a vision for nature in Cootes

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Make Cootes national park, group urges
Create eco-park in urbanized area

, The Hamilton Spectator
(Jan 28, 2009)


The idea of a Cootes Paradise National Park is being revived by local conservationists.
But they say it is jeopardized by plans for a self-storage warehouse beside the Desjardins Canal at the east entrance to Dundas.
They point to a new vision of an urban eco-park -- maybe a national park -- incorporating the Cootes marsh, drafted by Urban Strategies Inc., the firm responsible for McMaster University's campus master plan among other Hamilton projects.
Joe Berridge, a partner who has helped reshape waterfronts in Toronto, New York and London, produced the concept document at the invitation of Ben Vanderbrug, retired general manager of the Hamilton Conservation Authority; McMaster University professor Brian Baetz; and Dundas environmentalist Joanna Chapman.
It points to the large amount of public open space stretching from the Desjardins Canal and Cootes to the Niagara Escarpment above Dundas, saying there is an opportunity to "physically span and connect these remarkable environmental and ecological assets into an eco-park in the centre of a highly urbanized area."
It goes on to say: "What is needed for this entire area is a broader vision that can direct urban growth and development in ways that enhance its unique natural setting.
"Creation of the urban eco-park and establishing a clear future for the lands between Cootes Paradise and the escarpment are decisions commensurate with the significance of the creation of the Niagara Escarpment Commission or Rouge Park (connecting the Oak Ridges Moraine north of Toronto to Lake Ontario)."
It says the corridor along the old canal -- including the potential warehouse site -- is crucial to forming a gateway to the park.
"The commercial use proposed, a significant departure from the existing parkland designation, has no connection to recreation or natural systems and is therefore inappropriate."
Vanderbrug says he called Berridge "for a second opinion from a professional planner," before pressing the case to preserve the open space at King Street East and Olympic Drive, which owner Doug Hammond is trying to have rezoned. Vanderbrug says Berridge was so impressed by the potential of a park or nature sanctuary at the heart of the Golden Horseshoe that he offered to do the work free.
The rezoning application goes to Hamilton's economic development and planning committee next month. The conservation authority is trying to broker an alternative in the meantime. Urban Strategies' plan has been delivered to members of city council and to area MPs and MPPs.
Dundas Councillor Russ Powers pushed the concept of a Cootes Paradise National Park several years ago, but the Royal Botanical Gardens, which owns the marsh at the head of Hamilton Harbour, suggested instead a 1,000-hectare sanctuary that would include conservation authority property and be funded by all levels of government.


Map Courtesy of Urban Strategies Inc.

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