Thursday, August 28, 2014

Nature Gem in My Back Yard ~ Part 1

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play and pray in, where nature may heal
and gives strength to body and soul. 
(John Muir...American naturalist)

COME VISIT ME...I'll show you spectacular views from the Niagara Escarpment.  Within these views, Mother Nature has created...bird habitats...richness of fish....surreal landscape of lake, bay, streams and wetlands...miles of hiking trails...rarity of specific trees...wild plant life unique to this geographical area...and “one of a kind” night-time-views from the escarpment heights to the fairyland of cities' and towns'  sparkling lights within the lake-level valley. “Windows to the Lake”are parkettes offering rippling Lake Ontario waters and those of Burlington Bay lapping against the shore.  In stormy weather, observe waves bashing  violently against sea walls with mighty high spray.

We'll observe the trumpeter swans being hand-fed beside the Burlington Bay waters...seagulls, falcons and hawks as they soar on wing in the blue sky...swooping blue herons as they rise from the marsh;  we'll cross the Skyway Bridge that welcomes freighters  from abroad to Hamilton Harbour...we'll view the sandy beaches along Lake Ontario's shore...sailing regattas on bay and lake...and in winter, view ice boats sailing on the Bay that spans the distance between Burlington and Hamilton. A must-to-view is the Royal Botanical Gardens headquarters building in Burlington.

I fully understood the significance of “my backyard” when Real Estate clients comment:  “We chose this top floor condo apartment with view to the escarpment (reminding us of our home location in Germany); the change of colours throughout the seasons is phenomenal!”  Another couple from Buenos  Aires in Argentina stated, “We love Burlington with its leafy-tree canopy over the residential areas; we love the waters and rock, the rolling hills and valleys…especially the wildlife that abound here.  This is now our home!”

Like music and art, love of nature is a common language
that can transcend political or social boundaries.
(Jimmy Carter)

 “Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System”:
A Green Gem for Our Region

Excerpts, I've selected from this article published by the Royal Botanical Gardens
in a pull-out section of the Hamilton Spectator's February 28th issue, 2014.

What makes a city a great place to live, work and raise a family?  The recipe varies from place to place, but the key ingredients are consistent: amongst the homes and places of work, the schools and transportation links...great cities incorporate, celebrate and rely on green space.  Think of Central Park in New York, Hyde Park in London, High Park in Toronto, the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, Phoenix Park in Dublin or Lincoln Park in Chicago. These parks provide more than a landscaped corner for occasional recreation.  They give character to cities; they are indispensable as “green infrastructure” helping to manage and mitigate storm water, pollution, noise and other urban life consequences.

Hamilton and Burlington now have the next big thing in urban green infrastructure ~ the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System.  Following six years of background research and public consultation, this new idea became reality in 2013.  That's when 9 local government and non-profit agencies in the two city areas signed the declaration proclaiming its existence.  The Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System includes at present, 4,700 acres of parks, nature sanctuaries and supporting facilities owned by partners.

“Our vision is that it will be known internationally as a protected, permanent and connected natural lands sanctuary from the Harbour to the Escarpment that promotes ecosystem and human health within Ontario's Greenbelt.”  Cootes Paradise itself, the centerpiece of the EcoPark System, has long been recognized as both critical bird habitat and a place of remarkable  richness for fish.  John MacTaggart, a British Government Engineer in 1826 wrote, “I've never seen such a variety of wild fowl as come to this place.  It is strongly recommended to ornithologists and sportsmen as a place above all others yet known in Canada,  most deserving of attention.”

The protection of Cootes Paradise and its surrounding landscape, so necessary to support the wetland, began in the 1880's when it became a fish sanctuary.  In the 1920's, this designation was expanded to include wildlife refuge. In 1927 the City of Hamilton Parks Board purchased most of the wetland.  This led directly to the development of the Royal Botanical a unique, intentional combination of protected natural landscape and beautiful public gardens.  The partners realized that they can do a better job, in collaboration, than each do it alone.

In many ways, it's a cultural and natural heritage crossroads  for Ontario.  Archaeologists at McMaster University and University of Toronto have found there were people hunting and fishing along the shores of Cootes Paradise more than 9,000 years ago.  As important as this area is for nature, it's also been a human habitat for a very long time ~ and we have shaped the landscape in profound ways. 

Amazingly, with so much human history, the area is also a natural wonder!  As many as half the fish living in the western end of Lake Ontario are spawned in Cootes Paradise...and the area has been recognized as the richest place in all Canada for the diversity of wild plant life.  It's a critical stop for tens of thousands  of migratory birds every year and many more make their homes there year-round.  Hundreds of thousands of people use the trails and other outdoor recreational opportunities afforded by the partners in the EcoPark System every year.

This area not only deserves recognition and further protection, but it should be celebrated as an amazing, integral part of the future of our vibrant landscape. For more information, visit our website at

The Royal Botanical Gardens

It is one of the main tourist attractions between Niagara Falls and Toronto. The 900 hectares (2,422 acres) of nature sanctuary owned by the RGB is considered the “plant diversity hotspot” for Canada with a very high proportion of the wild plants of Canada in one area. It's an “Important Bird Area” according to Bird Studies, Canada.  It is part of the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve.

The main building on Plains Road West in Burlington is a magnificent Presentation Center featuring colourful seasonal displays, a unique gift shop, lunch delicious in the Garden Cafe, wedding venues, auditorium meeting rooms. Ride the elevator to the lower level introducing  you to  a limestone built waterfall, gardened walkways to the Tea House. (This artistically  developed area was formerly  a stone quarry with winding picturesque stream).  Yearly, families visit the Rose, Iris and Lilac Gardens.

Of interest also is the Arboretum and Nature Interpretive Center located near Cootes Paradise. About 18,000 school children per year visit these buildings and grounds for organized education programs and 200 public education offerings. Craft programs, for those with artistic interests, are also available..

It is the marriage of the soul with nature
that makes the intellect fruitful and give birth to imagination.
(Henry Thoreau ~ American writer 1817-1862)

In my research, I discovered this writing which enriched me
penned by Kahil Gibran (mystic, poet and artist 1883-1930)

When the birds sing, do they call to the flowers in the fields...or are they speaking to the trees...or are they echoing the murmur of the brooks? 
For man with his understanding cannot know what the rain is saying when it falls upon the leaves of the trees or when it taps at the window panes.  He cannot know what the breeze is saying to the flowers and the fields.

But the Heart of Man can feel...and grasp the meaning of these sounds that play upon his feelings .  Eternal Wisdom often speaks to him in a mysterious language.  Soul and Nature converse together, while Man stands speechless and bewildered.
 Yet, has not Man wept at the sounds?  And are not his tears eloquent understanding?

Composed by Merle Baird-Kerr...March 9, 2014
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