It warms my heart when I see people interested and actively playing a role in local environmental issues. As is often said, "If it's to be, it's up to me." As a result of this belief, the work of local grassroots organizations often play a pivotal role in driving change and creating awareness. Fortunately for us, we have quite a number of these types of dedicated organizations within our community.
Last night I attended Paradise in Our Backyard, an evening of speakers at St James Anglican Church in Dundas. This event was hosted by the Eco-Churches of West Hamilton which is made up of participating members of 6 area churches, 5 located in Dundas and 1 in West Hamilton. I learned that this group had been formed in 2009 and in that time had been committed to learning and sharing ecological activities and environmental sustainability practices with their respective communities.
With extra chairs needed, last nights talk was greeted by a full house of interested and engaged members of the community eager to listen and learn. Here is just a quick overview:
The first speaker, Alan Hansell of Stewards of Cootes Watershed told a fascinating tale of his groups accomplishments and commitment to get the entire Cootes Watershed area clean and then keep it clean. Some of his stats were hard to fathom, particularly that since 2012, his team of dedicated volunteers have removed 194,827 lbs. of debris from the streams and wetlands that feed this incredibly important area. The Cootes Paradise watershed supports the ecosystems of at least 9 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces as a part of their bird migratory pathways. The efforts that have been taking place here are making a significant difference and the results are measurable based on the growing populations of various species of birds, fish and animals. Please visit at www.stewardsofcootes.ca for more information and volunteer opportunities.
Second up was Paul Haskins from the group Burlington Green. He told his personal story of experiencing his home and property being devastated by a flash flood, handling the aftermath as well as providing tips for managing insurance and mitigating risk. This was a topic that created a lot of interest among the homeowners in the audience as this is a fear that many of us have. Some great information was provided. For more information, please visit them at www.burlingtongreen.org
The final speaker was Leanne Collett who is a Watershed Stewardship Technician with the Hamilton Conservation Authority. Her talk on managing rainwater focused on strategies that both businesses and homeowners can employ to better manage rainwater on their properties. The concept of rain gardens was a fascinating one and I 'm sure something we will hear more of going forward. Many of the strategies shared, from diverting downspouts to utilizing rain barrels are relatively simple to put into practice and these as well as additional ideas can be found by visiting www.hamiltonstewardship.ca
An interesting thought and something we don't often pause to consider is this: All storm sewers are pipes that lead directly into streams and ultimately into the watershed. It is important that we remain vigilant and that each of us act as stewards of our environment.
Lots of questions and dialogue followed the presentations and it was great to witness the high level of interest and engagement.
All of these groups are worthy of our support and our thanks for making the world in which we live, a better place to be. I look forward to learning more about these groups and their activities and sharing them with you.
If you happened to be entering or leaving Dundas via Cootes Drive this weekend, and if you weren't so consumed with Christmas related activities so as not to notice, then you may have seen Frank and Gisela.
I first noticed them on Saturday, clad in their orange safety vests, a pick-up tool in one hand and a garbage bag in the other. Frank was crossing the grassy median which separates the eastbound from the westbound lanes and Gisela was picking up trash in the culvert that dips down beyond the north shoulder. Of course I didn't know their names yet, but I was immediately impressed by their activity.
Seeing them again today, I felt compelled to stop and speak with them and so found a spot to park and went over to introduce myself. Mainly I just wanted to thank them and let them know that I really appreciated what they were doing.
What a lovely couple. It was a pleasure to meet them and we had a very nice conversation. They let me know that they were volunteers with Stewards of Cootes Watershed and their mission this weekend was to clean up garbage in the wetlands that border this section of road. This is being done in an effort to prevent it from being washed into the waters of the Desjardins Canal and eventually into Cootes Paradise.
Just this weekend alone, Frank and Gisela had cleaned up over 80 pounds of garbage from paper and plastic to discarded diapers and condoms. Gisela let me know that she found it somewhat disheartening that people will still discard their garbage in this way and on this point I'm sure we can all agree.
Stewards of Cootes Watershed is an organization that I know well and one that I will be writing more about in the future. Please visit their website at http://www.stewardsofcootes.ca/ and consider volunteering or supporting them.
This group is certainly making a difference in Dundas and in the Cootes area waterways and they deserve our thanks. If you get a chance, please say thanks to Frank and Gisela as well, a wonderful couple volunteering their time to make Dundas a better place.
Walking out the front door this morning at 6:30 a.m was surreal. It was 15 degrees. In December. On the day before Christmas. In all my life I don't recall December weather like this. Not that I'm complaining but wow, it's positively balmy!
I wrapped up my Christmas shopping mid morning and then hit the trail. Due to its close proximity, the Spring Creek Trail called out to me and before long I was enveloped in the trees, a light breeze blowing and the sun shining. Remarkable. The trails are in amazing shape for this time of year, a little spongy in sections but for the most part, dry and firm. I came across a couple on horse back and just one other person walking with their dog. I expected it to be busier but I suspect many were still fighting off the hordes in the malls.
In any event, a beautiful day and certainly one to be grateful for.
I reflected on the year that was. Some challenges for sure but lots of memorable moments as well, fortunately more of those than the latter and I had to admit to myself that I'm a pretty lucky guy. There is a lot of strife in the world and I don't think that there has been a time when I've felt more grateful to live in Canada and in this safe and stable community.
I thank you, the reader of this blog, for being a big part of this year as well and I'm thrilled that I was able to meet many of you on the trails and at events this year. There are lots of new things in the works for 2016 and I'm pretty excited about the future.
With that, we wrap up another year. In the words of Edward Abbey, "May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds."
Merry Christmas to you and best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016.
December 12, 2015 arrived like a late fall day, not at all
like one would expect just two weeks shy of Christmas. Wearing just a light
hoodie, I found myself working up a slight sweat within minutes of navigating
the hilly terrain of the Sawmill Trail. The soft ground yielded under the tread
of my hiking boots and I noticed that the grass was still holding onto its
green colour, determined to not fade into its winter sleep. I can’t recall a
December ever being this mild, at least not in the years that I have been
exploring the valley. It’s difficult to complain about it although it does seem
a little unsettling for it to still be this warm.
Rounding a bend, I stopped abruptly as Stella found herself
nose to nose with a young raccoon. Eyeball to eyeball, they stared at each
other as I initiated a quick retreat to introduce some space between us. As a
rule, I keep Stella on a flexi leash while on the trails, simply due to the
frequent encounters with other hikers, mountain bikers and deer, and today I
was glad that I had stayed true to that practice.
We are under a rabies alert
here at the moment and based on the fact that this raccoon was fearless and not
about to move out of our way, I knew that something was clearly not right. We
stared at each other and I took this photo before moving on, momentarily leaving
the trail to give the raccoon a wide berth as it simply watched our travels. If
you are prone to allowing your canine companions off leash while in the valley,
I would strongly suggest to you not to do that, particularly during this
season. I know that if Stella had been off leash, this encounter would have had
a much different and a potentially tragic outcome.
We eventually found our way to the Sawmill Pond, a beautiful
oasis in the valley. The Sawmill Pond is a part of the Stacey Meadow, named
after former Conservation Authority chairman Alan G. Stacey.
It is a tranquil
and quiet spot, ideal for picnics and observing wildlife. This pond, connected
to the North Spring Creek, is a source of food, water and shelter for many
species and it is common to see Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers and
Blackbirds here as well as both painted and snapping turtles. Under the grey
sky of today the surrounding cattails and trees created crystal clear reflections
of themselves in the still water, and we picked this spot to sit for a minute
and just take in the view.
An interesting feature of these ponds is the addition of two
small gravel beds. When it was noticed that the resident snapping turtles were
laying their eggs in the nearby parking area, these beds were created. This
created a safe area protected from vehicle and foot traffic for them,
increasing the chances for their eggs to hatch.
Hearing a sound, I looked up to see a pair of deer stepping
out from the trees across the pond. They froze when they noted our presence,
withdrawing back into the brush. So as to not disturb them, we chose to move on
and continued back on the trail, leaving them to their drink.
Turning back, I was amused by the sign on the dock warning
of thin ice. Maybe not this year, I thought, at least not for a while.
We headed back down the trail and through a stand of young
pine trees, more green on this December day than they should be. This really is
a remarkable December, I mused. I can’t wait to get back out here tomorrow.
Do you follow Dundas Valley Outdoors on Twitter? There are lots more photos and trail updates at @DundasOutdoors Follow us and join the conversation!
Okay, I'll admit that this blog post is a deviation from the norm and is really nothing more than a shameless plug. Just being totally up front with you on that. I was just a little excited and wanted to share.
I'll be the first to admit that the whole process of writing and self-publishing a book has been an unbelievably positive experience and I've enjoyed it immensely. Seeing it in print for the first time was almost a surreal experience, a completed work with my name on the cover, I was more than excited.
The whole experience of a book launch was again, amazing and was filled with so many interactions and conversations.
This morning for the first time, I noticed my book finally showing as "available" on Amazon.ca and even more surprising , a few units have been sold there already.
So with that and considering that the holiday shopping season is upon us, I wanted to share the link to my book. In my opinion, this can make a nice gift for anyone interested in exploring this area.
It's time for me to give you a huge "thank you"; a sincere, bottom of my heart, humble note of appreciation for letting me communicate with you on this forum and for the unbelievable feedback that you have given me in return, particularly in recent days.
When Dundas Valley Outdoors started in 2011, it was meant as a vehicle for me to share a few stories and some of my photos. I wanted to share my passion for the Dundas Valley with my friends as well as for people who may have been considering a visit to the area. Over the years it has grown and I have made many more friends and contacts as a result and have received tremendous feedback. The blog eventually led to a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, gaining more followers along the way. Eventually the writing and photos grew to the point where a book became a possibility and through the encouragement of many, my book Exploring The Dundas Valley was finished.
Sharing a book launch with 3 friends and fellow writers, our event held in Dundas on November 13 was a huge success and we were overwhelmed with the response. I enjoyed many conversations and opportunities to meet you face to face and I savoured every second of it.
This past Wednesday night was the icing on the cake. When I found out that I had been nominated for a Hamilton Independent Media Award in the category of environmental journalism I was stunned, but to attend this event and actually win was another thing altogether. Totally unexpected, I was blown away and will never forget accepting my "Maggie" in front of a room filled with brilliant local media players. These are the writers, filmmakers and creative geniuses that share their stories and their passion, adding their contribution to the rich arts tapestry that makes Hamilton so special. I had a chance to meet some of the writers that I follow, the ones that I often draw inspiration from and it was great to make so many connections. I've lost track of the messages, texts and phone calls offering a message of congratulations since that evening. Again, just another reason to feel humbled and grateful.
The MC for the evening was Hamilton City Councilor Matthew Green. A rookie councilor, I have been impressed with the energy and level of commitment that he has brought to City Hall. It was great to have a chance to meet and to briefly discuss local issues with him. City leaders such as Matthew Green bring a fresh perspective to our community and to see him supporting this group of passionate advocates for the city and change makers is refreshing and encouraging. We can use more like him, and I feel confident that the positive momentum that we are seeing in many aspects of our community will continue.
This event and award just serve to inspire me further. I am working now to improve this blog and to create a better website to host it. My goal is to develop more content, and to showcase more stories and pictures of the areas that are so important to me and many others. There are conservation and environmental issues that negatively affect and threaten our forests and waterways and I will strive to uncover those and use this medium to help build awareness and drive change. I also have another book in the works, a project I am totally excited about. I look forward to sharing more details on this soon.
So with that, a hearty thank you. I sincerely thank you for your support and your feedback and for those who took the time to vote for me and ultimately allowed me to win the Hamilton Independent Media Award, I am deeply grateful and humbled by your support. I would be remiss if I didn't offer a thank you to the HIMA's team as well, a vibrant and dynamic group working hard to promote local journalism and talent. Their passion is infectious and it was a pleasure to meet Kevin, Sherri, Amanda and others and have the opportunity to learn more about Maggie Hughes as well as their organization.
Again, thank you for your support and loyalty. I promise to work hard and continue to bring you the latest stories and news from the Dundas Valley.
With fellow award winners Joey Coleman and Hamilton Seen's Cody Lanktree. Photo by Zena Hagerty and used with permission.