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Oct 22, 2008, 4:04 PM
PARADISE AT YOUR DOORSTEP
You are invited to an Open House to discuss the future of Cootes Paradise Nature Sanctuary Thursday, October 23, 4:30-8pm, at Westdale Secondary School, Cafeteria, 700 Main St. W., Hamilton.
See new features that are being integrated into the existing trail system. Find out what proposed changes could affect you and your trail use. There will be several booths set up highlighting ongoing projects and planning along the south shore of Cootes Paradise.
Cootes Paradise Nature Sanctuary is….
• A provincially significant Class 1 wetland
• An environmentally sensitive area
• A remnant portion of Ontario's rare tallgrass prairie and oak savannah habitat
• Canada's most biologically diverse landscape
• Home to thousands of plant and animal species, both common and endangered
• A remnant potion of Carolinian forest
• An area of natural & scientific interest
The conservation department of Royal Botanical Gardens is working hard to protect the natural environment that is located just around the corner from your doorstep. We want your feedback on what we have planned.
You can also give us your input by filling out a quick online survey at http://www.rbgtrailsurvey.com.
Oct 22, 2008, 5:26 PM
Thanks for posting this, thistleclub. I'll be there.
Nov 1, 2008, 8:49 AM
Potential storage facility review didn’t address conservation property (http://www.dundasstarnews.com/news/article/149620)
Applications before committee Tuesday
By Craig Campbell, News Staff / Oct 31, 2008
Hamilton Conservation Authority and City of Hamilton staff did not review how a development within the Cootes Paradise Environmentally Significant Area may impact plans for a new natural site across the street.
Applications for zoning and official plan amendments to permit a four-building storage facility on a site currently designated parkland at 201 King St. E. across from Conservation Authority property — the former Veldhuis Cactus Greenhouse in Dundas — will be considered by the city’s planning committee Tuesday morning, Nov. 4 at the Hamilton Convention Centre.
Residents are allowed to speak at the meeting and do not need to register prior to the meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a. m.
Purchase of site
Despite the conservation authority’s purchase of the Veldhuis site, in partnership with the City of Hamilton in February, with a plan to eventually dismantle greenhouses on-site to expand the natural corridor and habitat already in place, neither organization raised any related questions in their reviews of the zoning and bylaw amendment applications for 201 King St. E.
City councillors committed $300,000 to the purchase of the Veldhuis site
One month before he died in a car accident, former conservation authority general manager Bruce Duncan envisioned a natural area open to the public, next to the Desjardins Canal.
“It would be an attractive piece of conservation property,” Mr. Duncan told the Dundas Star News. “It’s very close to Cootes Paradise and the Royal Botanical Gardens as well. We think it’s a nice opportunity for natural habitat.”
The application before city councillors on the planning committee Tuesday morning asks for permission to amend the existing parkland designation to specifically permit a self-storage facility.
It would feature four buildings, each 27.4 metres wide with varying lengths of 63.2, 76.2, 71.7 and 81.8 metres, facing King Street East.
A file for the application included no references to the effort across the street, despite the fact the Veldhuis site links to Royal Botanical Gardens properties that feature at least two endangered turtle species.
The Cootes Paradise area has also been designated an “Important Amphibian and Reptile Area” by the Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network. There is evidence turtles cross King Street to nest in gravel adjacent to 201 King St. E.
Dozens of different wildlife and bird species have also been recorded at 201 King St. E.
But RBG executive director Mark Runciman said the amphibian and reptile designation has no status in land use planning. And although the organization is aware of the applications for development within the sensitive area, RBG has no official authority.
“Of course, we would always hope to establish a proactive partnership with any projected developments adjacent to our natural sanctuaries to ensure all considerations are taken into account regarding the natural characteristics and landscapes,” Mr. Runciman said in a written statement.
The city’s Environmentally Significant Areas Impact Evaluation Group reviewed the applications for 201 King St. E. on July 17 and had no objections to the development plan.
Minutes from the meeting note the subject property is within the Cootes Paradise flood plain and is designated as a Special Policy Area by the Conservation Authority. Flood-proofing is required to comply with SPA policies, so the site must be raised to 81.3 metres.
“A small portion of Volunteer Marsh (about five square metres with the loss of a few poplar trees) will be filled in order to complete the required flood-proofing across the site,” the ESAIEG minutes state. “In addition to flood-proofing, security fencing and screened landscaping will be incorporated as part of the site plan.”
It’s not clear how this is affected by a provincial policy statement which does not permit development on land adjacent to wetlands, including Volunteer Marsh, “unless it has been demonstrated there will be no negative impact on the natural feature or their ecological function.”
The Hamilton Conservation Authority review noted all parking and building must be setback at least 15 metres from a watercourse on the property that connects Lake JoJo to Cootes Paradise. But the authority will allow some grading within the 15-metre setback.
The HCA requires a sediment and erosion control plan in conjunction with the future site plan for the property.
The Hamilton Conservation Authority informed the city it had no objection to approval of the official plan or zoning bylaw amendments.
A 2007 geotechnical report found methane gas on the site, apparently originating from organic deposits underground. While there are reports of a possible historic landfill, or garbage dump, at the site the Environment Ministry has no record of a landfill operating there with provincial approval. The ministry is also unaware of any contamination or methane gas under the property.
“The city and the developer haven’t passed any information onto us,” said Environment Ministry spokesperson Jennifer Hall. “It wouldn’t be time yet for the Ministry of Environment to be engaged by any of the parties.”
Ms. Hall said if work begins on the site and contaminated material is discovered, the ministry may become involved. However, she said an environmental officer has visited the property and taken photographs, and a ministry representative “may hover in the background” at next week’s public meeting.
A consultant determined a venting system is required inside each of the four proposed buildings to collect and vent methane before it enters the buildings.
A note in the city’s planning file from Steve Barnhardt, supervisor of open space development, asked planning staff to “…please ensure the parcel was not included as part of the total area for parkland dedication calculated for Dundas.”
The subject property at 201 King St. E. was owned by the Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth. In 1994, the region investigated the possibility of building a business park on the site.
During that review, the Hamilton Conservation Authority and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources expressed concern that placing fill along the Volunteer Marsh wetland boundary “may impact the wetland function.”
A 1994 environmental impact statement stated: “Volunteer Marsh is considered sensitive… reviewing agencies requested special attention be given to minimizing any disruption of the wetland and its associated functions.
Less than a year later, in May 1995, the region declared the property surplus, and exempt from an appraisal of fair market value. It was sold in October 1999 to its current owner for $51,680. The current property value assessment of the site is $122,000.
Jan 28, 2009, 12:20 PM
Make Cootes national park, group urges
Create eco-park in urbanized area
January 28, 2009
The Hamilton Spectator
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.
Eco Park Vision Document
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.
Jan 28, 2009, 2:13 PM
I would love to see cootes become a national park. First of all it would ease some of the financial burden from RBG who seems to be in and out of trouble lately. Second, it deserves park treatment and is horribly under appreciated. Third, the tourism opportunity alone is worth it!
Jan 28, 2009, 2:19 PM
Link to the Eco Park Vision Document
Jan 28, 2009, 2:51 PM
This could be a good idea, as long as there is SIGNIFICANT partnering with the RBG and BARC. They have been outstanding stewards of these lands and know this ecosystem intimately. I'd hate to see the feds helicoptering in outside experts.
We can't just put a glass dome over these lands and think our job is done. Development beyond this area is having significant negative impact. Cootes is filling in from silt washing downstream from housing developments on Escarpment lands. Hopefully a national designation would give conservationists more clout to deal with these issues, as well as on the international front when it comes to dealing with Great Lakes water levels, etc.
Apr 10, 2009, 3:19 PM
Ministry and Royal Botanical Gardens differ on whether Cootes Park is dead
By Craig Campbell, News Staff
Apr 10, 2009
Ontario Parks and Ministry of Natural Resources officials say the vision of a Cootes Paradise Provincial Park is dead, while Royal Botanical Gardens executive director Mark Runciman maintains the door hasn’t been closed.
“We’d like to have more discussions,” Mr. Runciman said last week, after Ontario Parls spokesperson Greg Maude suggested the RBG itself backed out of provincial park discussions in March 2008.
“The RBG confirmed they had no interest in pursuing provincial park status,” Mr. Maude told the Dundas Star News. “We met, discussed the concept and a decision was made not to pursue it.”
Last week, Mr. Runciman said talks with ministry staff last year were based on a general concept, following up on the once proposed idea of a National Park, but there was never anything firm. And while he hopes the idea isn’t dead, he suggested the province and RBG may be looking for different things.
Last week, Mr. Runciman and RBG staff gathered at the Cootes Paradise Fishway off Princess Point, to receive a $100,000 donation from the RBC Blue Water Project to support the project.
The fishway stops bottom-feeding carp from entering the Cootes Paradise marsh in an effort to protect aquatic plants from the invasive fish.
Carp have contributed to destruction of habitat that helps clean water as it flows into Lake Ontario.
Large crates of trapped fish are lifted out of the fishway and sorted, with carp sent back into the Lake Ontario side, and noninvasive fish sliding into Cootes Paradise on their way to spawning areas.
Aquatic ecologist and RBG’s acting head of conservation Tys Theysmeyer said more than 100,000 carp have been blocked from entering Cootes Paradise since the fishway project started about 15 years ago.
“We’ve been steadily restoring Cootes Paradise for nearly two decades,” Mr. Theysmeyer said. “But there is still a long way to go. And believe me, this generous gift from RBC is going to help us push forward in a big way.”
Mr. Runciman noted the need for other local businesses to provide financial support to all of the RBG’s efforts to maintain and improve natural areas in and around the Cootes Paradise watershed.
“As you can see today, there is important work to be done, and we all have an obligation to wade in and make a difference where we live,” Mr. Runciman said. “We’re only as strong as our funding. RBC made us stronger today. We hope corporate Canada can see the value in helping the RBG grow even stronger.”
Rumblings of a Cootes Paradise national park, then provincial park, began in early 2005 and were intended to provide protection to a swath of land stretching from Cootes Paradise, through the Pleasantview area of Dundas up to the Niagara Escarpment.
Properties in the area are owned by the RBG, Hamilton Conservation Authority, Conservation Halton, Hamilton Naturalists Club, and several other organizations or private property owners.
The Ministry of Natural Resources responded to a Dundas Star News Freedom of Information request stating there are at least 80 pages of correspondence, reports and briefing notes about a Cootes Paradise Provincial Park. The ministry wants the newspaper to pay $360 for the records, but may use exemptions to limit what is actually released.
The RBG voluntarily released a letter Mr. Runciman wrote to Donna Cansfield, Minister of Natural Resources on March 10, 2008. Though the ministry contends the RBG ended talks at that time, Mr. Runciman’s letter never mentions any intention of closing down discussions, despite indicating some cautiousness.
“Our board of directors have indicated it does not want to lose control of our properties,” Mr. Runciman’s letter stated.
But he closed the letter with: “I would like to extend an invitation for you to come back in a few weeks and have an official tour of the RBG where you can see first hand the excellent work we do here,”
The letter states a Jan. 12, 2008 meeting between RBG staff, Ms. Cansfield and Ontario Parks director Adair Ireland-Smith raised “many suggestions…where RBG and MNR could assist each other.”
Minister Cansfield and Ms. Ireland-Smith did not respond to requests for interviews last week.
Minstry spokesperson Ivan Langrish said he checked with staff and they were “relatively definitive” that a vision for a provincial park in and around Cootes Paradise is “not going anywhere.”
The RBG receives most of its outside funding from Ontario’s Ministry of Culture.
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