A Natural Oasis in the Heart of Hamilton.

Photo from cootesescarpment.ca

Photo from cootesescarpment.ca

This is the first installment in a series of articles featuring the Dundas EcoPark Campaign. My intention is to explain what the project is, who is involved, and why the project is important for the surrounding areas.  

The goal of the Dundas EcoPark Campaign is to establish a 2, 000 hectare conservation area surrounding Cootes Paradise. Remaining privately owned land must be secured and converted it into a protected area. The EcoPark System provides the only continuous habitat connection from Lake Ontario to the Niagara Escarpment not broken by a series 400 highway. This piece of green-space is one of the largest coordinated urban park systems in Canada and deserves more public awareness.

Take a look at the map below. The Dundas EcoPark, which is shown in green, is already 75% publically owned. Upon completion, the EcoPark will encompass an enormous region of protected green space between the Niagara Escarpment and the Hamilton Harbour. By securing the remaining privately owned land, the project will ensure this diverse and valuable ecosystem can be sustained. The EcoPark area contains more than 1, 500 plant and animal species, including nearly 40% of all plant species in Canada. The EcoPark is also home to more than 50 species that are considered at risk, including several species of turtles and birds. You can view a detailed list of species at risk within the area here. The Dundas EcoPark will ultimately increase the ecological value of the area and provide a larger space for species to thrive.

By 2031, the region’s population is estimated to reach 1.4 million - an increase of 37%. You can imagine the implications of urban sprawl and population booms on unprotected green space. In response, the EcoPark will provide a sustainable and accessible place for the community to enjoy the beauty of a natural ecosystem. With such close proximity to densely populated cities, this area of protected land ensures that city-dwellers can continue to experience nature in their own neighbourhood.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), immersing oneself in nature can have significant impacts on mental and physical states. An APA study suggests, living and working in an urban environment can produce stress, agitation, and focus issues. One of the main research questions of the study considered the impact that nature could have on the human condition. Researchers exposed urban-working participants to a small amount of green space and monitored the effects. Participants felt that exposure to nature provided a sense of mental clarity and relaxation in comparison to the bustling urban environment- a valuable consideration when thinking about the EcoPark campaign. The EcoPark can provide invaluable green space and potentially contribute to a healthier, more clear-headed, community. This area can serve to break up the rigidity of urban life and allow city-dwellers to connect with nature.

This quick introduction to the Dundas EcoPark Campaign is meant to outline details about the project and highlight the value of the area. In further articles I will expand upon the importance of this green space for eco-tourism, local identity, community enjoyment, and environmental education. The EcoPark project would not be possible without the many stakeholders working diligently to complete this project. Take a look at the list of those involved and learn more about how they are contributing.

List of involved parties:

The Hamilton Conservation Authority, Royal Botanical Gardens, Conservation Halton, City of Hamilton, City of Burlington, Region of Halton, Bruce Trail Conservancy, Hamlilton Naturalist’s Club,McMaster University, and Hamilton Harbour RAP.

Sources:

http://www.apa.org/monitor/apr01/greengood.aspx

Image from: http://www.cootestoescarpment.ca/img/cache/40824460189760037099-0331843001372251631.jpg

http://www.cootestoescarpmentpark.ca/table-2

Map image from: http://www.hamiltonconservationfoundation.ca/dundas-eco-park-project-details

http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/1872/