster University for its projected expansion programme, have caused much soul searching on the part of the Board of the Royal Botanical Gardens. The Board is well aware that it was not established by Provincial Statute in 1941 to witness the disintegration of this property. Indeed it is particularly sensitive about this at a time when governments at all levels are striving to amplify rather than reduce such holdings." Formerly Coldspring Valley now Parking Lot M, this section closed for over three years, coveted by McMaster professors interested in establishing a Wetland Research Facility here

Floodplain Forensics

If you are planning on coming to this hike, please consider using public transit, cycling or walking to the meeting place. We will depart at 6pm sharp to make full use of the remaining daylight. A limited number of species checklists based on historical accounts of the valley will be available. Bring a pencil/pen and please dress for the weather and terrain (some uneven paths and,  unfortunately,  lots of pavement). We will return to the starting point at 7:00pm.  Wanted: sleuths for a Cootes Paradise cold case Hamilton Spectator online, October 8, 2012 Randy Kay is inviting naturalists to investigate a half-century-old cold case. On Tuesday evening, the author of the Restore Cootes blog plans to explore a vanished valley on the western edge of McMaster University’s campus along Ancaster Creek. The wetlands that formed a large part of the former Coldspring Valley are now better known as university parking lot M. But in the early 1960s, the valley was criss-crossed with


Coldspring Valley Nature Sanctuary trailhead C1960 Join some sleuthing Hamilton-area naturalists as they scour McMaster's west campus for evidence of the late Coldspring Valley. This cold (spring) case dates back to 1964 when the Royal Botanical Gardens nature sanctuary was purchased by McMaster University to feed a projected parking demand for asphalt. McMaster's parking needs were overblown, and instead of 7,000 spaces they thought required by 1980, today they have just over half that number of spaces,  1,000 of these spaces empty at peak demand! Intrepid Investigators will utilize historical records recounting the diverse plants species (written by the RBG's Conservationist in 1961), and utilize a 1959 trail map of system that existed there from 1958-1963. Tracking the difference from 1963 to 2012 will provide insight into ways the valley could be brought back to life, repurposing some of the 1,000 empty spaces into the first phase of a restoration project bei

Looking Back, Looking Down

 McMaster West Campus Parking formerly Coldspring Valley Royal Botanical Gardens Gardens’ Bulletin Vol. XIII, Number III, June 1959 COLDSPRING VALLEY The people of Hamilton and District have become particularly conscious of helicopters since the recent initiation of scheduled commercial service between Hamilton and Toronto. One of the special attributes is its ability to hover. Let us use this talent through our imagination and hover 5000 feet altitude above an area just to the west of McMaster University. From this height Coldspring Valley looks like a green broadloom carpet with a few moth holes here and there. To the north and south the multicolour roofs of the residential districts of University Gardens and West Hamilton create their pattern. At the western edge of the carpet the green scar of the Ontario Hydro tower line, and to the east the double contoured ribbon of Highway 102 [Cootes Drive] are clearly defined. Following along on our fanciful fli

Walking Back

click on map for larger version The Gardens’ Bulletin Vol XV Number 5 August, 1961 COLDSPRING VALLEY REVISITED “who would live turmoiled in the Court, may enjoy such quiet walks as there.” King Henry VI Gardens’ Bulletin, Volume 13, Number 3, which appeared in June 1959 served as an introduction to the newly opened Coldspring Valley Trails. At that time a promise was made that a future issue would describe these trails in some detail. The completion of a new map for the area provided the incentive to fulfill this promise. This map shows the location of the entrances to the trails. The use of various symbols points out the course of the trails, and the map draws attention to interesting features in topography as well as the fauna and flora of the Valley… The trails have been designed in such a way that there are several loops and alternate routes available to the visitor. It is the writer’s intention to describe a typical nature interpretation tour over one of the

Preserving the Park-Like Aspect...

Original Campus layout in harmony with Cootes Paradise and the RBG "McQuesten….was uncomfortable with the dubious strength of the agreement that purported to preserve the park-like aspect of McMaster campus. He foresaw it being ignored by future university governors and wanted the agreement enshrined in provincial legislation. A provincial act would then be required to make changes, establishing a significant roadblock to change, McMaster applied to the legislature for a special Act of Legislature validating the general scheme of building and landscape improvement and planting, as in the agreement dated February 11, 1932, between the Parks Board and McMaster Board." Love, Sweat and Soil: A History of Royal Botanical Gardens from 1930 to 1981 Dr. Leslie Laking, 

Exploring the Past, Plotting the Future

I spent a few hours with some most excellent company at the Royal Botanical Gardens archive this morning, and have a lovely map now, showing not only the trail system, but more detail into the vegetation and the type of landscape a visitor to Coldspring Valley would have encountered before McMaster got hold of it and paved it in 1969. Click on map to see larger image. In the near future Restore Cootes will also be sharing some textual descriptions of the trails and the lands as described at the time by W. J. Lamoureux, RBG's Conservationist. A description of the area now would only need mention the asphalt of Parking Lots M, N, O and P, unfortunately. However, the map and historical descriptions will help with broad strokes when it comes time for restoration of the valley. Some say history repeats itself, which I will take to imply the return of Coldspring Valley as a natural area.

50 year valley visions

The Hamilton Conservation Area has been putting together a  vision for the next 50 years of the Dundas Valley, and they want your help in prioritizing their strategic directions! Dundas Valley   50 Year Vision   Open House Wednesday 26th September, 2012   6:00pm to 9.00pm A brief presentation will be given at 7:15pm  Dundas Public Library-Allwood Room (18 Ogilvie St. Dundas) TAKE AN ONLINE SURVEY ABOUT THE VALLEY   HERE

fantasy of nature

Westdale forest, by Randy Kay ‎"I'm always astonished by a forest. It makes me realize that the fantasy of nature is much larger than my own fantasy. I still have things to learn." Gunter Grass

Wet Walk to Lot M

Five brave souls defied the rain to take part in the History Hike into McMaster's parking lot M today. It was a perfect size group for an extended chat in the rain, and these McMaster students were a real delight to spend time with. I'm sure some of these people will be making contributions to bringing about a real shift in how we care for the earth.

History Hike Friday

As part of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group's (OPIRG) ALTERNATIVE WELCOME WEEK at McMaster University, Restore Cootes will be leading a one-hour Ponds to Parking History Hike. This event is free, we depart from the OPIRG Office in room 229 of the McMaster Student Centre promptly at 1:00pm. The founding of McMaster, Cootes Paradise, Cootes Drive, Ancaster Creek, and a Pioneer Cemetery are just some of the subjects and sights we will touch on. Potential for restoring the wetland beneath McMaster's parking lot "M" in West Campus is a major factor to be examined. For more information contact Randy at 905-525-9140 ext. 26026 or

Floodplain Fail

Map supplied by the Hamilton Conservation Area shows the entire Lot M parking lot is built on the floodplain of Ancaster Creek (light blue/turquoise colour). Functioning floodplains support a rich diversity of species and are an important part of a healthy ecosystem. McMaster's floodplain was filled in to raise the height of land, then paved for parking in 1969. Floodplains are important enough to us at Restore Cootes that we are actively encouraging McMaster University to develop a plan to reduce parking demand in the long term, while making better use of the 1,000 available spaces outside of Lot M during peak demand. The ultimate and achievable goal is to restore the area to its former function as a floodplain.

Unpaving Paradise hits the news stands!

Thursday, August, 23, 2012 - 10:10:00 AM Unpaving Paradise By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News A group of McMaster University faculty want to unpave paradise and remove a parking lot. Biology professor Jim Quinn is one of those calling for a redevelopment of a west campus parking area to go beyond creating a 30-metre buffer along Ancaster Creek and eliminate twice as many parking spaces and reclaim the natural wetland that once existed there. “Our vision is to convert Lot M parking spots into the MACmarsh research facility by making more efficient use of existing campus parking; at peak demand there are still over 1,000 unused parking spaces,” a one page memo presented to McMaster University administration states. In an interview, Quinn said reclaiming the natural wetland west of Cootes Drive would be better for Ancaster Creek, and create a valuable research area for professors and students in several programs. “I think it’s really important and that’s why I’m supporting it,” Quinn

Does McMaster have a Transportation Plan?

"Created in 2002, the ACT Office (All-modes Commuting & Transportation) existed to inspire McMaster faculty, staff and students to bike, hike, take transit and share the ride to campus. In November 2008, the ACT Office transformed into the Office of Sustainability where initiatives relating to sustainable transportation will continue to thrive".  "The university also hired an external consulting firm....the results of which strongly suggested the development of a ...TDM [Transportation Demand Management] scheme. It is unclear whether or not such a scheme was ever created." "Improvements in access to alternative transit and facilities have not been met with the anticipated participation increase due to lack of management policy that discourages driving and rewards modal change"   Jessica S. Becker, "Understanding commuting decisions:  a case study of students and staff