green with strategies

Dundas Valley can spur green economy, vision report states

50-year plan places natural gem at core of sustainable community

Richard Leitner, Dundas Star News Staff
Published on Mar 06, 2009

The Dundas Valley is being touted as a potential hub for environmentally sustainable communities that support local farmers and cash in on its natural treasures.

A 50-year draft vision plan prepared by the Hamilton Conservation Authority contemplates a future in which the valley and Cootes Paradise are globally recognized and the core of a green economy in neighbouring Dundas, Ancaster and Greensville.

To achieve this, the wide-ranging plan sets out 11 goals and 41 strategies, many focused on protecting the valley and neighbouring lands, including by encouraging sustainable tourism-related businesses, development of best stewardship practices and the retention of farmland for local food production. It calls for more resources for outdoor education, sustainable passive recreational opportunities and to ensure pedestrian, bicycle and transit friendly areas.

“To me, the angels are singing on this. I can’t give this praise enough,” said Jim Howlett, chair of the authority’s conservation areas advisory board, which heartily endorsed the plan last week.

“There’s so much left to save here. It’s like we have the cake and all the icing is still on. It hasn’t been taken away,” he said, lauding the goal to encourage a green economy and culture in neighbouring urban communities.

“I think that it shouldn’t just be the conservation authority taking on these kinds of visionary jobs. The study highlighted the need for more long-range, comprehensive types of planning approaches to protecting waterways and natural areas.”

Consulting firm

Sally Leppard, whose consulting firm drafted the plan with input from authority staff, volunteers and the public, said partnerships will be crucial to realizing the 50-year vision because the authority only owns 27 per cent of valley lands.

This includes supporting valley agriculture, she said, a goal which will help stave off development pressures and take advantage of the emerging trend toward locally grown and produced food.

“Our sense is there is a lot of support for this in the community,” she said, noting the public also made it clear it wants the small-town character of Dundas, Ancaster and Greensville preserved.

“Quite frankly, this community has done so much already to protect this area, and what we’re trying to do is just build on that foundation.”

Ms. Leppard said the plan has identified a number of gaps in the valley’s existing preservation strategies, including that many significant aboriginal sites have not been comprehensively documented and ancient trails are not visibly identified. She suggested a parallel Escarpment to Cootes Paradise study being conducted by the Royal Botanical Gardens presents an opportunity to work together to gain international recognition of the area’s ecological importance.