Category Archives: News

Foundation joins Will Power™ public education effort

Hamilton Conservation Foundation has joined with more than 80 charities, financial advisors and legal services from across the Hamilton-Oakville-Niagara Region to show Canadians the power they have to create positive change through a gift in their Will to charity. Will Power™ is a public education effort aimed at empowering more Canadians to leave a charitable gift in their Will, which could raise as much as $40 billion dollars to advance the causes Canadians care about. Imagine the impact we could all make!

Wills are more than a legal means to distribute your personal assets; they are powerful tools for social change. And it’s not an either/or proposition – you can leave a gift in your Will to charity while still taking care of those you love.

The gift you make in your will can fund a specific program area or support the Foundation’s highest-priority needs at the time your gift comes to fruition. This can include acquiring, protecting, and restoring natural areas; connecting future generations with nature and educating them about the importance of conservation; or maintaining and improving the trails that provide public access to our area’s most spectacular natural spaces, all tasks that are not funded by government funds.

Regardless of the size of your legacy gift, it can be made as an outright gift for immediate impact, or endowed to allow for annual contributions. We welcome an opportunity to discuss the many ways you can leave a legacy and encourage you to contact us to learn how your future gift will make a difference at Hamilton Conservation Foundation.

Outdoor Education…A year of adapting…

The past school year started off like any other with schools from all over Hamilton and even schools outside of Hamilton looking to visit the Dundas Valley Conservation Area for our unique and amazing outdoor education programs.

This school year, however, was not like any other, and our programs were greatly impacted, first by the work-to-rule action of Ontario teachers and their negotiations at the end of November, and later when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in March that resulted in the closure of all schools.

However, our Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) Education staff was able to quickly adapt and put new programming in place.

To deal with the work-to-rule action, the Education team quickly devised specific programming that could be mobile for some of the booked classes – Habitat Study for Grades 2 to 6, and Invasive Species for Grade 9. They were able to provide a number of schools with this option, utilizing their classroom space and transitioning it into a Field Centre, complete with artifacts and sensory activities.

When Covid-19 closed the schools in March, Education Staff once again adapted and, in collaboration with the HCA Marketing team, were able to develop and provide a mixture of learning resources, activities and games for teachers, parents and students to access on the HCA website through a new Nature at Home program.

Looking ahead…

This school year has been unique in many ways and the education program has had to adapt to the varying changes encountered. Whether going into schools to provide programming or creating online materials for families to do at home, the education program has excelled at providing these opportunities and will continue to do so. We are very much looking forward into getting students back into nature in the coming school year.

We are appreciative of our donors that continue to support the Foundation’s Step Into Nature Fund allowing the education program to adapt and continue to bring nature to students in a variety of ways.

Tribute Tree donors give thousands for plantings to honour loved ones

The new program puts Tribute gifts toward native tree and shrub plantings where they are needed most on conservation lands in the Hamilton watershed.

The program, supported by Dodsworth & Brown Funeral Home – Ancaster Chapel, recognizes those honoured with tribute gifts at the Beckett Living Forest in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area.

To date, the program has received tribute gifts honoring 43 individuals, generating over $15,000 in donations.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the plantings that will be enabled by these donations, they are planned for Fifty Point CA, Dundas Valley CA with additional events to come as the pandemic improves.

Dobson-McKee Family honours Dundas roots with Environmental Education endowment

With a number of generous gifts over the last 15 years, the family has built the Dobson-McKee Family Environmental Education Endowment Fund. The fund, now worth over $700,000, ensures that future generations will be able to explore, understand and appreciate the beautiful diversity of the Dundas Valley.

Tom Dobson and Wilma McKee. Sulphur Springs 1939

Richard Dobson, son of Tom and Wilma Dobson, attended the Foundation’s Annual General Meeting in 2008 and gave a very moving speech on behalf of his sisters Ginny and Nancy, and his mother Wilma, all residents in Calgary, Alberta, and his uncle and aunt Bill and Donna Dobson of Ancaster. He talked warmly of his father’s adventures exploring the Valley; how his mother and father met and spent their early married life in Dundas, and what the Dundas Valley had come to mean to him.

Tom and Wilma Dobson “began their commitment to each other as teenagers in Dundas and remained together as a loving couple for over 65 years,” Rick’s sister Ginny told HCA staff back in 2008. “Through wise leadership and counsel, humour and compassion, they made a difference to many varied and widespread individuals and organizations. This endowment honours their cherished memories of family traditions in the Dundas area and their dedication to the importance of environmental education and preserving natural areas for public use.”

Legacy gifts pay tribute to late husband’s charity work

Hazel Awde passed away in November of 2014, leaving legacy gifts to a number of local charities.

Hazel Awde paid tribute to her late husband with legacy gifts to many of the organizations he supported as a volunteer.

Hazel’s late husband Murray (d. Dec 23, 1998) served on the Foundation’s Board of Directors in the 1980s and early 1990s, serving as Chair of our Publicity Committee. His role in promoting conservation was invaluable at a time when the Foundation had no staff members and relied entirely on the skill sets of volunteers. Luckily for the Foundation, Murray sold advertising for CKOC before retiring and was a well-known figure among local media outlets, making him a perfect fit for the Publicity Committee.

Known by his colleagues and peers as “Mr. Volunteer,” Murray volunteered for dozens of local organizations. In addition to volunteering with the Foundation Board, he served as a canvasser for the Canadian Cancer Society for 30 years, chaired the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal, volunteered with Wesley Urban Ministries, was honored for his volunteer service by the Sertoma Club of Hamilton and was active in the Ryerson United church congregation.

Murray’s late widow Hazel was equally involved in Ryerson United Church and chose to show her love of the wider Hamilton community through her estate.

Hazel left gifts in her estate to several of the charities Murray supported with his volunteerism, including the Foundation.

A note from our Executive Director

As we prepare this year’s report on 2019 activity, we find ourselves in very different times. The pandemic continues to disrupt our lives – but also provides a reason to be optimistic. Until things return to normal, we can still look forward to enjoying the many conservation areas and natural areas that your donations help to support.

As we reflect and report on the last year, it gives me the opportunity to thank you, our donors, for your continued support of conservation and helping us to ensure natural areas are preserved for now and the future.

This year’s report focuses on legacy – the lasting statements of your generosity that you are providing for future generations. Whether creating or contributing to an existing endowment fund to support a program, including the Foundation in your will, donating a gift of shares, or making the Foundation a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, these legacies will ensure that our natural areas are maintained forever, new natural spaces are protected, and future generations of children will continue to learn and be exposed to conservation through our education programming.

The importance of natural spaces has never been more important. To all of you, the donors who help create and maintain them, thank you!

Sincerely,

Grace Correia
Executive Director

“The environment gives us so much joy and happiness. We want to support it!”

Robbie and Chitra Singh visit a natural area near the village of Frigiliana in southern Spain.

If you’re a regular visitor to the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, chances are that you’ve crossed paths at some point with Chitra and Robbie Singh. Always cheerful and extraordinarily polite, the couple say they owe their cheerful disposition to the time they spend in nature.

“It’s so important for mental and physical wellbeing,” says Robbie. “That’s why we’re so keen to see it preserved for future generations.”

Chitra and Robbie have left a gift in their will to the Hamilton Conservation Foundation. They’re not shy about discussing their plans, either. “We’re not mega-rich philanthropists but every bit helps and we trust that our gift will have an impact.” The couple also recently had a bench placed in the Dundas Valley. “It’s no use to us to be commemorated after we’re gone!” remarks Chitra with a wry smile.

The long-time Ancaster residents each enjoy the Valley in their own ways. Robbie is a long-distance cyclist and year-round fitness enthusiast, often strapping on ice-cleats during the winter months. Chitra is an avid hiker and prefers to explore the trails during the warmer months. The couple can often be found on the Monarch Trail.

Chitra developed her love of nature at an early age. “We both grew up in Calcutta and were lucky enough to live in houses with large gardens. I was always climbing trees. Anytime my parents needed me, they would inevitably find me up in a tree at one of my friends’ houses,” she recalls with a laugh.

The couple came to Hamilton in 1975 and soon set their sights on the Ancaster neighbourhood they now call home. While they were always aware of the natural world that surrounded them, they began exploring it in earnest when Robbie began training for a long-distance hike along the Camino de Santiago between south-western France and Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in north-western Spain.

Chitra and Robbie have taken a number of other hiking trips to Spain but count themselves lucky to have access to so much of the natural world right here at home. “Between the Bruce Trail, Royal Botanical Gardens and Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA), we’re so lucky to have organizations that care for the environment here in Hamilton. There are tremendous mental and physical health benefits that come from access to the natural world,” explains Robbie.

Chitra recalls meeting now-retired long-time HCA General Manager, Ben Vanderbrug, when she served as President of the Ancaster Rotary Club in 1995. “People like Ben have long inspired us to support efforts to protect more land. It’s important that we have an impact, certainly in the Valley where we hike, but also throughout the entire ecosystem. The waterfalls are beautiful and spectacular but we also need grasslands, wetlands and spaces for the birds. All of the land is important.”

Knowing that they’re supporting that broader ecosystem gives Chitra and Robbie a great sense of satisfaction. Robbie explains: “If you buy a car, you’re sitting there in three months wondering whether or not you’ve made a wise decision with your purchase. If you plant a tree or make a gift, you know that, whatever happens, you’ve made the right choice. That’s a very powerful feeling.”

It’s no wonder Chitra and Robbie are always so cheerful. If you see them out on the trails, we hope you’ll smile too!

Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation grant helps move Saltfleet CA wetland project forward

Land in the Saltfleet Conservation Area (CA) along Second Rd. E. in Stoney Creek is expected to be part of the new wetland development.

The much-anticipated Saltfleet Conservation Area (CA) wetland project will continue moving forward thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. The grant will help cover the cost of a number of studies and design plans required to start construction. That work includes an archaeological survey and a detailed wetland design plan which are expected to be completed in 2021. 

The decade-long project is expected to create a number of wetlands and dramatically increase the Upper Stoney and Battlefield Creek’s capacity to mitigate flooding with natural heritage features. These wetlands will form part of the new Saltfleet CA which is also includes passive recreation opportunities and a trail link to the Dofasco 2000 Trail. The larger project has only been made possible with the support of the Heritage Green Community Trust and City of Hamilton who together provided $4 million in funding to acquire the lands necessary to begin this work.

Outdoor Environmental Education Program looks to return in Fall thanks to community donations

Students explore the Dundas Valley CA with Teacher-Naturalist Sandy Root.

With an unusual and certainly unprecedented school year now coming to an end, a lack of classes visiting the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s Outdoor Environmental Education program in the Dundas Valley CA has put serious pressure on the program’s budget. While similar pressures forced the program to close in the late 1990s, it has been able to withstand this latest disruption and continue connecting students with the natural world.

This is only possible thanks to the support of our extraordinary donors such as the Hamilton Industrial Environmental Association (HIEA). HIEA made a grant for $5,000 to support the program despite knowing that students are not currently able to take field trips to the Dundas Valley CA. The program is instead offering a Nature at Home series to keep students learning about the environment during the pandemic.

Thanks to HIEA’s support, and all of the other wonderful supporters who donate to the Foundation’s Step into Nature Fund, Education program staff are now making plans for the Fall when they hope to greet classes back in the Dundas Valley CA.

Shelter-in-place experience brings new appreciation for the natural world

With the Covid-19 pandemic leading to the closure of all HCA Conservation Areas earlier this Spring, many regular trail users found themselves resigned to sheltering in place. Adopting an isolated, sedentary lifestyle has been essential to stopping the illness’s spread but it has come with its own negative health consequences. It’s no secret that increased screen time and limited opportunities for fresh air and exercise can affect your mental and physical health.

HCA’s decision to re-open long-distance trails was met with great enthusiasm by Hamilton’s trail users. Even more enthusiasm greeted the re-opening of select Conservation Areas where physical distancing is possible. Trail users have quickly returned and appear to have a new appreciation for the mental and physical health benefits of time spent in nature. The tremendously positive public health impact of these re-openings should not be underestimated.

What many visitors don’t know is that these beautiful, diverse and tremendously necessary conservation lands are only protected because of the generosity and foresight of supporters like you. That support can be seen across the watershed. We’ve had kind words from supporters hiking the Fifty Point CA trail loop as well as donors returning to their daily hikes in the Dundas Valley CA. Neither experience would have been possible had it not been for the community generosity our Foundation has enjoyed since 1976. For being a part of that incredible community legacy, we cannot thank you enough. Your support is now more important than ever.

Equestrian and Running events vital to resilient Dundas Valley CA Trail system

Members of the Burlington Runners Club present the Foundation with the proceeds of the 2019 Sulphur Springs Trail Race.

While maintaining the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail is a relatively straightforward endeavour, caring for 40km of meandering trails in the Dundas Valley is anything but. The steep escarpment slopes, unique geologic formations, dense Carolinian forest and countless Spencer Creek tributaries that make the Valley such a beautiful place to visit also pose a unique set of challenges. With a marked increase in extreme weather events and increased community use in recent years, the beloved trail system is constantly in need of maintenance. 

Luckily for the our trails, the running and equestrian communities are always eager to help. Each year, the Burlington Runners Club organizes the Sulphur Springs Trail Race. For the last 27 years, proceeds from the volunteer-run race have supported the Dundas Valley Trails Fund.

Each summer, the Dundas Valley Equestrian Association hosts the Equestrian Campout fundraiser. Since the first rides in the early 1990s, equestrians have camped in the main parking lot at the Dundas Valley Conservation Area and taken group rides through the trail system. Participants support the Dundas Valley Trails Fund with registration fees, auctions and pledges from friends and family. 

These fundraisers take an extraordinary amount of time to organize and all of that hard work is contributed by volunteers. The Foundation is so lucky to be able to count on their support year after year!

Remembering the donations that built our trails

Workers remove train tracks in front of the Trail Centre in Dundas Valley Conservation Area to make way for the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail in the 1990s.

For many of our donors, the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail is a vital link between their communities and the natural world. The much-loved multi-use trail connects two urban centres with the beautiful and diverse landscape between them. The trail was re-opened as part of the first phase of relaxed restrictions during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

What most trail users don’t know is that this trail wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for a massive fundraising effort in the 1990s. The Foundation’s Rails to Trails campaign was a true community effort to turn the old rail line into a multi-use trail. The Hamilton Automobile Club (once Canada’s oldest Automobile Club, now a part of CAA) sponsored the first kilometre of the Hamilton to Jerseyville portion of the 32km trail. From there, the Foundation solicited its donors, community partners and got the word out to everyone in the Hamilton watershed. The Foundation even held a Race Night fundraiser in 1994 at the Flamboro Downs racetrack! By the time the trail was completed in the late 1990s, the Foundation had used just about every fundraising method under the sun.

A few years later, corporate partnerships helped the Foundation take a much more straightforward approach to fundraising. Two trails were built to coincide with the turn of the millennium, one in Upper Stoney Creek and the other in Dundas and Flamborough, running through Christie Lake CA. Those have become the Dofasco 2000 Trail and Lafarge 2000 Trail. As their names suggest, the two corporate partners, Dofasco (now ArcelorMittal Dofasco) and Lafarge Canada, stepped up to provide leadership donations for each trail.

Today the Dofasco 2000 Trail connects the Devil’s Punchbowl CA with the Vinemount Swamp and will soon connect to the new Saltfleet Conservation Area.

Today these trails are a part of the fabric of Hamilton’s communities. None of them would exist, however, if it hadn’t been for the wonderful group of donors who made them happen.

Thank you to our wonderful volunteers!

The staff and Board of Directors of the Hamilton Conservation Foundation would like to thank all of the wonderful volunteers who have helped our organization to thrive in recent years. Whether you and your children came out to plant trees, you helped to organize a fundraising event with the Friends of Westfield or you sat on one of our committees, thank you!

We very much appreciate all of the wonderful people who help us do far more than we would otherwise be able to.

Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority donation to restore habitat at Fifty Point CA with native species plantings

Trees at Fifty Point Conservation Area offer vital natural habitat to migratory songbirds along the Lake Ontario shoreline.

A donation from Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority is helping Fifty Point CA to rebuild its tree canopy after dozens of mature trees were lost to the emerald ash-borer. Most of the trees were located within a 2.5 hectare area of land. The Port Authority donation of $5,000 will be used to plant native trees and shrubs on 1.5 hectares and create a pollinator meadow on the remaining hectare.

In addition to hosting a marina, campground and beach, Fifty Point CA is also a vital piece of natural land along an increasingly-developed Lake Ontario shoreline. A number of migratory songbird species, including Species at Risk, have been spotted at Fifty Point.

Tribute Tree program honours loved ones

A display board in the Thomas A. Beckett Living Forest in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area explains the Tribute Tree program.

Last spring, the Foundation was proud to unveil our new Tribute Tree program with the help of our lead donors at the Dodsworth & Brown Funeral Home – Ancaster Chapel. The program helps donors to recognize a friend or loved one with a donation in support native tree and shrub plantings. Those plantings take place where they are needed most on conservation lands across the Hamilton watershed. The donations, however, are recognized in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area on signs in the Thomas A. Beckett Living Forest.

To date, the program has raised over $19,000 for native species plantings, vastly exceeding our initial expectations. While the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic prevents us from hosting volunteer plantings right now, we look forward to putting these funds to work in the months to come.

To everyone who chosen our program to honour a friend or loved one: thank you!

To find out more about our Tribute Tree program, please, click here.

Hamilton Community Foundation grant boosts new volunteer program

A volunteer removes Japanese Knotweed in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area.
A volunteer removes Japanese Knotweed in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area.

With a grant of $12,400 from the Hamilton Community Foundation’s Community Fund for the Environment, our EcoCise program will be able to have a much bigger impact on the Hamilton watershed’s conservation lands. The EcoCise program empowers community volunteers to improve our Conservation lands through a number of different events. Events include nature cleanups, invasive species removals and native species plantings. 

With this generous grant, Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) has been able to purchase everything needed to make a difference on our conservation lands. That means everything from gloves and pruning shears to a set of specialized garden tools called Extractigators which help pull stubborn, deep-rooted invasive plants such as buckthorn, which is found throughout the Hamilton watershed.

While the current Covid-19 situation has put our volunteer events on hold for the time being, we’re still hoping to hold as many events as possible this year. Those events include a garlic mustard pull at the Eramosa Karst Conservation Area, a community clean-up day on the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail and an invasive species pull at the Rifle Range Quarry in the Dundas Valley just to name a few.

If you would like to get involved in EcoCise, your first step is to visit the HCA volunteer page and submit your contact information.

Staying safe and caring for conservation lands

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hamilton Conservation Foundation staff and Board of Directors want to extend our best wishes to you and your family.

Our main office is currently closed to the public. Our staff, however, continue to carry out the work of the Foundation through a mixture of working from home and limited hours at our main office. If you should have any need to contact us, please don’t hesitate to call 905-525-2181 ext 129 or email foundation@conservationhamilton.ca. We will continue to put your donations to work and respond to your inquiries.

Friends of Westfield help raise $30,000

The Friends of Westfield’s volunteer fundraising efforts have netted the group a hefty sum of $30,000 which has been donated to the Foundation’s Westfield Funds.

The Friends of Westfield Heritage Village volunteer group recently presented the Foundation with a cheque for $30,000 to be used for projects at Westfield.

The donations represent the proceeds generated by volunteers running Westfield’s wildly successful Gift Shop and various volunteer fundraising efforts through the year including the group’s popular annual Chinese Dinner and Spring Plant Sale.

Donations to Westfield help to bring Southern Ontario’s rich cultural heritage to life for thousands of visitors every year. Donations support costumes, artifact collections, building restorations and projects that connect Westfield to the larger Conservation Area being planned for the natural areas behind the Village.

To add your support to the Foundation’s Westfield Fund, please visit our donation page.

Tribute Trees program honours loved ones with plantings across the Hamilton watershed.

A donation of $125 to the Foundation’s Tribute Trees is directed to our Planting Fund and is used to plant native trees and shrubs where they’re needed most on conservation lands in the Hamilton Watershed.

In addition, the name of the individual or organization being honoured is recognized on signage in the Beckett Forest in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area for a period of at least one year. An acknowledgement of the tribute is also be sent directly to the person or organization being recognized or to the family of the person being remembered.

To dedicate a tree, please visit hamiltonconservationfoundation.ca/tree

Wetland project shows growing importance of natural lands to climate emergency

This past March, the City of Hamilton declared a climate emergency, noting the escalating threats posed by increasingly extreme storm events. Our
Foundation is proud to put your donations to work at the Saltfleet Conservation Area, a showcase wetland project that is leading the fight to protect our communities with the help of Mother Nature.

The Saltfleet wetland project is part of a decade-long vision to build wetlands and natural stream channels to build the resilience of the Stoney and Battlefield Creeks. Construction on the first wetland is expected to begin once design plans are finished next year.

The Foundation is proud to have put over $150,000 from the RBC Foundation and our Land Securement Fund into the Saltfleet Conservation Area project’s design studies and cleanup costs. This is on top of the $4 million already contributed for land acquisition by the Heritage Green Community Trust and City of Hamilton.