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Showing posts from 2013

Waiting on Maplewood

Monday, December, 16, 2013 - 12:12:29 PM Call for ‘hard facts’ freezes Dundas Valley lease bid Advisory board seeks answers on costs, regulatory approvals By Richard Leitner, Dundas Star News Staff A Hamilton Conservation Authority proposal to lease a former Dundas Valley outdoor education centre to a private school is on hold to allow for a more rigorous analysis of the financial implications and potential regulatory hurdles. Members of the conservation advisory board referred the proposal back to staff after hearing from 10 delegations, all but two of them opposing a bid by Strata Montessori Adolescent School to rent the Artaban Road centre for 15 years. The lease is one of four options offered for the former Resource Management Centre, now called Maplewood Hall, with the others being demolition, upgrading it as a rental facility and mothballing it for future use. Advisory board member Duke O’Sullivan said there are still too many unanswered questions on the lease, i

Zero out of Ten?

DUNDAS VALLEY: 50 Year Vision: Strategic Directions Preserve and enhance the connectivity of ecosystems in the Valley and explore the  co-benefits of connecting with the Cootes to the Escarpment strategy. Preserve the escarpment and rural countryside, including selected vistas. Protect rare, endangered and species at risk in the Valley area. Combat the impact of invasive and nuisance species within the Valley. Protect and enhance the health of streams, watercourses, and waterfalls. Maintain and protect local architectural and natural heritage Promote green business practices within the community. Develop farmer generated mechanism to develop public support for agriculture and i ncrease the awareness of the importance of local agriculture as both an activity and a  lifestyle and Support the promotion of locally grown and processed crops in close  proximity to residents. Support the implementation of the City of Hamilton’s ‘special character’ roads  through the Valley. Deve

Maplewood Muffed

Here's the Hamilton Spectator report of the meeting last night: Bulldozer or school for Maplewood Hall? By Daniel Nolan , Hamilton Spectator, December 13, 2013 ANCASTER The first chair of what became the Hamilton Conservation Authority is admonishing authority members for considering the placement of a Montessori school in an old hall in the centre of Dundas Valley. Waiting at Woodend for Advisory Board to Begin Thomas Beckett, a retired judge who served as chair of the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority from 1966-1971, was involved in buying the 8-hectare parcel of land in 1968 that contains Maplewood Hall. He told members of the conservation advisory board Thursday night the then-owners — the Anglican Diocese of Niagara — could have sold the land to a commercial operator, but wanted to make sure the Artaban Road land became part of the public domain. "If it was Sister Theresa or Mr. Mandela, I'd still oppose this," said Beckett. "It doesn&

Future of Maplewood: Meeting Tonight!

Come out to the Hamilton Conservation Authority "Conservation Advisory Board" meeting tonight:  Thursday 12th December, 2013 at the HCA main office at 7 p.m.   Directions to "Woodend" (HCA Main Office) download map in pdf format From Toronto: Take Highway 403 West to Hamilton and climb the escarpment to the Rousseau (Mohawk Road) exit.  At the third stoplight, turn left onto Wilson Street in Ancaster  At the first stoplight on Wilson, turn right onto Sulphur Springs Road. Travel to the T‐ intersection (3 way stop) Turn right at this intersection. This is still Sulphur Springs Road. Proceed down the hill into the valley  Stay on the paved road for approximately 2 kilometres, it becomes Mineral Springs just past the entrance to the Hermitage The HCA main office is the stone building on the left side. Drive over small hill to 3rd driveway to visitors parking. Reception is located at the top of the wooden stairs.  From Brantford: Take Highway 403 e

One more time, just to be clear: Nature first.

6.0 Conclusions and Recommendations Based on the information presented on this report , it is recommended that the Maplewood Facility be demolished and the area naturalized for the following reasons: 1. The Maplewood facility is in need of $560,500 revenue for immediate upgrades due to its age and requirements to meet regulatory standards. 2. Due to its location on the end of steep winding gravel road with limited water service and on-site sewage system and no access to natural gas, the facilities annual operation and maintenance costs are high. 3. The return on investment if the required upgrades are implemented will be low or nonexistent. This will negatively impact the HCA budget and will also limit the attractiveness of the facility to a private operator. 4. Previous attempts to change the facility to another more financially stable operation under a private operator have met with substantial public opposition resulting in the withdrawal or denial of the changes. 5. The location

A Letter and the Vision

Below, a letter to the editor in the Hamilton Spectator regarding the future of Maplewood in Dundas Valley from non other than the first chair of the Hamilton Conservation Authority (who just happens to remember buying that piece of land and why they bought it.) If that doesn't make things clear, then a Hamilton Spectator report from April on the 50 Year Vision for Dundas Valley - no mentions of leasing public lands to private interests, and a lot about protecting natural habitat, reflected in the title "Preservation Sought for Dundas Valley". I sat on the committee for the 50 Year Vision, and can attest to the direction we felt the HCA should go, toward protecting nature, not playing games with it. rk HCA must not lose Dundas Valley land School operator says project will enhance Dundas Valley (Nov. 6) A proposal to lease Maplewood to a Montessori school has been put forward to the conservation authority. At first glance that might seem a reasonable wa

Preserve and enhance connectivity of ecosystems in the Dundas Valley: remove Maplewood

To: Chair and Board of Directors of the HCA, Members of the Conservation Advisory Board Re: Future of Maplewood Private school director Tony Evans has said of his Montessori school “We have a profound respect for the environment... This is who we are.” I have a difficult time understanding how Evans’ desire to use Dundas Valley Conservation Area’s Maplewood Hall for his school site fits with this self-image. Children being driven to school along country roads and up a long driveway through an Environmentally Sensitive Area doesn’t teach respect for the environment, it teaches car- dependency. Introducing farm animals and vegetable gardens into the very heart of Dundas Valley’s natural ecosystem only deepens the disconnect between professed conservation goals and true protection of nature. View Maplewood in a larger map Despite Evans’ professed “feeling [that] the benefits of educating another generation about the environment outweigh the negatives,” it really sends t

Student Research: Reducing Parking Demand at McMaster

I found this on google when I was looking for articles on McMarsh (alternative earlier spelling MacMarsh ) - I was interviewed by Victoria earlier in the semester for her research, and glad to see she has make a presentation available online. Maybe I'll be able to get her to contribute more on the blog about her findings and her impressions of what is possible at McMaster to cut down single-occupancy vehicle trips to campus so we can convert parking into Paradise!

Busy? What Peak Parking Looks Like at McMaster

According to Parking Services at McMaster, the busiest time for parking demand on campus is Tuesdays at around 1:00 pm. Stats provided by Parking show a demand for 2,803 spaces out of a campus supply of almost 4,000 spaces. Having access to real time data would be helpful (and an app that showed drivers where the available lot capacity was would be kind of neat, along with a revamped parking fee structure to allow more flexibility and time of day pricing, etc, but that's another day) I happened to be in the west campus already, realized it was the busy parking time, so I rode around on my bike snapping photos on my iPod touch. Here's some of what I saw that indicates the lot (at peak) has excess capacity: Ward Avenue Lot 12:45pm Lot G 1:00pm Underground 1:03pm Lot H 1:10pm Lot M (a) 12:21pm Lot M (b) 12:22pm Much still needs to happen if we are to reduce parking demand, but to a large degree, it's happening without us. Just take a look aroun

Coldspring Valley 1960

Coldspring Valley 1960 Looks like some trail building C1960 from this view apparently taken in Coldspring Valley in 1960.  Thanks to Tys at the Royal Botanical Gardens who sent me this photo in May 2011.  We hope to see some construction soon as McMaster prepares to remove asphalt parking spaces in the former nature sanctuary which was paved for McMaster Parking Lot M since 1968.  If anyone recognizes any details related to this image, please feel free to leave a comment here so we can add information.

Missed the PIC?

If you are like me and couldn't make it to the Public Information Centre (PIC) about the future of Maplewood you can still comment on the issue online with this form: Background info including the staff recommendation which suggests returning the area to its natural function can be found here: Our take:

Back to Nature at Maplewood

"Based on the information presented on this report, it is recommended that the Maplewood Facility be demolished and the area naturalized" We wholehearteldy agree. However.... The Hamilton Conservation Authority is flirting with the idea of upgrading the facility for use by a private school. Read the report - there are plenty of reasons in there why ignoring the staff recommendation is a bad idea - here they are: 1. The Maplewood facility is in need of $560,500 revenue for immediate upgrades due to its age and requirements to meet regulatory standards. 2. Due to its location on the end of steep winding gravel road with limited water service and on-site sewage system and no access to natural gas, the facilities annual operation and maintenance costs are high. 3. The return on investment if the required upgrades are implemented will be low or nonexistent. This will negatively impact the HCA budget and will also limit the attractiveness of the facility to a private

Speaking of McMaster Satellites

We heard about the Ancaster Satellite Campus plan from the 1960s. Here's a plan that also didn't materialize, again, thankfully due to resistance from the community. McMaster's need for 1,000 more parking spaces also never became in issue as the parking projections were unrealistic. The article reveals the car-centric attitude of both McMaster and the City of Hamilton staff - and illustrates the opposing viewpoint sagely expressed by Dr. Brian Baetz: "parking demand evaporates when you don't have parking. People get creative when there is no parking. When there is parking, people drive." We certainly encourage McMaster to keep this in mind when they look at their parking programme. Reducing parking will open up much better land-use options than storing cars for short periods of time.

Ancaster Campus

Periodically when I am sorting through research archives I come across tidbits that don't relate directly to my pursuits, but connect in a tangential way. Case in point: looking into the history of how McMaster turned a Royal Botanical Garden nature sanctuary known as Coldspring Valley into a massive parking lot in the late 1960s, I have found references to a McMaster satellite campus plan in Ancaster. As anyone around McMaster knows, we don't have a campus in Ancaster, but there were plans as far back as the 1960s to build there, at a spot now being referred to variously as the McMaster Forest, the 115 Acre McMaster Forest, and as part of the McMaster Conservation Corridor. McMaster Forest table lands, site of (formerly) proposed Ancaster Satellite Campus The land is located upstream of McMaster, along Ancaster Creek, accessed by vehicle via Lower Lions Club road, just off of Wilson Street in Ancaster. When I was first looking into the history of west campus I was

Ugliness of Vast Chunks

Lot M, Summer evening, 2013 "Regrettably, there is not one statement about the importance of aesthetics or the ugliness of vast chunks of land being utilized for parking lots. Surely aesthetic considerations are an integral part of any policy dealing with parking." B.N. Rosenblood to Dr. H.G. Thode, 25 June, 1969 re. Evaluation of Acres Report on Traffic and Parking, April 1969

Corridor Connecting Eco-Community

Here is the poster for the upstream component of an integral Ancaster Creek conservation corridor. While a wonderful project in isolation, we can see this as part of a larger project linking upland river valley to the floodplain in the lower valley (our Lot M) where the McMarsh project is being promoted. These project have been selected for funding through the Forward With Integrity programme through McMaster University's President's Office. You will see here, too, reference to artistic input, so integral to the interdisciplinary nature of these projects, again through the environmental arts at McMaster in the person of Judy Major-Girardin, again, funded through Dr. Patrick Deane's FWI. Thanks to Professors Chad Harvey and Susan Dudley for their work on this initiative at the upland site, a magical place that will hopefully be preserved as a natural site for research and low-impact recreation.

Mapping Paradise: The poster

Yesterday's Forward With Integrity event at McMaster University featured poster boards of various projects funded through the FWI process initiated by McMaster President Patrick Deane. McMarsh: McMaster's Living Lab, Mapping Paradise: An Environmentally Responsible Art Initiative, McMaster Conservation Corridor Teaching and Research Facility are three projects that received FWI funding and that related directly to Restore Cootes' interest in rehabilitation of degraded natural spaces connected to Cootes Paradise. We've written (enthusiastically) about Mapping Paradise previously , but since I managed to get a photo of the display, I wanted to share it here as a way of acknowledging Judy Major-Girardin's continuing contribution to the natural world through her art classes. Somehow in my haste to visit the displays and hobnob with both the University President and VP Administration as well as students I work with who are actively contributing their talents, I

Forward with McMarsh

Here is a poster display created to showcase the work being done on gathering baseline data for McMarsh, a Living Lab being pushed by professors at McMaster (Waddington, Quinn, Dudley, Harvey, Doubleday, Coleman, Cruikshank, Baetz, Faculties of Science, Humanities and Engineering). The outdoor facility would create hands-on research and teaching opportunities converting an unused and superfluous section of parking lot in west campus into a wetland rehabilitation project. Restore Cootes provided details on the timeline of the area for use in creating the poster. It was opportune to run into non other than University President Patrick Deane standing at the poster board today. When I asked him how this fit with his vision for the area he said he would like to see less parking and a more functioning ecosystem in its place! McMarsh received funding through Dr. Deane's Forward with Integrity mission for campus, and the project has all the hallmarks of a successful blending of dis

McMaster minus section of Parking Lot M equals MacMarsh

THE SILHOUETTE - FEATURE: MACMarsh looks to reclaim parking lot as green space Stephen Clare September 12, 2013 Home ,  NEWS No Comments For many McMaster students, the bridge spanning Cootes Drive is a road seldom travelled. The far west side of campus is currently home to just the Campus Services Building, a few baseball diamonds, and several parking lots. But a group of McMaster professors plans to change that. Coming from departments ranging from Environmental Science to English, they call their budding project the “MACMarsh.” In 2009, the City of Hamilton tore up part of west campus’ Parking Lot M to install a Combined Sewage Overflow tank, and it has yet to be repaved. The MACMarsh group is encouraging the university to remove the asphalt that remains and let nature reclaim the barren ground. The parking-lot-to-paradise transition would both increase the amount of campus green space and create a valuable teaching and research facility. Lot M was first created in t
Backing up the Big Yellow Taxi ‘Unpaving’ a parking lot is important to Mac — and to Hamilton By Aidan Johnson -  Hamilton Spectator, August 31, 2013 Alberta poet Joni Mitchell wrote, around 1970, the first words of her song Big Yellow Taxi: "They paved paradise / And put up a parking lot." A few years before, bulldozers at McMaster University had done exactly that. "Paradise", in that case, was a small but very old wetland on the campus grounds. It filtered waters that fed Ancaster Creek, a.k.a. Cold Spring Creek. That stream flows directly to yet another Paradise: Cootes — Hamilton's famous marsh, and the largest wetland on the west side of Lake Ontario. The Mac marsh became the campus parking lot now known as Lot M. The loss of the wetland weakened the creek, and so Cootes with it. Mitchell was not specifically thinking of Mac when she wrote Big Yellow Taxi. But she was certainly haunted by the overall destruction of Canada's wild lands and

The best of both worlds: nature and art!

Thanks to Judy Major-Girarden of the School of the Arts for continuing to bring ecology and art together at McMaster University. This follows up on her previous work with visiting artist  Gregg Schlanger, whose installation piece related directly to Cootes Paradise and Lot M in particular. Judy is helping bring attention and beauty to bear on the natural areas around campus.

Cootes Drive: "High Mortality Area"

Somethings all Restore Cootes supporters should know: "Cootes Drive is especially dangerous [for wildlife] because the roadway is between two wetland areas." "This area has been identified as a high mortality area," she said." "So far this year, 14 adults [snapping turtles] were killed trying to cross the road." The historical context that placed Cootes Drive in the middle of an environmentally sensitive biodiversity hotspot in 1936-37 can be seen in retrospect as a huge mistake, and one that the marsh inhabitants pay for daily with their lives. The road certainly wasn't needed in '37, and it probably isn't really needed today: Restore Cootes wants you to think of life without Cootes Drive: it becomes a trade off of a couple minutes extra driving for cars and trucks in exchange for protecting endangered species and rehabilitating one of the most important marsh habitats on Lake Ontario. Here's the full text from the Hami


Archival Footage from the Restore Cootes vault C2006 shows McMaster west campus parking expanded beyond the paved lots M, N O and P onto the grass at the north east of the campus. Part of the reason McMaster was considering repaving the closed section of Lot M was for "overflow" events (usually stimulated by free parking offers for things like May at Mac) - obviously some of the overflow parking can be managed first by not giving away free parking and buffing-up transit alternatives, but there is a precedent to use a temporary parking area on grass for the few hours a year, literally, that the occasion demands.


"If we're ever going to get the world back on a natural footing, back in tune with natural rhythyms, if we're going to nurture the Earth and protect it and have fun with it and learn from it — which is what mothers do with their children — then we've got to put technology (an aggressive masculine system) in its proper place, which is that of a tool to be used sparingly, joyfully, gently and only in the fullest cooperation with nature. Nature must govern technology, not the other way around." Tom Robbins

The Call of the Butterfly!

Restore Cootes is honoured to be the inaugural workshop in this new outdoor educational series. Join us Sunday, August 11 at 2pm at the Urquhart Butterfly Garden in beautiful Dundas Ontario. Randy Kay of Restore Cootes, and McMaster Biology Professor Jim Quinn will discuss the history and the future of this area, including Desjardins' Canal, Spencer Creek, Cootes Drive and McMaster's parking lot M. The series is free and open to all!

Salamander Salute

The Hamilton Spectator reports that our neighbouring city of Burlington received the 2013 Municipal Leadership Award for its role in "providing a safe passage across King Road for the endangered Jefferson salamander during its annual migration to lay eggs. The road closure took place between March 18 and April 18." Hopefully one day the Burlington papers will be reporting how Hamilton received an award for providing safe passage for turtles across Cootes Drive. For now we just let them get run over.

Storming Spencer Creek

Spencer Creek is looking to get studied with an eye on adapting to climate change.  Junction of Ancaster and Spencer Creek, north of McMaster's West Campus "...the hope is to work with the public, developers and government to identify strategies to control flooding from major rainfalls, which could include reducing paved surfaces and creating natural holding areas to temporarily store stormwater." This is great news if it means expanding the riparian zone along creeks to allow for the earth's natural hydrologic function to kick in when required during extreme weather events.  McMaster's parking lot "M" just screams out for inclusion in the near future as we aim for resilience in our natural environments.  Read the article here:

Parking Plots

If we are going to have parking lots in the vicinity of water, why not engineer a lot that protects that water from the toxic leaking of cars? The Hamilton Harbour has become a tourist destination and as McMaster University's Geography and Earth Sciences Professor J. M. Waddington has pointed out, they have done a nice job with their parking. The non-scientific description is they basically make parking pods that are physically separated by vegetated buffers. These ones include river rocks on the bottom with marsh plants and other species adapted to the conditions. Water run-off is collected in these buffers, rather than discharging directly into the waterway or into the combined sewer catch-basins. Compare to the design of most massive parking lots at malls (and McMaster University) and you will see the beauty of the design. The alternative looks like this . From 20m in the air: Harbour parking at Guise Street McMaster Parking Lot M


It's all floods in the news today. All that rain with no place to go. Too much pavement means rain can't soak back into the earth but must be channelled over asphalt, through catch-basins and into pipes, which then places too much pressure on the water/sewage treatment facility, which then means raw sewage gets discharged into our waterways, in creeks, bay, lakes. Depaving seems like something to be seriously considering, especially in areas that once were floodplains (Lot M) or marshes (Cootes Drive) etc. don't you think? Let the earth do what it is supposed to be doing?

Sparsely Populated Parking

As time goes by, we hope that demographic shifts away from single-occupancy car use, higher order transit (Hamilton Light Rail) and a McMaster Transportation Demand Management Plan will combine to assist with efforts to return this former floodplain to its proper natural function. The short video shows the lot in the evening, can you spot the deer trekking across the paved former floodplain?

Push to Protect

Engineering MA student exploring area Thursday, December, 20, 2012 - 1:01:11 PM Push is on to protect McMaster Forest By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News There is apparently no existing plan to develop on a 115-acre woodland owned by McMaster University bordering Dundas, Ancaster and west Hamilton – but a group advising the university president wants to make sure it stays that way. Wayne Terryberry, chair of the president’s advisory committee on Cootes Paradise, said the property also known as “McMaster Forest” on the east side of Louise Drive off Lower Lions Club Road in Ancaster connects to the Ancaster Creek watershed. “It’s a pretty ecologically diverse area,” Terryberry said. “We’re hoping to make sure that area is conserved.” The committee recently enjoyed a success when McMaster University announced plans to move ahead with a project to create the 30-metre buffer recommended by the Hamilton Conservation Authority between Ancaster Creek and an existing parking lo

Connecting Corridor?

How big were McMaster's expansion plans in the 1960s? We know they agitated for and received just under 160 acres of Royal Botanical Gardens property in 1963 for a total of $240,000.00 (and much regret from the RBG directors), the two almost equal parcels being the land where the Sunken Garden was located, now the Hospital site, and the other Coldspring Valley Nature Sanctuary, now the West Campus parking lots. Around the same time, McMaster also acquired two parcels of land totalling about 115 acres accessible off Lower Lions Club road. It is also accessible on foot from McMaster Lot M parking following official and unofficial trails, and some sidewalks and the parking lot of University Plaza. An unconfirmed report by a long-time McMaster employee holds that McMaster was planning a satellite campus at the second location that would be linked by extending a roadway (a McMaster road known as Westaway Road) up the river valley. Thankfully, this never happened, and it sounds lik

Before? and After...

What Coldspring Valley likely resembled (L), and what it looks like now (R) Using my meagre photoshop skills, I took a photo of floodplain land upstream on Ancaster Creek, and cropped Sarah into the current parking lot. Based on a lot of historical descriptions it is probably fairly close to the truth. Biodiversity loss? Oh yeah? Loss of natural floodplain function? You know it. Oh, and if we want to talk about beauty, I guess we can agree that a parking lot doesn't do much for us other than hold a bunch of drivers' cars, many of whom come from 3 to 5 km away.