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 offices are currently closed. Our staff, however, continue to carry out the work of the Foundation from home. 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.

We will monitor the situation and adjust the dates of our upcoming events as necessary.

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.

Canal Park viewing platform completes conservation vision for former greenhouse property in Dundas

With grants from the Hamilton Future Fund and John Deere Foundation of Canada, a viewing platform now connects visitors to the edge of the Desjardins Canal.

On a chilly Saturday in September, Foundation donors and community volunteers gathered to celebrate the completion of a new viewing platform at Canal Park. The crowd was treated to an afternoon of classical guitar with local musician Gary Santucci.

The event, paid for by an anonymous donor, capped off the final stage in the long-term vision for the former Veldhuis Greenhouses proprety. The property is situated in an ideal location between urban downtown Dundas, the Royal Botanical Gardens natural lands and the larger Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System.

Volunteers Brian Baetz, Joanna Chapman and Ben Vanderbrug had a vision to turn what had become a derelict brownfield site into a large-scale naturalization project. They connected Hamilton Conservation Authority with the vision for this property and encouraged the fundraising campaign which brought it to fruition.

The property connects urban Dundas and Hamilton with the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System and its 3,900 hectares of natural lands.

While it may look like a haphazard collection of weeds, shrubs and trees, the site is actually the result of a landscape plan that sought to provide miniature examples of the grassland, wetland and oak savannah ecosystems which are found throughout the diverse lands that make up the EcoPark System.

Barn Swallow habitat project off to a flying start

Following the success of a spur-of-the-moment springtime fundraising effort, the habitat structure in the Meadowlands Conservation Area hosted its first nests just a few months after it was built. The structure will provide vital habitat for the barn swallow, a provincially-listed Species at Risk.

Readers may remember an earlier for call for donations to provide a much-needed habitat structure in the Meadowlands Conservation Area. Barn swallows, a provincially-listed Species at Risk, had begun nesting in nooks and crannies around the exterior of the houses that surround the Conservation Area. As a result, the Foundation put out a call in these pages for donations to help build a habitat structure.

Thanks to the community’s generosity and a grant from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, we were able to get the structure built in the Conservation Area before nesting season began. The structure, built with help from Bird Studies Canada, mimics the conditions the swallows used to enjoy in the barns and outbuildings which occupied the land before it was developed into housing. A variety of cups, ledges and corners populate
the structure’s interior.

The summer was spent with Hamilton Conservation Authority staff nervously checking for signs of the elusive birds. One afternoon at the beginning of the Fall, our efforts were rewarded when two of the barn swallow’s distinctive mud nests were found tucked into the sturcture’s corners.

The Meadowlands Conservation Area, with its diversity of native shrubs and grasses, is an ideal hunting ground for the barn swallow. The swallows feed on a variety of insects and enjoy hunting in the large open spaces the Conservation Area offers.

Join us for an evening with Adam Shoalts: Modern Day Explorer

Adam Shoalts will be sharing stories and footage from the adventures which inspired his latest book, Beyond the Trees.

The Foundation is thrilled to announce that we’ll be hosting Adam Shoalts at The Westdale for an exclusive speaking and film presentation on November 13th at 7:30pm. Tickets are $25 (includes HST) and are available now at thewestdale.ca. All proceeds will go to support the Foundation’s Area of Greatest Need Fund which supports the most urgent environmental needs on conservation lands in the Hamilton watershed.

Join the Hamilton Conservation Foundation for this exclusive speaking and film presentation where Adam will share the thrilling ups and downs of his solo adventures paddling raging rivers and relying on his skills as a white-water canoeist to survive.

A writer, explorer, public speaker, and Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Adam has mapped unknown rivers, lead expeditions, explored archaeological digs, and photographed countless examples of elusive and rare wildlife. Beyond the Trees, the highly anticipated, incredible story of Adam’s nearly 4,000 km solo journey across Canada’s Arctic, is now in bookstores.

Click here to buy your tickets today!

Friends of the Eramosa Karst ensure Conservation Area thrives as surrounding neighbourhoods grow

(l to r) FOTEK representatives Doug Dunford, Brad Gautreau and Margaret Reid present a cheque to Grace Correia, Foundation Executive Director, Cllr. Lloyd Ferguson, HCA Chair and Lisa Burnside HCA CAO.

The Friends of the Eramosa Karst (FOTEK) have donated $60,000 to the Foundation thanks to a grant from the Heritage Green Community Trust. The funding helps us complete the next step in efforts to plant a buffer of vegetation between the Conservation Area’s lush meadows and the surrounding residential developments. With continued growth around the Conservation Area, these plantings are more vital than ever.

The trees and shrubs funded through this donation will be planted, in part during a volunteer day on Saturday, September 21st. Normally this email would include a call for volunteers but, due to FOTEK’s overwhelming success in bringing community together, the event is already full!

This donation brings FOTEK up to the $100,000 Trustee of Conservation level on the Foundation’s Donor Wall and will be honoured at the Foundation’s 2020 Appreciation Evening next May.

Hamilton Future Fund grant connects Canal Park with waterfront

The viewing platform and shade structure completes the Canal Park vision and brings the Foundation’s EcoPark Campaign efforts to a successful close.

A grant from the Hamilton Future Fund means that a new shade structure and canal viewing platform are now complete at Canal Park. The structure offers visitors to the urban nature sanctuary a chance to get right up to the water.

The structure will be formally unveiled at an event on Sunday, September 29 from 2-4pm which will feature a classical guitar performance by Gary Santucci. Readers are welcome to attend and are encouraged to RSVP to foundation@conservationhamilton.ca or 905-525-2181 ext. 129.

The site of the former Ben Veldhuis Greenhouses has been a part of a decade-long brownfield restoration effort funded through donations to the Foundation’s EcoPark Campaign. The Campaign sought to turn the site into an urban nature sanctuary and acquire natural lands between Cootes Paradise and the Niagara Escarpment as part of the multi-partner Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System. With this grant, the Foundation was able to bring the last piece of the Campaign vision to its successful completion.

Back to School and Back to Nature

Outdoor Environmental Education teacher-naturalist James O’Neill shows families around the Dundas Valley Conservation Area on a guided hike at the end of August.

Now that we are well into September, we are waking up to chillier mornings and little pockets of leaves are starting to hint that Fall is just around the corner. This is an exciting time of year out in our Conservation Areas. Schools are back in session and classes are once again exploring the Dundas Valley Conservation Area as part of our Outdoor Environmental Education program.

Our Outdoor Environmental Education program provides classes with curriculum-focused field trips to the Dundas Valley CA. These sessions bring classroom lessons to life in the great outdoors. Every year, over 5,000 students are able to benefit from this experience.

Those students get to enjoy the Valley because of donations from generous people like you. Donations fund our Outdoor Environmental Education program and ensure that, despite increasing budget pressures on schools and Conservation Authorities, Hamilton’s students will still get their day in the Valley.

To all of you who continue to support this program with donations to our Outdoor Environmental Education Fund: thank you!

Design Plan to keep Saltfleet Conservation Area moving toward large-scale wetland vision

A relatively nondescript patch of former agricultural land, prone to regular flooding events from Battlefield Creek, is set to be home to part of a manmade wetland complex.

With a generous grant of $100,000 from the RBC Foundation, previously announced in our electronic newsletter, Hamilton Conservation Authority has hired a consultant to design what is expected to be the region’s largest manmade wetland.

The wetland is planned for a property along Battlefield Creek near First Road in Stoney Creek acquired by the Hamilton Conservation Authority with a $2 million land acquisition grant from the Heritage Green Community Trust. The wetland is expected to be formed by a raised berm along First Road. The berm will hold back hold back water while a variety of natural features will be installed to slow the pace and cool the temperature of Battlefield Creek allowing it to assume its original, meandering shape and spill over into a variety of pools. This approach is expected to provide vital flood prevention downstream and add a massive boost to local biodiversity.

The long-term vision for the Conservation Area is expected to also include a connection to the nearby Devil’s Punchbowl along the Dofasco 2000 Trail.

With this donation, the RBC Foundation has reached a milestone in their support for the Hamilton Conservation Foundation. The donation saw the RBC Foundation recognized at the $250,000-499,999 – Benefactor of Conservation level on the Foundation’s donor wall and at our recent Appreciation Day at the Dundas Valley Golf & Curling Club.