By Richard Leitner, News Staff
Plans for a Dundas EcoPark between Cootes Paradise and the Niagara Escarpment are getting a major shot in the arm from two large cash donations.
Local Conservative MPP David Sweet announced on Jan. 23 that Ottawa will contribute $502,274 in infrastructure funding to the 1,346-hectare park, money that will pay for the remediation of the former Veldhuis Greenhouses property on the Desjardins Canal.
The following day, the Hamilton Conservation Authority learned the Ontario Heritage Trust will contribute $208,000 toward the $800,000 purchase of 52-hectares of abandoned farmland in the Pleasant View.
Chris Firth-Eagland, the authority’s chief administrative officer, said he hopes work on capping contaminated soils at the Veldhuis property can begin this summer to allow it to be seeded by the fall and become a “green carpet” before next winter.
The goal is to eventually create a gateway park, a $2.4 million project that will feature walking paths, a tented boardwalk and viewing area, floating islands, a restored wetland area and gravel nesting areas for turtles by the canal’s banks.
A remnant chimney is expected to be a major attraction since it has become a nesting area for endangered chimney swifts – small, cigar-shaped birds with long, slender wings, known for sudden, sharp turns as they feed on insects.
“It’s an excellent investment because the remediation will be there forever,” Firth-Eagland said.
“This $500,000 grant makes sense out of the investments we’ve made over the past few years as a community in buying the property, paying for the demolitions and paying for the risk-assessment process.”
Firth-Eagland said the Pleasant View donation meanwhile brings the authority nearly halfway to a goal of raising $800,000 to close a purchase agreement by mid-March.
He said the authority and a city heritage fund have also committed money to buy the property, located beside Royal Botanical Gardens land on York Road and the source of heated development battles over the past two decades.
“We want to be aggressive in our approach to closing the deal, but we do need citizen help on this,” Firth-Eagland said. “We have half of the money in hand and a tight deadline.”