Wednesday, April 23, 2008

put some spring in your step

Following the advice of the author of The Complete Walker IV, and the example of Huck Finn, I took to the spring pathways barefoot; ostensibly to "toughen" the feet for more (booted) walking, I was soon enamoured with walking sans shoes.

The natural approach brings soft flesh into contact with the varying surface of the earth: that we normally don't feel the ground we walk on is odd, if you think about it.

Did we evolve with our toes curling over stones, our soles printing tracks through sand, those numerous small bones and joints carrying our bodies over grasslands and through forests, only to be bound by laces, cushioned by inflexible soles, and then only to walk on paved surfaces most of our days?

Fitting for an earth day ramble through Dundas Valley, it occurred to me later.

Why not let your toes get in touch with Terra firma? The mud squish between your toes?
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Saturday, April 12, 2008

transition trails

Dundas Valley trails in transition with snow remaining on sheltered trails, while the air temperature reached 18 degrees Celsius.
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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

snow bound: another voice for action

Advocates for disabled urge snow removal

The Hamilton Spectator

(Apr 8, 2008)

The city's disability advisory committee is warning Hamilton's handling of snow removal on sidewalks is "very nearly becoming a human rights issue."

At the group's request, city council asked staff yesterday to examine its policies for clearing sidewalks. The chore is the responsibility of homeowners, though some councillors have recently mused about the city taking over the task for a cost to taxpayers.

The advisory committee wrote in a report that sporadic clearing of sidewalks forces many disabled people to "become prisoners in their own homes for weeks at a time." It notes that getting to work, a doctor or even buying groceries can be "herculean tasks" without clear walkways.

The report recommends the city mandate snow must be cleared within 24 hours of the start of a snowstorm, instead of the end. The committee also wants better clearing of bus stops and stricter enforcement of snow clearing.

Friday, April 4, 2008

ignoring our natural assets: spencer creek

Reports suggest park along historic Spencer waterway

Detachment contributes to sad state

Craig Campbell
Published on Apr 04, 2008

Spencer Creek's lack of connection to the community may contribute to the local watershed's poor condition. And despite past recommendations to improve access to, and respect for, the waterway its current status as a hidden and abused resource continues to frustrate several stakeholders. Jaime Overy, Spencer Creek watershed stewardship planner at the Hamilton Conservation Authority, said the lack of connection to the creek was discussed in the ongoing stewardship plan.

"We identified stresses we could think of that impacts those watersheds. One was detachment from nature," Ms. Overy said.

The conservation authority is trying to engage community members, and property owners, in the stewardship process.

But the entire length of Spencer Creek through Dundas has several owners. Sections of the watercourse are actually controlled by private landowners, while other segments are owned by the City of Hamilton, Conservation Authority and the Royal Botanical Gardens.

This hodge-podge of owners creates problems for access, and improvement programs.

"It's a stumbling block," Ms. Overy said. "Trying to get landowner buy in is difficult."

And while the conservation authority and federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans share some control over the length of the creek, the Royal Botanical Gardens must deal with its major impact on Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour.

Tys Theysmeyer, the RBG's aquatic ecologist, also raised the issue during a recent presentation to the Green Drinks meeting of Hamilton's EcoNetwork.

While discussing the impact of the July 26 Biedermann pesticide plant fire and subsequent spill of contaminated douse water into the creek and Cootes, Mr. Theysmeyer bemoaned the current status of the creek.

"It's always frustrated me. It's the only community I know that doesn't make its water feature the centre of the community," he said.

Dundas resident Randy Kay, who attended the presentation at Slainte Irish Pub in downtown Hamilton, couldn't help but agree.

"The whole notion of Spencer Creek being treated like it doesn't exist has been a pet peeve of mine," Mr. Kay said. "It just doesn't make sense, the way the whole town practically turns its back on it."

He believes it leads to a lack of concern for the creek, which he sees as treated more like a sewer than a precious natural resource.

The sewer comparison may not be far off, as Mr. Theysmeyer explained to the Green Drinks meeting Spencer Creek is certainly not a body of water anyone should be entering.

He said the average EColi bacterial level in Spencer Creek during 2007 was 10 times the accepted level for recreational use.

"There are no good days" to swim in the creek, Mr. Theysmeyer said.

He said the fire water carried a small amount of the chemical Diazinon, used to produce pesticide at the Head Street plant, into the creek.

"It's nasty stuff," he said. "Only an infitessimal amount is needed to kill stuff."

An estimated 48 different species in the creek were wiped out by the spill. Mr. Theysmeyer said the local watercourse was the only known location for some of the organisms, and they can not be re-introduced.

Among the improvements he'd like to see in Spencer Creek are removal of several man-made barriers that control the water's flow, and improvement of the old infrastructure that allowed contaminated water to flow directly into the creek.

Both the 1999 King Street Urban Design Guidelines and 2005 Hatt Street Urban Design Study made a new focus on Spencer Creek a top priority.

The Spencer Creek "promenade" or "linear park" would feature a walking trail and a sequence of public spaces along the creek from the Grightmire Arena at Market Street all the way to the former Town Hall.

According to the 2005 report: "The creation of an attractive green linear park or pedestrian promenade would contribute to the livability of residential neighbourhoods along Hatt Street and the entire downtown...a green oasis within the downtown."

The report also recommended the removal of concrete walls from the creek, where possible, and a design that would increase the biodiversity, health and productivity of natural habitat, as well as promoting a variety of active and passive ecological and recreational uses.

The report said the linear park's design should also celebrate Dundas' industrial heritage - which relied on Spencer Creek for operation of several mills.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

today: mud

The water level has dropped some today, leaving the trail exposed but very muddy (the trail is at the top of the photo, following the creek's path).

Just before I took this photo a jogger started down the trail but turned back once she got to the muddy part.

A few days of sun should resolve this situation for Spencer Creek Trail users. The parallel Cootes Drive multi-use path is there as an alternative. Happy walking!
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trail under water update

"Good morning – just as follow-up – HCA and city staff were on site at about noon Tuesday posting trail closed signs.

Problem appeared to be in Cootes Paradise – creek was backing up under Cootes Drive about 125 metres upstream and spilling banks."

Tony Horvat, P. Eng.
Director of Land Management
PO Box 7099, 838 Mineral Springs Rd
Hamilton (Ancaster), Ontario L9G 3L3
Phone 905-525-2181 x 113 Fax 905-525-2214

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

walk on water

With the spring flooding, Spencer Creek spilled its banks today, submerging the Spencer Creek Trail at the low-lying area near the Cootes Drive bridge.
I had almost decided to walk to work down the trail from the trailhead at Dundas Street (by the Canadian Tire store) not knowing that the trail was underwater further 'downstream.' (excuse the pun)
After arriving at work I e-mailed councillor Powers to suggest some indication that the trail was impassable be placed at the trailhead, to save anyone walking east from having to go all the way down only to be forced to turn back (round trip, over 2km).
Fortunately I had chosen the paved Cootes multi-use path which meant I didn't have to turn around and double back, although it was a nice morning for a walk!
Unfortunately I didn't have my camera to get a shot of the very wide, deep, and fast creek.