I would like to share the story of Edmund Zavitz, the man known as Ontario’s Father of Reforestation. Throughout the 1800’s the endless forests across the Province were being systematically clear-cut by immigrants as they opened up new farmland. The wealth generated from the land was temporary, however, and as the forests were stripped away, parts of the Province had become desert-like, with farms lost to flooding, soil erosion, dust storms and fire.
Edmund Prout, an immigrant from England with an appreciation of nature, recognized the need for action and together with his family and friends started planting trees to stabilize the soil, and convinced neighbours to do the same. Prout passed on this appreciation of nature to his grandson, Edmund Zavitz, a McMaster graduate (1903) who went on to become Ontario’s first Chief Forester. Zavitz was largely responsible for the restoring much of the forest cover that we enjoy today. A month before Zavitz passed away, the billionth tree was planted by Premier John Robarts. Since then, another billion trees have been planted.
This inspiring story brings to mind the legacy behind the Veldhuis Restoration, the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s contribution to the Cootes to the Escarpment Eco-Park System and other similar projects within our watersheds. I have a two-year old grandson growing up in Dundas, and hope to pass on to him the same sense of responsible stewardship that Edmund Prout did with his grandson more than a century ago.
Chairman, Hamilton Conservation Foundation
The Dundas Valley is treasured by locals for its streams, forests and unique glacial rock formations, but it’s a 7,000 square meter patch of prairie land that has Nicholas Schwetz excited. Schwetz, Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA)’s Natural Areas Inventory Coordinator explains: “Basically, a meadow is what you’re used to seeing at the side of the road with early spring flowers, poor soil conditions and a high prevalence of non-native species, a prairie is home to a lot of native tall grasses and some pretty exciting creatures.”
“This find was particularly surprising because the rich soil found in prairie ecosystems usually makes them ripe for agricultural development, a fate to which this site had never fallen victim,” explains Schwetz. “Helping these tall grasses flourish to create prairie habitat is the whole reason why we use controlled burns, so to find Yellow Indiangrass doing so well without any help is fantastic!” The Natural Areas Inventory team is still working on identifying all of the species that call the area home, but it’s already exciting to know that this is exactly the type of habitat where you’d expect to find American Badgers, Mottled Duskywing Butterflies and a host of other rare species that can only survive in a few small pockets in Southern Ontario.
The Natural Areas Inventory project is a collaborative effort between Hamilton Conservation Authority, Hamilton Naturalists Club and the City of Hamilton and is funded through donations to the Foundation’s general conservation fund and grants from local and provincial agencies. Ultimately this data helps planners, developers and environmental groups to steer development away from sensitive and diverse natural areas and toward areas that will have the least negative environmental impact possible. The data also adds to a huge existing treasure trove for local ecological researchers as this is Hamilton’s third comprehensive Natural Areas Inventory (1993, 2003, 2013).
Upon completion in spring of 2014, the Natural Areas Inventory team will release a special package for planning professionals. There will also be some goodies for the general public including species checklists and a “What’s Alive in Hamilton” video highlighting all of the team’s interesting finds. Project funders include Hamilton Conservation Authority, Conservation Halton, City of Hamilton, Hamilton Naturalists Club, the McLean Foundation, the McCallum McBride Fund at the Hamilton Community Foundation, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Salamander Foundation.
In July, Ontario Ministry of the Environment approved plans to remediate the site of the former Ben Veldhuis Ltd. greenhouses in Dundas. The brownfield site will soon be cleared, capped with clean fill, graded and overseeded for winter. Horizon Utilities donated their services to remove poles and lines in preparation for this work. Our thanks go to them. “With successful fundraising, HCA plans to construct trails, two viewing and shade structures and the possibility of community plantings” explains Foundation Executive Director Joan Bell.
The site will create a natural gateway into Dundas and serve as one of several urban access points to the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System. Donations are still needed to help build the lookout, boardwalk and visitor shelter central to the project and with the extensive naturalization that will follow. “We’re not quite there yet, but donations and federal grant money from the FedDev Ontario Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund has help get us started.” explains Bell.
“We really appreciate the community’s patience and generous support in helping us clean up this site. It’s been a real collaborative effort with people like Cathy Nesbitt from the Thirsty Cactus and Krys Hines from Café Domestique bringing great fundraising ideas to the table and rallying community support,” said Foundation Chair Richard MacDonald.
You can visit the Foundation’s EcoPark Campaign page at www.EcoParkCampaign.ca to find out more about plans for the Veldhuis site.
At the MEC Bikefest on Saturday, June 8th at Christie Conservation Area, Krys Hines of Domestique Cyclo Sportif and Hollisha Francis of McAuslan Brewing raised $500 for the Dundas EcoPark Campaign, from coffee and beer sales. A special thanks also to Annika Samuelsen of MEC for helping to organize the Dundas EcoPark Campaign fundraiser at the Bikefest. With community support, the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) and partners are raising funds to restore lands adjacent to the 175-year old Desjardins Canal (the former Veldhuis Greenhouse site) and secure green corridors of open space (environmentally significant properties in the Pleasant View area) between Hamilton Harbour, Cootes Paradise and the Niagara Escarpment. Protecting these lands will protect green space for over 1,500 species of birds, trees, and wildlife and will enhance Hamilton’s economic potential and reputation as a Canada wide leader in the creation of a green, eco-friendly place to live, work and play. For more information or to donate, please phone 905-525-2181.