DundasValley2HCA 50-year valley plan looks beyond mere protection

A list of initial projects to help realize the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s 50-year vision for the Dundas Valley is getting positive reviews, although some people question if it’s a bit too ambitious.
Unveiled at an open house at the Dundas Public Library last week, the 11 projects include some seemingly motherhood initiatives like preserving and enhancing the connectivity of the valley’s ecosystems, and protecting rare, endangered or at-risk species.
But they also call on the authority to work with farmers to develop public support for locally grown and processed food, as well as to promote green business practices in surrounding communities like Dundas and Ancaster.
The latter could range from encouraging businesses to buy cleaner energy and get employees to car pool to collaborating with business improvement areas on buy-local campaigns.
Dundas resident Jim Sweetman, one of 22 people on hand, said he especially likes the focus on protecting the connectivity of ecosystems given potential threats like a mid-peninsula highway and more quarrying along the escarpment.
He encouraged authority officials to focus on protection first because green business practices and buy-local campaigns are dependent on others, however laudable.
“I think you’ve got a huge challenge with the other stakeholders and the collaboration,” Sweetman said. “Whether you’re going to influence the businesses in the city or not, I believe it’s up to us and we vote with our dollars.”
Drafted in 2009, the 50-year vision seeks to ensure the Dundas Valley “continues as a diverse, sustainable, and essential Niagara Escarpment ecosystem.”
“The area’s forests, streams, meadows, farmlands and neighbourhoods connect people living in vibrant urban and rural Hamilton communities with their natural and cultural heritage,” according to its mission statement.
The 11 projects are to be completed over the next five years, giving way to a new set of projects for the following five years.
Dundas resident Steve Roblin said it’s hard to move from a “large, broad, macro idea” on how the valley will look in 2058 to actual projects, but he likes the thrust.
He said partnerships and public education will be key because the authority doesn’t have the resources to realize the vision on its own.
“It’s about the fight and the struggle as much as it is about the end result. It’s about the good work that gets done every day by not just the authorities but the not-for-profits and just everyday individuals and businesses,” Roblin said.
“We do vote with our dollars. We don’t have to boycott big business, we just need to support the businesses that are aligning with our belief systems and support our local industry and our local farmers, and only good things can come of that.”
Project coordinator Anuja Ramgoolam said input from the open house and responses to an online survey – about 45 as of Monday – will be considered later this month by a steering committee that is helping guide the plan.
She said the feedback has been “more or less the same.”
“They’re very strong about development issues in the valley. They’re concerned about the protection of the escarpment as well as preserving species at risk” and preventing invasive species, Ramgoolam said.
“Definitely, they want the valley to remain as it is – no development. They want it to be very simple and kept that way for future generations.”
Ramgoolam said the steering committee will work on finalizing work plans in consultation with various partners, including the city and Niagara Escarpment Commission, with the hope of starting some projects next year.
The public will also get the chance for additional input at an open house planned for the spring, she said. The survey remains online at www.conservationhamilton.ca
The first 11 projects:
1. Preserve and enhance connectivity of ecosystems in the Valley and explore the co-benefits of connecting with the Cootes to the Escarpment Park natural areas strategy financial plan.
2. Preserve the escarpment and rural countryside, including selected vistas.
3. Protect rare, endangered, and species at risk within the Valley area.
4. Combat the impact of invasive species and nuisance species in the Valley.
5. Maintain and Protect local architectural and natural heritage.
6. Promote green business practices within the community.
7. Develop farmer-generated mechanisms to develop public support for agriculture and increase awareness of the importance of local agriculture as both an activity and a lifestyle and support the promotion of locally grown and processed crops in close proximity to residents.
8. Support the implementation of the City of Hamilton’s ‘special character roads’ through the Valley.
9. Develop a valley-wide sustainable tourism business plan and marketing strategy to promote eco, cultural, and culinary and recreational tourism.
10. Create transit, pedestrian and bicycle linkages and visible gateways and entrances between the Valley and neighbouring communities.
11. Protect and enhance the health of streams, watercourses, and waterfalls.
Original Article appeared in Dundas Star News  By Richard Leitner, News Staff