The Big Picture Network: Hamilton
Date: survival due to size and unsuitability for agriculture
Partners: Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA), Hamilton Naturalists Club, private landowners, Grand River Conservation Authority, Halton Region Conservation Authority
At 2,400 hectares, the Swamp spans 3 watersheds – Fairchild, Spencer and Bronte Creeks. It is one of the best and largest lowland swamp forests in south central Ontario. About 40% of it is owned by the HCA, while the other 60% is stewarded by private landowners. A rich diversity of wildlife is found here, including several species rare to the Hamilton Region. It is designated as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest, part of which is rated as a Class 1 Provincial Wetland. The swamp functions as natural sponge maintaining the hydrological balance over a large area and draining into Lakes Erie and Ontario. There are pristine stands of Red and Silver Maple, Eastern White Cedar forests, and cold-water streams containing Brook Trout. Other plant communities include Aspen swamps, treed bogs, cattail marshes, sedge meadows and open ponds. There are 437 types of plants, 12 species of reptiles and amphibians, 90 nesting bird species and 14 mammals. Species like the rare Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Flying Squirrels, Blandings Turtles, Northern Water Shrew, Pickerel Frogs and Green Sunfish are found here. Plants include Grass-pink Orchids, Green Violets, Balsam Fir and Black Spruce.
For more information visit this link or read about it in the Carolinian Canada Signature Sites booklet, available for purchase from this website here.
Cartwright Nature Sanctuary
Location: Pleasantview area of Dundas
Partners: Hamilton Naturalists’ Club, Conservation Halton
Located in the Pleasantview area of Dundas, the Cartwright Nature Sanctuary forms a key part of one of the primary ecological corridors linking the Escarpment and Cootes Paradise. The 27-ha parcel is part of a designated Environmentally Significant Area that connects the Royal Botanical Garden's Berry Tract to Conservation Halton's Nicholson Property, forming a core of protected natural areas totalling almost 60 has. Among the wildlife species found here is the American Colombo, a wildflower listed as a National Species of Special Concern. These lands are an important wildlife corridor and provide diverse habitat for many species. Coyote, deer, wild turkey and many other species live in the sanctuary.
The northern part of the property features a well established forest community dominated by Red Oak with Shagbark and Pignut Hickory, Black Walnut, White Ash and Basswood. Gray Dogwood thickets and groves of young Black Walnut dominate the former pasture lands in the central part of the Cartwright nature sanctuary, while the valleys feature a wide diversity of species. The Cartwright nature sanctuary is also an important groundwater discharge area with at least eight seasonal streams, five of them originating on the property.
For more information visit this link. You can help the Hamilton Naturalists preserve the Sanctuary by donating to their fundraising efforts to complete the purchase of this property.
Christie Lake Conservation Area
Location: 1000 Highway 5 west, Dundas
Partners: Hamilton Conservation Authority
Peaceful meadows and pine forests can be found along 10 kilometres of trails in this 336 ha conservation area. There are also nine ponds which are stocked with trout for fishing.
For more information go to www.conservationhamilton.ca.
Location: Hamilton Harbour
Partners: Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton Naturalists’ Club, Conservation Halton
This 840-hectare wildlife sanctuary is located at the west end of Hamilton Harbour, a natural bay at the west end of Lake Ontario. It includes a 250-hectare coastal wetland – Cootes Paradise Marsh - that is considered one of the most important waterfowl staging points in Carolinian Canada. It is also the largest fish nursery on the Great Lakes. It is designated as a Provincially Significant Class 1 Wetland, an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest, and as an Environmentally Sensitive Area in Hamilton.
Cootes Paradise is surrounded by mainly urban residential and industrial lands, and is considered a vital link to other natural areas in the district, including Spencer Gorge, Iroquois Heights, and Borer’s Falls/Rock Chapel. It is located near the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve.
Project Paradise is the largest, most ambitious freshwater marsh restoration project in North America. The project is aimed at eliminating the causes of stress on the marsh and restoring its natural composition and function so that it can regenerate and become self-sustaining. Many of these causes of stress originate in the 30,000 ha watershed that is drained by the marsh. The stresses include turbidity, high nutrient loadings, sediment buildup, overgrazing by carp and geese, and Lake Ontario water level control.
The key piece of the project, on which the rest depends is the fishway, a carp barrier/two way fishway structure – the first of its kind on the Great Lakes. Located at the mouth of the Desjardins Canal, the only connecting channel between Lake Ontario and the Marsh, the structure is designed to keep the non-native carp out of Cootes, while still maintaining a two way flow of native species.
For more information follow this link.
Location: 650 Governors Road, Dundas
Partners: Hamilton Conservation Authority, Carolinian Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, City of Hamilton.
The Dundas Valley is one of the most diverse areas along the Niagara Escarpment, with 1,200 ha of Carolinian Forest, fields, cold-water streams, and stunning geological formations. The Valley is located within the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve. Three creeks - Spring, Sulphur, and Ancaster – flow through the valley, which was carved by an ancient river, the Erigan, as it emptied into glacial Lake Iroquois. Many rare plants, birds and other wildlife are to be found along the 40 kilometres of trails that wind through the Valley. Species include Spicebush, Sassafras, American Chestnut, Eastern Flowering Dogwood, and Spurred Gentian (this is the only known location for this plant in the region). Some areas of the valley have never been logged and support a nationally significant community of forest birds. Approximately 100 species of breeding birds have been recorded here, making it one of the more speices-rich areas in souther Ontario, particularly for neotropical migrants. The trail system is a wonderful way to see the diversity of natural areas and species that are found in the Valley. For more information, go to www.conservationhamilton.ca.
Eramosa Karst Site Conservation Area
Location: on Upper Mount Albion Road between Rymal Road and Highland Road
Partners: Hamilton Conservation Authority, Ministry of Natural Resources
As Conservation Hamilton’s newest Conservation Area, the Karst is not yet open to the general public. The plan is to open it with parking facilities, a trail system and interpretive signs in 2008.
The Eramosa Karst is one of the most significant in Ontario because it is believed to have the largest number of unique karst features
in any one area in the Province. There are caves and passages underground caused by dissolving rock found in limestone formations like the Niagara Escarpment.
There are also soil pipes, many sinking streams, overflow sinks and a 335 metre long cave – the tenth largest in all of Ontario. Because of these features and
many others, the site was declared an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest in 2003 by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Due to its location close to large population
centres in Ontario, the site is one of the best in the Province for education and research opportunities. Because it has great potential for education purposes as a result
of its features and hydrology, HCA is exploring the possibilities of creating an environmental education centre on the property. For more information go to www.conservationhamilton.ca. There are many brochures and videos available for viewing at the website.
Fifty Point Conservation Area
Location: 1479 Baseline Road, Winona
Partners: Hamilton Conservation Authority,
Since 1983, an ambitious naturalization program has been carried out in the Fifty Point Conservation Area. Over the years many species have started to use the area for breeding and as a permanent residence. The Red Foxes which once were the dominant species are now replaced by coyotes. The young pups can sometimes be seen in the spring before the grass starts to get tall. Coyotes are most often seen at the east side of Fifty Point. They use the neighbouring National Defense and radio tower lands as part of their home range. Wood Ducks have been seen breeding at the site, so it appears that there may be enough wetland area to support them. White Breasted Nuthatches have also been seen nesting in this naturalization area, further confirming the success of the restoration work. These and the Wood Ducks are using the cavities of old trees that have been deliberately left on the site. Kingfishers and Spotted Sandpipers also nest at Fifty Point. Dog owners are asked to keep their dogs on a leash to prevent predation on sandpiper nests. For more information go to www.conservationhamilton.ca.
Spencer Gorge/Webster's Falls Conservation Area
Location: parking lots off Short Road and Fallsview Road near Greensville
Partners: Hamilton Conservation Authority
Link: Spencer's Gorge
This significant natural area contains two beautiful waterfalls: Webster's and Tews Falls. Webster's is a magnificent tiered waterfall and Tews, which towers at 41 metres, is only a few metres shorter than Niagara Falls. Both offer spectacular vistas of the gorge. A nature trail allows access to the Dundas Peak, which provides stunning views of Dundas and Hamilton. Other pathways passing through the park include the Bruce Trail, and a side-trail to historic Crook's Hollow Conservation Area.
The natural beauty of the Conservation Area makes it a must-visit site. The deep forests that cover the bottom of the gorge are lush in summer and exhibit rich autumn colour. In winter the frozen waterfalls and surrounding rock sparkle in the sunlight and lift the spirits. Come and enjoy some of the most spectacular views afforded by the Niagara Escarpment geology.
For more information go to www.conservationhamilton.ca.
The Thomas and Mary Young Nature Sanctuary
Location: heart of Beverley Swamp
Partners: Hamilton Naturalists’ Club, Lorraine Stewart
This 4 ha Sanctuary was donated by Lorraine Stewart and named for her grandparents who bought the land in the early 20th century. Thomas Young was a conservationist who passed his stewardship ethic on to his family. The property has been untouched for the past 40 years with some selective timber harvesting prior to that time. Rising water levels in this part of the swamp over the past 20 years or so have led to a transition in the vegetation from Silver Maple dominated swamp forest to a more open cattail dominated habitat. The Hamilton Naturalists are committed to the long-term protection of the property. The only access will be for research purposes. For more information go to www.hamiltonnature.org.
Valens Conservation Area
Location: 1691 Regional Road 97 (R.R.#6) Cambridge,
Partners: Hamilton Conservation Authority
Link: Valens Conservation Area
Valens offers a wide variety of outdoor activities on its 300 ha site. There are trails for hiking in summer and skiing when conditions permit in winter. There are 10 kilometres of trails and a 300 metre boardwalk through the wetlands. Wildlife abounds summer and winter in the forests and lake, and there are two observation towers for watching birds and other wetland species. Fall is a good time to see migratory birds and appreciate the fall colour. Campsites are also available summer and winter, and staying at the site prolongs opportunities for appreciating the natural beauty of Valens. The fishing is also excellent in summer and in winter when the ice is thick enough. For more information go to www.conservationhamilton.ca.
Community Effort Wins Big
Cootes Paradise, an 840 ha nature sanctuary managed by the Royal Botanical Gardens, contains a significant coastal wetland, an important habitat feature in Hamilton that protects the land against flood, drought and poor water quality. At the same time it is home to Few Flowered Clubrush, Red Mulberry, Prothonotary Warbler and other Species at Risk. Habitat restoration work in Cootes brings many benefits to Hamilton's landscape for humans and wildlife. It is part of the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan, a broad-based community restoration project that connects many partners and areas for cooperative action. Cootes is a vital link to other natural areas including Spencer Gorge, Borer's Falls / Rock Chapel, and the Niagara Escarpment UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
Natural City: The Hamilton Natural Heritage System
Hamilton's dynamic landscape is marked by impressive natural features including the Niagara Escarpment, Lake Ontario, Hamilton Harbour, Cootes Paradise, Beverly Swamp, Eramosa Karst, and Dundas Valley. These key areas are only one part of the green infrastructure for the natural city. The Hamilton Natural Heritage System (NHS) is an interconnected network of natural Core Areas and Linkages that make up a healthy landscape. This web of forests, wetlands, meadows and meandering streams brings significant economic, social, recreational and aesthetic benefits to the city. Rare habitats like prairie, alvar and deep interior forest are nested within it, significant refuges for plants and animals at risk and Canada's biodiversity. The NHS is Carolinian Canada's Big Picture vision translated into a municipal planning tool and incorporated into the new Official Plan to guide land use. It is based on extensive field work by experts led by the Hamilton Naturalists' Club in partnership with the City of Hamilton, the Conservation Authorities of Hamilton, Halton, Grand River, and Niagara Peninsula, Royal Botanical Gardens, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Environment Canada. The NHS is a living document. The City, in partnership with landowners and Environment Canada's Great Lakes Sustainability Fund, is developing a strategy for a “Targeted NHS” by focusing on priority areas for habitat restoration to enhance the health of the natural city.
Conservation Authorities and Landowners Grow Healthy Landscapes
For over 20 years, private landowners have worked with Conservation Authorities to improve water quality and Hamilton's unique habitat. The authorities offer on-site visits, financial incentives and technical advice. They help plan projects such as buffers, wetland and woodland plantings, livestock management improvements and more. Since 1985, over 700 projects have been completed by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority alone. The Grand River Conservation Authority has a similar program, examples of which are featured on page 4. Conservation Halton and the Hamilton Conservation Authority works with landowners through the Hamilton Halton Watershed Stewardship Program.
Living Lightly with Nature
Royal Botanical Gardens is more than a horticultural mecca. It has made a significant commitment to Hamilton: Protect the city's important ecological resources from growing urban and recreational pressures. RBG stewards over 1,000 ha (2,470 ac) of significant habitat including limestone cliffs, forests, savannahs, tallgrass prairies, meadows, wetlands and aquatic ecosystems that Hamilton residents enjoy and treasure. Its programs empower local residents to act as ecological stewards so their actions benefit rather than degrade the special features of this region.
Since its inception 1996, the innovative and unique Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship Program has connected with over 3,500 private landowners, developed stewardship agreements to protect over 2,000 ha (4,940 ac) of habitat and 200 km (320 mi) of shoreline and planted over 50,000 trees. The program has become an essential resource for landowners and a model for other regions while contributing significantly to the health of the region.
Volunteers Save Habitat
Since 1919, scores of Hamilton Naturalists' Club volunteers have helped steward a growing network of nature sanctuaries, establishing Ontario's first land trust in 1961. Their Head-of-the-Lake Land Trust works privately with landowners to protect natural areas forever, on a voluntarily basis, through Environment Canada's Ecological Gifts Program.
For Working Landscapes Landowners, community volunteers and local associations are coming together to improve the health of Hamilton's landscape. The Hamilton-Wentworth Stewardship Network is made up of community leaders with an interest in sustainable land use and cooperative stewardship. Affiliated with Ontario Stewardship, they provide information and assist landowners with natural resource management.
Longhorn Farmer Protects Water
Josh Santa Barbara is a part time farmer who cares about water quality. Josh has fenced his Texas Longhorns out of the stream at the forks of Barlow and Fairchild Creeks, roofed his livestock yard to reduce nutrient runoff, planted a buffer of trees and is planning for manure storage. His actions will benefit his land, the creek habitat and neighbours downstream. Josh works with Grand River Rural Water Quality Program and Canada Ontario Farm Stewardship Program for funding and technical assistance.
Cows and Habitat Co-Exist
John Brunsveld is an organic dairy farmer in Flamborough who cares about wildlife. By keeping his cows out of his creek and wetland, he is protecting water quality, fragile habitats and rare wildlife of the Grand River Watershed. John is assisted by the new Grand River Species at Risk Stewardship Initiative which is a partnership between landowners, the Grand River Conservation Authority and Environment Canada's Habitat Stewardship Program. John is just getting started – he's planning a buffer planting this spring.
Today, the Teed's family backyard is alive with native plants and animals seen via trails. They turned the back half of their 0.8 ha (2 ac) property on Grindstone Creek near Millgrove from a lawn to a natural area with the help of the Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship Program. This new habitat is a natural filter that helps to keep the creek clean and healthy. “If you take a walk every two weeks or so, you see something new”, says Mrs. Teed. “We are very excited about what is happening in our backyard.”
Let It Be
Veterans Memorial Park is a natural paradise in the city. An innovative approach to subdivision planning in the early ‘90s, the park is the result of ‘no mow' zones along Hamilton's Ann Street Creek. Residents in Governor's Lane Estate subdivision benefit from enhanced beauty, privacy and water quality, thanks to the forward-thinking naturalization plan developed by the Town of Dundas, the Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship Program, and local residents. “Today, if you go to the footbridge on the Creek you can hardly see the homes for the trees and shrubs that have grown up around them.”
Connecting with the Neighbours
Maryann Cain and Warren Devlin of Binbrook are thrilled to watch a growing variety of birds and other wildlife in their 1.2 (3 ac) habitat newly restored on marginal farmland. They planted a diverse mix of lowland and upland native trees and shrubs including Black Walnut, Silver Maple, Highbush Cranberry, Red Oak, Bitternut Hickory and White Pine with the help of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. Their project connects with neighbouring buffer plantings to restore a gap in the wildlife corridor along the Welland River. Landowner Creates A Lasting Legacy In 2005, Dundas resident Lorraine Stewart donated land in Beverly Swamp, a Carolinian Canada Signature Site, to Head-of-Lake Land Trust. Named in memory of her grandparents, the Thomas and Mary Young Nature Sanctuary is a significant natural legacy for the City of Hamilton.
Royal Botanical Gardens' Project Paradise is the largest habitat restoration initiative of its kind in North America. It connects community partners to enhance the health of the Cootes Paradise marsh, which is crucial for recreation, wildlife, hydrology, carbon and oxygen cycles. It began as a part of the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan to improve local water quality.
Hendrie Valley Blues
Grindstone Creek, originating in Flamborough and flowing through Hendrie Valley, is a significant connection between the escarpment and the floodplain marshes of Hamilton Bay. It provides important “blue” ecological services for the area such as water filtration, and 50 ha (250 ac) of crucial wetland habitat for local wildlife. Many local conservation partners are working with private landowners to restore creek habitat by reducing water temperature for potential re-introduction of the Brook Trout.
The World in Hamilton
Hamilton is proud to be one of the rare locations on the planet for a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The Niagara Escarpment stands out as one of the earth's significant natural features, on a global scale. You can explore this world-renowned site at Rock Chapel, a 72 ha (178 ac) nature sanctuary on the Flamborough-Dundas municipal boundary owned and stewarded by RBG. It contains some of the special features of the escarpment including old growth eastern white cedar, high plant and animal diversity, Borer's Falls and the dramatic sweep of the escarpment valley.