West Campus parking (area mapped below includes lots K,L,M,N,O,P) previously belonged to the Royal Botanical Gardens and was used as hiking trails with trails around Binkley's Pond (now filled in and paved, Lot L) and along Ancaster Creek. The creek is still there, but the entire area is no longer recognizable as a natural area. Parking Lot M abuts the creek and runoff from the lots contaminates the water.
Just north of the parking, Ancaster Creek joins with Spencer Creek and flows into Cootes Paradise, Hamilton's largest and most important remaining wetland. McMaster's decision in the 1960s to turn this lush area of natural habitat into cheap and expansive parking lots is a decision which still has consequences for us today.
McMaster has indeed "whittled away" an important wetland habitat, and, now that we are at last talking about this area, we have a chance to reverse historic mistakes so clear to us in hindsight. It's time to start whittling away parking. Below are the current parking numbers which will be returned to the higher total of 4,276 spaces once construction projects are completed.
I suggest that we have an opportunity to re-examine our priorities in 2012, and a choice to make: nature or parking? Can we reduce parking so we can expand and restore habitat and thus create healthier and more sustainable relationships between humans and the natural world? The answer seems obvious: of course we can.
The importance of Cootes Paradise to the local ecology cannot be understated, and a pressing need to enlarge the natural hydrology of the surrounding lands presents us a challenge today. How will we answer?