We need a change at the Hamilton Conservation Authority

Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) is implementing a new approach to maintaining the trails in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area (DVCA). Our beautiful and naturally looking trails are now being covered with large, coarse gravel and crushed rock the size of table tennis balls. The trails are beginning to look like rough farm lanes and the rare Carolinian forest like a construction site.

I have no idea why this is necessary or who decided that this needed to be done. The “new and improved” trails:

  • Are destroying the natural appearance of the area that the HCA promised to protect and preserve.
  • Are difficult to walk, jog and run on. The large and sharp stones increase the risk of ankle injuries and destroy shoes.
  • Are difficult and dangers to bike on. The rolling stones make biking very difficult, create a hazard of sliding, wiping out, and falling on sharp, dirty rocks.
  • Are dirty and unhealthy. The rocks are full of fine, cement-like dust. With movement, the rocks grind against each other and produce more dust. The slightest wind blows it from the ground. With so much dust in the air, people who hike on these trails end up with dirty clothes and lungs filled with stone powder.
  • Are making it impossible to effectively remove the horse manure.
  • Are restricting access for wheelchairs, baby carriages and small children’s bikes.
  • Are destroying bikes, cross country skis, and other equipment used to move along the trails.
  • Are hurting the feet of dogs and other animals, including wildlife and horses.

Yes, we know that downpour and melting snow can wash out the soil, erode surfaces and create deep channels in dirt roads. We know that horses destroy the delicate, natural trails. We have noticed that, with the arrival of the new CAO, the horse traffic in DVCA has significantly increased. We also know that, in the past, the HCA was able to maintain the trails while preserving their natural appearance. Preservation of natural beauty of Dundas Valley was a priority. Why is it not a priority today?

One possible answer is that there is not enough money in the HCA budget to hire people who would actually do the work of maintaining the trails on daily basis. We have seen trails closed “for regeneration”, when wind started to break trunks and branches of old trees. Closing a trail (e.g. the former Bruce Trail) was easier than sending crews with chain saws to trim the trees and eliminate the danger.

We also see a few staff members comfortably driving around in HCA pick-up tracks, sometimes sitting and chatting with other staff members at the Trail Centre. What we don’t see is the HCA staff working on the actual trails, doing the physical work that needs to be done. The unique, historical shed at the Merrick Pond is gone. The cider shanty at the Merrick Orchard is not being maintained and preserved for future generations. Small picnic areas are gone. The Bruce Trail camping site is gone. Garbage disposals are gone.

Is there a solution that would change and improve this situation? There certainly is.

HCA needs to hire more people to do the physical work and less administration who sit at their desks all day doing nothing of practical value and making no visible difference. I can see at least 30 positions here that could be easily eliminated and replaced with productive maintenance workers and a few conservation area wardens that would enforce the HCA rules and regulations.

That alone would serve the Dundas Valley Conservation Area better than the crushed and dusty rocks destroying its trails.

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