Reproduced with permission - The Toronto Star Syndicate
|Monday, June 17, 2002, LIFE, p. E06|
|Carp not welcome in Paradise|
Exploring the natural treasures along Lake Ontario's waterfront
HAMILTON - - The carp are desperate.
They're knocking at the gate to Cootes Paradise, and they're not wanted inside.
They need to get from Hamilton Harbour into the marsh to spawn, but it's a no-go area because their destructive feeding habits devastate the wetland vegetation.
The giant Eurasian fish were introduced here to stock the Great Lakes with a desirable food source more than a century ago.
Since 1997, the fishway and carp barrier, a giant strainer across the Desjardins Canal, has allowed small fish through and captured all others- of spawning size- in giant baskets that are then lifted by cranes and sorted manually.
"There could be a few thousand down there," estimates Len Simser, natural lands steward of the Royal Botanical Gardens, which owns the Cootes Paradise Sanctuary. "You have to witness it to understand how driven they are."
This is just one stop on our two-day tour through Hamilton, Burlington and Oakville, part of a six-stage end-to-end bicycle trip along the 650-kilometre Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail.
We did Niagara-on-the-Lake to Grimsby last month, and if all goes well we'll be ready to claim our end-to-end pins in Gananoque in October.
We wheel away from the mesmerizing sight of the frantic creatures dashing themselves against an unforgiving barrier and face our own personal challenge.
The trail now jumps 100 feet. Vertically.
To get to York Blvd., where the trail picks up, you have to climb 160 steps, wheeling your bike up a steeply inclined ramp.
"It's brutal," warns Marlaine Koehler of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust.
It's not just brutal, it's competitive. This weekend, there are five of us on the trip, all women, and no one is going to take a breather on one of the landings if the others don't.
So we don't.
As we catch our breath at the top, we're rewarded by a stunning view from the Thomas B. McQuesten High Level Bridge.
To our right is Burlington, to our left Hamilton and ahead, across the harbour, hidden by a forested point, the baymouth barrier that completes the protective circle around the largest harbour on the Great Lakes.
We began our trip in Grimsby that morning. After riding along Winston Rd. into Stoney Creek, our first stop is Fifty Point Conservation Area, a beautiful 76-hectare park, with 47 campsites, a 312-slip marina and restaurant.
Because one purpose of our trip is for members of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust to check the on-the-ground conditions, we're met along the way by some of the people who make the waterfront work.
At Fifty Point, one of our hosts is Ben Vanderbrug, general manager of the Hamilton Conservation Authority.
He's retiring this year after 32 years on the job, leaving a legacy of public space that will enrich the lives of generations.
Vanderbrug's philosophy is that the best way to preserve parks and environmentally sensitive areas is to own them. Through the years, he's spearheaded a major program of land acquisition by various local government bodies.
But he leaves with one element of the vision unfulfilled- Hamilton Beach, a 4.4-kilometre stretch just south of the Burlington Canal.
Throughout the years, the City of Hamilton bought and demolished homes along the beach planning eventually to create an open space corridor along the lake. But then council bowed to local pressure and reversed the plan, putting the vacant lots back on the market.
For Vanderbrug, the decision was sadly short-sighted. "It would have put Hamilton on the map," he says.
Werner Plessl, another of the visionaries of the Hamilton waterfront, meets us at the entrance to Confederation Park, a thoroughly urban park with lots of play activities.
Plessl is now the executive director of the Hamilton Waterfront Regeneration Trust, but back in 1984, he was one of those who worked on the park's outdoor wave pool.
Confederation Park is busy, as is the trail, which takes us out along Van Wagners Beach and then to Hamilton Beach, where Plessl picks up Vanderbrug's refrain about a missed opportunity.
We have to walk our bikes because the trail is sandy, but Plessl says work is about to start on an asphalt surface.
We say goodbye to Plessl and cross the lift bridge over the Burlington Canal.
We're in Burlington, on the shifting sands of a unique dune environment between the harbour and the lake. Here, the city stood firm on the need to buyout cottagers, explains Conservation Halton chair Bob Edmondson.
Burlington is a happening place, the trail is an easy ride and it goes past many interesting spots, including the Burlington Art Centre.
Because of my interest in seeing the industrial waterfront, we loop back to the Canada Centre for Inland Waters where we meet John Hall of the Hamilton Remedial Action Plan- another man who has played a key role in the harbour clean up.
We ride with him along a short stretch of trail to view a series of man-made islands that are giving area fish and bird populations a new lease on life.
Then we hop on a Hamilton Port Authority boat- captained by Fred Eisenberger, the first chair of the new authority- for a first-hand look at the industrial end of the waterfront.
"We've made a lot of progress," Hall muses as the boat speeds toward the city's economic heartland.
"I hope the day will come when people will look at industry the way they used to- it identifies prosperity but doesn't signify pollution."
After many adventures, we end back in Burlington where we stay for the night, enjoying a fine meal at Emma's Back Porch, a century-old eatery where photocopies of pages from the guest book attest to visits by the likes of John Diefenbaker and Pierre Trudeau.
On day two, there are several more great places to visit in Burlington, including the Paletta Mansion, a magnificent 1930s residence.
On to Oakville, which seems to have done everything right along the waterfront, with a series of linear parks and a trail system that got a major impetus when the city made it a millennium heritage project.
We meet Mayor Ann Mulvale for lunch on the patio at Stoneboats, another historic restaurant.
Mulvale regales us with tales of her sky-diving experience. Aficionados say it's better than sex, she tells us; they describe the rush from leaping off a plane as an "airgasm."
All too conscious that we're firmly on Earth, our critical point of contact an increasingly uncomfortable bicycle seat, we hit the trail again, ending up at Winston Churchill Blvd. at the Mississauga boundary.
We've cycled 76.8 kilometres in two days and I have made the pleasant discovery that no special training program is necessary for recreational cycling. My only mistake: missing a spot on the back of my leg when applying sun protection the first day.
SIMON WILSON FOR THE TORONTO STAR PEACEFUL RIDE: Cyclists roll through Confederation Park in Hamilton during the Waterfront Regeneration Trust's trek along the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail.
Category: Science and Technology
Copyright © 2002 Toronto Star, All Rights Reserved.
This material is copyrighted. All rights reserved. © 2001 CEDROM-Sni