“We have to pay our bills”, is the answer. Last summer, a poster was placed near the entrance to the Christie Lake Conservation Area informing the users that access to the area surrounding the beach and beach pavilions was to be temporarily limited due to a commercial show. White exhibition tents were erected, a fence was erected, the event has run its course. The tents were not removed in a timely manner, they stayed there for weeks. The fence is to stay there permanently.
Now, we are hearing that the number of “special events” – (mainly commercial shows) is going to increase from six to eight, next summer. Considering that there are eight weekends during the July – August summer season, this means that the most attractive and most frequented area around the beach and the two beach pavilions, will be closed to the public just when it is most needed for its originally intended recreational use.
It turns out that the new, permanent fence was purchased and installed by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, specifically to serve as a barrier for the public during the commercial “special events.”
This is a very long and quite expensive fencing. It must have cost a lot of money and more than likely would have paid the bills for more than one year. Why the HCA spends money to serve commercial events run by outside organizations is another question. As a long-time annual member of the HCA and a local taxpayer, I strongly oppose this kind of spending.
The fence does not serve any real purpose – (people can still access the area by going around it), and it looks utterly ugly in the natural surroundings of the conservation area. It does not visually fit there. It destroys the character of the place and, by extension, it destroys its mission.
If commercial shows are to take place in the Christie Lake Conservation Area, why not to locate them in the huge and mostly unused parking lot between the Beach Pavilion and the Marina Pavilion? It provides ample space not only for the show but also for parking facility that would serve the hosts and visitors of future special events. Since nobody has used this parking lot for years, permanent modifications would not interfere with recreational use of the remaining Christie Lake area. Such modifications, if necessary, should be financed by corporations and organizations that want to use this space for their activities.
What we are seeing here is a corporate take over. It is being presented to the public as a necessity “to pay the bills” but I strongly suspect that it has little to do with the bills. I suspect that corporations and various organizations want to use this area for their profitable commercial activities. I suspect that the funds are needed to pay for many unnecessary administrative positions at the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA). These positions could be replaced by productive maintenance teams that would run the place and maintain the land, so that its recreational use would increase and start bringing profits.
Use of existing facilities and equipment
One such possibility is to use the Food Concession located in Beach Pavilion I.
Last summer, it was operated by a contractor selling some dry foods and ice cream.
The entire kitchen facility, located in the back of the store, was unused and wasted. The opportunity to attract more users and customers with a quality food service was lost.
The Marina Pavilion was closed most of the summer, although it could serve as a center for water sports and team games. The water fountain next to the Marina Pavilion was not working all summer and was not fixed, even though I brought it to the attention of the staff in mid summer. This is the only outdoor water fountain along the Round the Lake trail. The boat rental service was a mystery – during most of my visits to Christie Lake area, it was not available. I have never seen the disc golf course being used by anybody.
Use of natural resources
On the other hand, we have many volunteers from the Hamilton Cycling Club working hard to develop mountain biking trails and single tracks, [ 2 ], [ 3 ] that could, in the future, attract cross country competitions and many spectators. (Photo: IMBA)
But we are already reading of HCA plans to cut a large number of the coniferous (pine) trees in that area and replace them with deciduous forests. This will destroy the existing trails. This will also make it impossible to use the existing and future single tracks in the fall, as you cannot see the roots and other obstacles under the fallen leaves. And fall is the best time to use these trails – the trails are mostly dry, there are no mosquitos, and the temperatures are more friendly for intense physical activities.
If we have to commercialize the Christie Lake Conservation Area and, by doing so, destroy its recreational use and natural character in order to “pay the bills”, I strongly suggest that we close the business, return the land to the Crown, and open it to the public free of charge, like it used to be in the past. The maintenance could be done by the City’s Parks and Public Works department, just as it is done in the Sanctuary Park in Dundas or other parks. Specific activities and projects will be run by volunteers.
Another alternative is to turn it into a provincial park and a camping ground. This place should continue to serve the public as a recreational area. This was its originally declared purpose, all the public funds have been justified by this purpose for years. The public, as a stakeholder, has a vested interest in this area. The use of this conservation land should not be changing from recreational to commercial as a result of corporate pressure and corporate donations.