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Dundas square’s redesign keeps eyes on the birds

Artistic approach at gateway park hopes to thwart after-hours ‘trouble’

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

Dundas’s two Rotary clubs are hoping to keep after-hours troublemakers at bay by bringing a bit of artistic flair to plans for the gateway park at the former Veldhuis Greenhouses property – along with $125,000 in cash and volunteer labour.

A public square by one of the site’s star attractions – a remnant chimney used for nesting by threatened chimney swifts – will now feature “stylized arches,” rather than a greenhouse-style pavilion originally proposed by the Hamilton Conservation Authority.

Dave Carson, a member of the Dundas Valley Sunrise Rotary Club, said the new design is intended to be “a metaphor for a greenhouse” and give visitors a clearer view of the rare birds.

It also hopes to avoid other pitfalls of a more enclosed structure, like problems with snow loading on its roof, illicit activities and vandalism, he said.

“Places for people to sit and drink and smoke were not really what we wanted to do there, so it’s a more open structure,” Carson said.

“The second thing is, if you’re actually trying to observe the birds, then you don’t want a roof that is obstructing your view of what’s going on.”

Ken Hall, past president of the Dundas Rotary Club, said the galvanized steel arches are similar in style to sail-like shade structures planned along the edge of the Desjardins Canal, creating a stylistic link between the two areas.

They also allow more space to display interpretive panels on chimney swifts and the history of the site, he said.

“We wanted to keep it open,” Hall said. “This is a natural park and what it will draw after the dark hours could be all sorts of things. If it’s too enclosed, I think we’re in for trouble.”

The two Dundas clubs have committed $125,000 in cash and work-in-kind for the chimney square component of the park, which also includes benches, walkways and landscape plantings.

Sandy Bell, the authority’s manager of design and development, said staff supports the stylized arches because the park will already feature a large pavilion by the water, a short walk away.

He said the square is intended to be a quieter spot for people to sit and watch the chimney swifts.

“It’s sort of an artistic approach to an old greenhouse structure,” he said.

The authority acquired the site in 2008 and initial phases of the $1.8-million park removed 14 greenhouses and adjoining buildings, and placed a one-metre soil cap on top of the property, which is contaminated with heavy metal, to allow for its public use.

Bell said other completed work includes cement foundations for the chimney square and pavilion, some shoreline restoration and installation of floating islands in the canal, the latter made possible by an ArcelorMittal Dofasco grant.

He said a final layer of topsoil is being graded and will be seeded shortly to take advantage of the summer growing season.

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