Here’s a recent article on the from the Hamilton Spectator about the Cootes to Escarpment Eco Park initiative – OPIRG has had a representative (Randy Kay) on the Advisory Committee since 2008, and we are now a member of the Friends of Cootes to Escarpment group. 

The Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark is starting to live up to its name.

Conservationists have worked for a decade on the dream of linking thousands of hectares of protected green space between the Niagara Escarpment and Cootes Paradise’s recovering wetlands into a massive urban “eco-park.”

But the ambitious effort started with a big “hole in the doughnut” bordered by the curving limestone spine of the escarpment and the forested fringe of Cootes owned by the Royal Botanical Gardens, acknowledged natural lands head Tys Theysmeyer.

For decades developers wanted to build in that doughnut — known by locals and builders as Pleasant View — spurring environmental protests and a pivotal Ontario Municipal Board battle that ended in 1995 with the OMB ruling one home could be built per 10 hectares. Pleasant View became part of the Greenbelt in 2005.

Now, the hole is starting to visibly fill in with green space — on the map and in person — after the December purchase of two critical properties in Dundas. This past weekend, volunteers started re-naturalizing a half-kilometre section of two brooks, Mink and Hickory, that get their start on one of the properties near the intersection of York and Valley roads.

That included seeding grasses and wildflowers and planting some 2,500 or so shrubs on a farm property that will eventually revert to naturalized meadow. In the short term, the doughnut-filling 20-hectare property helps directly connect Cootes Paradise marsh to the Cartwright Nature Sanctuary on the escarpment.

PDF: View a detailed map of the proposed EcoPark

“The linkages are exciting because we’re immediately improving the prospects for wildlife and threatened species as well as the creeks that run through to Cootes or the harbour,” said Theysmeyer.

“You may never visit one of (the properties) but they will be working from now on to clean the water that ends up in the harbour.”

The $1.7-million purchase of the two properties — originally listed for millions more — took two years to negotiate and involved a laundry list of partners including municipalities, conservation authorities, the RBG, the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club, Friends of the Greenbelt and the Hamilton Community Foundation.

While the deal is done, the fundraising is not.

“We’re actively seeking donations — and not just for this property,” said land securement co-ordinator Jen Baker, who estimates almost half of the purchase price still needs to be raised. “This is a long-term project for everyone.”

Interested residents can donate money or even land to the cause — and more than a few have in the last few years, including the namesakes for the new Eileen and John Holland Nature Sanctuary on Old York Road in Burlington.

Both Hamilton and Halton Region have officially asked the province to pursue “special purpose” legislation to recognize and protect the unique urban park in some manner.

But the plan is not to acquire every scrap of land under the Mountain between Cootes and Burlington, emphasized David Galbraith, the RBG’s head of science and a McMaster professor.

He pointed out the area is filled with private homes, quarries and businesses. “People live here, more people will come here in the future — we don’t want to stop that,” he said. “But we are hoping to work with those folks where possible to ensure the ecology is respected.”

To that end, the project has a full-time “stewardship technician” who will offer workshops and even visit homeowners interested in learning about habitat restoration and financial incentives available for such projects.

Interested in Cootes to Escarpment?
Looking to participate in the project?Residents can:

Volunteer for tree-planting or other land improvement projects;

Donate to offset recent or future land purchases;

Donate, sell or create conservation easements on your own property;

Hook up with experts (for free) to give advice on how to take care of ecologically sensitive land;

Information on all those options is on the website at

905-526-3241 | @Mattatthespec