While events such as our Earth Day group cleanup on the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail have been unable to go forward, individual volunteers have been stepping up on their own time to help keep our trails clean. Dozens of individual volunteers have completed self-directed cleanups in our watershed’s Conservation Areas. Volunteers at Confederation Beach Park have been especially helpful this Spring with more and more visitors enjoying the Breezeway Trail.
Volunteers can register and coordinate their activities with HCA by visiting their Volunteer Opportunities page and getting in touch. That way we can track the impact of your efforts, connect you with extra resources and ensure your volunteering has the maximum possible benefit to the Hamilton watershed.
One of the few silver linings Covid-19 pandemic has been the extraordinary increase in visitors throughout the Hamilton watershed’s natural areas. It’s not hard to see why so many people are getting outdoors. With lockdowns, uncertainty and social isolation taking their toll, time spent in nature provides a vital tool in managing mental health. In order to keep up with this increased use, some work needs to be done. Trail improvements are being planned across the watershed, funded in part by your generous donations to the Foundation’s Trail Development Fund.
Valens Lake CA, Fletcher Creek Ecological Preserve and the Lafarge 2000 Trail will see some of the first improvements. As donations come in, Valens Lake will see an improved trailhead at its iconic fishing bridge, have mown grass trails developed into formalized stone dust trails and see some of its beautiful lakeside boardwalks restored to their former glory. Trail work is also planned for the nearby Fletcher Creek Ecological Preserve where some existing pathways will be developed into formalized trails and existing trails upgraded. An improved trailhead kiosk is also planned to help new users find their way to the beautifully restored former quarry site. The Lafarge 2000 Trail will also see erosion hotspots repaired and restoration work throughout. This work has an estimated price tag of $220,000 and will proceed as donations come in.
Those aren’t the only properties seeing improvements either! Trail work is also underway in the Dundas Valley where horse-friendly bridges continue to see improvements thanks to the Equestrian Campout Fundraiser which has continued to raise money for the Valley’s trails despite being unable to hold their annual event in person. Westfield Heritage Village is also looking to develop trails on recently acquired natural lands behind the beloved Heritage Village, which has seen more and more visitors dropping by to explore the existing trail loop.
With your support, these projects will help to ensure that our conservation lands are able to help a new generation of visitors. We’ve seen just how far that work can go to build a stronger, healthier community and we’re so thankful for all of the generous donors who make this possible.
While the beginning of the pandemic wasn’t an ideal time to launch a new volunteer program, staff from the Hamilton Watershed Stewardship Program were still keen to get the community involved any way they could. Buoyed by a grant from the Hamilton Community Foundation’s Field of Interest Funds, Stewardship staff launched the EcoCise Program. The program sought to pair enthusiastic volunteers with a series of events removing invasive species and cleaning up garbage in the watershed’s natural areas. The pandemic certainly changed those plans but it didn’t stop them.
Despite all of the challenges, volunteers appreciated the opportunity to work outdoors. One email to staff captured that sentiment perfectly: “Thanks for hosting and organizing the event this morning! As a student whose semester is entirely online it’s nice to have these opportunities to still get outside and socialize while having fun with like minded people.” wrote volunteer, Melissa Martins.
All told, the EcoCise program was able to hold 8 physically-distanced, limited-capacity volunteer events during 2020, engaging 55 wonderful volunteers. The volunteers removed invasive species on 4.8 acres of land at different sites including Eramosa Karst CA and Borer’s Falls CA. Species targeted included Common Buckthorn, Multiflora Rose, Invasive Honeysuckle, Common Privet, Manitoba Maple, Invasive Barberry, Norway Maple, Japanese Knotweed and English Ivy.
The program is set to continue into 2021 though events will likely be scheduled later in the season as the pandemic continues to evolve.