Already good for bird watching, site called key step for new park
Other than some signage, the Hamilton Conservation Authority says it has no immediate plans for a key parcel of farmland in the Pleasant View area that will become part of the new Cootes to Escarpment Park System.
Chief administrative officer Chris Firth-Eagland said the 21.4-hectare property, which sits between York Road and the railway line to the south, will remain “very passive, very natural” for now, but still be a good spot for bird watchers.
The authority agreed earlier this month to provide a $400,000 loan to its charity, the Hamilton Conservation Foundation, to close a deal to buy the $800,000 property by March 15.
“It was too big of a risk to not have the first on-the-ground step (for the park) be completed,” Firth-Eagland said of a site that had been at the heart of development battles over the past two decades.
“We could lose the property forever if we didn’t take this bridge-financing step.”
The city is providing $250,000 toward the purchase, while the Ontario Heritage Trust is donating $200,000 as well as an additional $8,000 for the site’s stewardship.
Firth-Eagland said the authority won’t yet promote the grassy expanse because it is hemmed in by York Road, adjacent private properties and the fenced rail line that prevents access to Royal Botanical Gardens lands to the south.
But signs will go up shortly to try to prevent people from trespassing on neighbours’ land and let the public know the site is part of the park project, he said.
“It’s not really a destination, but when it’s all put together it will be,” Firth-Eagland said, noting visitors can park at the Borer’s Falls Conservation Area lot by Hopkins Corners because the property has no parking area.
“It has nice birding opportunities to go and watch birds of prey. You would see deer and rodents and things like that, rabbits and whatever, and of course bobolinks and meadowlarks.”
Conservation foundation executive director Joan Bell said her charity has already committed $100,000 toward the property’s purchase and now faces a year-end deadline to raise the balance, including to pay off the authority loan.
The acquisition is part of a $5-million plan to create a 1,346-hectare park system – about three-quarters of which is already publicly owned – that will include the restoration of the former Veldhuis Greenhouses site on the Desjardins Canal.
About $2 million will go toward that project, with an equal amount earmarked for land acquisition in the Pleasant View area and $1 million for marsh restoration and trail linkages.
Bell said her foundation must match a $502,000 federal contribution to the Veldhuis restoration by the end of this year and hopes to have most of the $5 million in hand by the end of 2014.
Fundraising began with a “soft launch’ at last August’s Cactus Festival and initially focused on securing the larger grants, she said.
Other contributors who have since stepped forward include McMaster University students through a Mac Green for Grasslands initiative that has set a $25,000 goal.
“You do have to kind of work with 18 months to 24 months to keep your campaign fresh,” Bell said. “The whole campaign shouldn’t be more than three years because people get tired of hearing about you.”