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Public boots plan to scrap popular Crooks’ Hollow footpath

Conservation authority to cut some trees to address safety concerns

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

Public opposition has convinced the Hamilton Conservation Authority to step back from a proposal to let nature reclaim a popular foot trail at Crooks’ Hollow Conservation Area.

Members of the authority’s conservation advisory committee unanimously endorsed revising a new master plan for the Greensville park to keep the path, which runs parallel to Crooks’ Hollow Road.

Sandy Bell, manager of design and development, said the trail’s fate was the only major “point of discussion” at an open house on the master plan, the finishing touch on a $1.4-million restoration project that removed the area’s dam and reservoir.

“Other than that, people were pretty satisfied with the plan,” he said. “There are still a few people out there who don’t agree with the fact that the dam came out, that whole project, but that’s all gone by and we have the situation there now.”

Bell said the first phase of the $196,000 master plan will now include maintenance of the narrow footway and either replacing a bridge along its route that was removed last fall or extending the culvert it crossed to level that section.

He said the master plan initially proposed to naturalize the path because its narrowness makes it harder to maintain and is a safety concern for women who don’t like that they can’t see if someone is approaching them.

But “pretty well everyone” at the open house favoured keeping it, including because it remains dry during the spring, when lower sections of the conservation area are wetter, he said.

“It was a part of their walks. They liked to have that option when they were taking their walks, that they’d go out in one direction and comeback in the other,” Bell said.

“Our intent is to keep it narrow as it is, but open it up and just make it a little safer. There are some trees that need to be cut in there. There are hazard trees. Those are the things that, once we get at it, are easy to sort out.”

Bell said open house attendees also liked plans to stabilize six historical ruins and sites in the Crooks’ Hollow neighbourhood, a former industrial hub that once boasted a gin distillery, saw mill, cooperage, linseed oil company, paper mill and flour mill.

“Our idea is to clean up the cultural heritage places so that people will treat them with more respect,” he said, noting some may be fenced to keep vandals out.

“Because no work’s been done around them for a number of years, there’s the build up of things like graffiti.”

Bell said the authority has earmarked $20,000 in 2014 for the master plan, which will likely take a decade to see fruition given other competing budgetary demands.

Besides restoring the footpath, this year’s work will include improving the access road to the parking area, closure of a small, grassy secondary parking lot and way-finding signage to guide visitors unfamiliar with the area.

“As more people are using it from outside the community, we seem to get a lot of people who are lost out there, so we need to improve the signage,” Bell said.

Planned future works include interpretive signage with QR codes to allow visitors to learn more about the area’s history via smart phone and a new stairway to the remnants of the Cockburn dam and mill.

The authority will also consider how to best preserve the ruins of the Darnley Grist Mill, built in 1813 and the later home of the Greensville Paper Co. Destroyed by fire in 1943, it is defaced with graffiti in several areas despite being fenced off from the public.

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