Monday, January 14, 2013

Old News, Nothing New?

I just rediscovered this article from the Dundas Star News - I don't think I ever posted it here, but it should be on the site especially since this exact location on the Spencer Creek trail inspired me to start this blog back in 2007.

Friday, September, 07, 2012 - 1:01:54 PM

McMurray could be next target for development

By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News

November 2007 photo at site, by Randy Kay

A quiet, tree-lined central Dundas road just south of Hatt Street could be the next area to face residential development pressure.

McMurray Street is already the subject of one planning application and is surrounded by unused sites with unclear futures.

While a few properties – including a closed car wash at 118 Hatt Street, and former Valley City Manufacturing sites surrounding the former car wash – are unused and potentially available for sale, a site just down the street at McMurray and Hope streets is the subject of a five-year old rezoning application.

Donald Plouffe of Burlington applied to the City of Hamilton in 2007 to rezone the property known as 36 McMurray St. to permit development of 17 townhouses. But the project has apparently stalled under a number of issues.

“The file is still technically open – with plans still available for review,” said city of Hamilton planning manager Edward John.” However, given the time that has lapsed I will be providing the applicant with formal notice that the file will be closed unless additional action is taken.”

The application originally caught the attention of former Dundas resident, avid cyclist and hiker and blogger Randy Kay. He mentioned the application and his concerns about its potential impact on the Spencer Creek trail. Kay also posted pictures of soil testing taking on the site. (see photo above)

He received clarification that the draft plans for 17 townhouses included a buffer around the creek that would ensure continuance of the trail in that section.

But Kay also wondered if the 30 metre buffer required by the Hamilton Conservation Authority around Coldwater creeks would apply to Spencer Creek at that location.

“Any development would have to be done with the best interest in protecting the health of the creek, and maintaining the existing Spencer Creek Trail connection,” Kay said. “A naturalized buffer zone between the development and the creek should at least meet the minimum requirements for the health of the creek, and preferably exceed the bare minimum.”

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Like Spring...

Unusually warm weather melted winter's good start of heavy snow, and added rain overnight to bring area creeks to the crest of the banks. Waterfall watchers in greater Hamilton had prime viewing flows to witness.

We stopped in to see the little Hermitage Cascade do her thing, here's a few seconds of the creek falling so beautifully:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Walking reward

Back in 2007 I wrote about the experience in Dundas Valley that convinced me to buy a walk-in pass for the Hamilton Conservation areas. Since then I upped it to the car-pass level (even though I don't own a car) since it gets a group of people access to all the CA areas. If we have guests we can drive with them to show off the beautiful natural areas in and around Hamilton.

Then in 2012 I started noticing new signs on the Rail Trail in Dundas announcing that it was now free to walk or cycle into the valley (though I am sure many of those using the rail trail were not paying previously)

As the HCA puts it on their web site:
Beginning in 2012, the walk-in and bicycle entry fee has been removed in the Dundas Valley. All visitors to the Dundas Valley are encouraged to purchase a HCA Annual Membership Pass to help support the maintenance and operational costs of the area. The HCA does not receive funding from the province of Ontario or the City of Hamilton for the operation of its conservation areas.  
If you are only using the Dundas Valley trail system, there is no longer a requirement to pay if you walk or ride in. I will likely continue to hold a membership for the HCA, since I love the work they do, and I'd encourage you to join as a paying member in support of such a wonderful place.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Haudenosaunee Headwaters Hunt

The Hamilton Conservation Authority has the following Visitor Alert posted on their web site:
"The westernmost section of the Dundas Valley Conservation Area will be closed to the public on specific days to allow the Haudenosaunee to harvest deer according to the Protocol and Specific Agreement. For a full description and related documents concerning this closure, please click here.
Harvesting will take place only on HCA owned lands within the area bounded by Martin Road to the east, Jerseyville Road to the south, Paddy Green Road to the west, and Powerline Road to the north. Harvesting will take place Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays between November 13 and December 20, 2012 and January 7 – January 17, 2013 inclusive. For a map of the closed area, click here."

For trail users, this takes in the majority of the westernmost Headwaters trail of the Dundas Valley trail system.

The Hamilton Spectator reports the hunt area will be off limits to the public until Jan. 17, Monday through Thursday, but remain open on weekends.

The HCA has posted signs on affected trails and notified local residents of the closure.

The agreement allows the hunt to take place four days a week and allows Six Nations hunters to kill 80 deer which is twice as many as the previous year.

The Haudenosaunee have hunting and fishing rights under a treaty with the British Crown.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The reincarnation of "Maria's Walk"

A lovely New Year's Day, sunny, snow packed trails, lots of people out enjoying the sub-zero weather.

My day's self-appointed mission was to search through McMaster University parking lots M, N, O and P to try and find the lost trails of what was formerly Royal Botanical Gardens property known as Coldspring Valley Nature Sanctuary.
RBG Map of Coldspring Valley

Before setting out I took a 1960s hand-drawn RBG trails map and laid the map over a google earth satellite image of the area to try and get a handle on where the former trails were in relation to the current parking lots and driveways. The map was not drawn to scale, but it did have the streets above (or south of) the valley marked to help give an idea of where everything was more or less. The creek to the west and Cootes Drive to the east helped define the area.

The combined map looked like this:

My Hybrid map of Coldspring Valley/McMaster Parking
My original intention was to use the map to retrace the steps of RBG conservationist W.J. Lamoureux who detailed a textual description of a hike made in 1960, two years after the trails were formally established, and just three years before the property was purchased by McMaster to create a massive asphalt parking area. 

Knowing the area as it is now, it was clear to me that no trace of the Coldspring trail, the Transvalley Trail, or the Prospect Circuit likely remained. I intended to start where Lamoureux did, at the easy to find (former) trailhead at Lakelet Drive at the Binkley family cemetery. 

However, I altered my starting point, thinking that using the other easy to find trailhead, still in use as a path, at Thorndale Crescent, and trying to pinpoint the location of Maria's Walk would (if I could find it) give me a waypoint to aim for when I attempted to follow Lamoureaux's route (which took in a bit of Prospect Circuit, then easterly on Erigan and past the junction of Maria's Walk before hooking into Coldspring Valley and Transvalley Trails (see RBG Map above).)     
My search for Maria's Walk started at the southern trailhead at Thorndale Crescent, where nothing much has changed from the 1960s. Following the existing footpath northward I noticed how the university driveway-roads had cut through the hill in the late 1960s when the parking lots were built, stranding a giant tree on a small green island surrounded by parking. 

As the trail ended in pavement, I crossed directly to the north side of the main driveway between the main campus (to the east) and the west parking lots. I walked west down the driveway looking for a way down that approximated the hand-drawn trail route, and then climbed over a guardrail and followed the slope of the hill down. I ended up scrambling through trees and broken branches and skirting the rear of the Engineering Applied Dynamics Laboratory building, ending up in parking lot "O".

It didn't feel like quite the right location given the other landmarks I was using and looking at the angle of the trail on the 1960s map, but I thought it was close enough for now, and I headed back to start at the Lakelet Ave trailhead. Maybe I would have better luck there.  

Instead of going to Lakelet, though, I decided to go back and have one more look for Maria's Walk, from where the trailhead hit the pavement. Directly across from the point where the original trail ended, across the driveway and behind the McMaster University sign for Lot M, N, O and P parking, I found it!

The main portion of a very healthy remnant of Maria's Walk! This trail made perfect sense given the map I had, and it is the only way down the hill in a way that makes sense from a trail-making point of view, the other approaches being far too steep.
Looking down Maria's Walk
It seems that drivers parking in west campus lots were using this trail (and some may still be) but McMaster has blocked the lower entry point with branches to get people to use the sidewalks, though this is a nice shortcut through the remnant woods. Someone (maybe McMaster) has made quite large "speed bumps" on the trail, likely to discourage hikers.
Looking up Maria's Walk
I certainly did not set out this morning expecting to find an intact trail, but this one is clearly the trail shown on the map as Maria's Walk.

My goal for the new year is to find out why McMaster blocks the trail, and to see if we can get it reopened as a "use at your own risk" footpath between Main Campus and West Campus. Maria's Walk will live on!

View from behind parking sign, looking south toward Maria's
Walk Trailhead/Thorndale Crescent (houses in background)