By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News
McMaster University says it will eliminate 380 parking spots in a lot west of Cootes Drive to create a natural buffer between the concrete and Ancaster Creek.
The move would meet the minimum buffer required by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, but falls short of a a separate request to eliminate more parking and rehabilitate the entire floodplain.
Gord Arbeau, the university’s director of public relations, said the plan is to create a continuous 30-metre landscaped strip between the entire creek and the parking lot – as recommended in the university’s campus master plan. He said work will begin in the spring.
“The vision includes some naturalized swales,” Arbeau said, explaining runoff from the parking lot would flow into those swales.
He said the next step is to tender the project and find a partner to work with.
McMaster University and the Hamilton Conservation Authority have been discussing the 30-metre buffer for several months. The parking lot apparently predates the minimum natural zone along the creek, so the authority could not enforce the requirement on the University.
Randy Kay of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group at McMaster, has been pushing for the minimum buffer under the Restore Cootes campaign.
Kay began the campaign after learning of the minimum 30-metre buffer in the university’s 2012 Campus Master Plan.
“While scaling back parking means 318 less parking spaces….a surplus of available parking at peak demand of over 1,000 spaces means no drivers will lose the ability to park on campus,” Kay said in a press release Monday.
The campaign caught some attention, and grew to the point of a group of McMaster professors calling on the university to go beyond 30-metre buffer by eliminating at least double the parking spaces and reclaiming the natural wetland that existed before Parking Lot M was built.
“That’s a challenge for the university to do,” Arbeau said, suggesting there is still a demand for parking in that area of the campus.
Kay said the 30-metre buffer is small, but significant, step toward the goal of full rehabilitation of the floodplain previously known as Coldspring Valley Nature Sanctuary.
Professors on the McMaster Marsh group suggest naturalizing the parking lot to its previous condition would create a one-of-a-kind outdoor research lab, in addition to improving the natural area surrounding McMaster University’s campus.