The Hamilton Harbour Waterfront Trail
Friday November 12 2010
Today was overcast but caught and released a 10 pound carp in the picture below.Albeit, rainbow trout was what I was going for.After two weeks with no-luck, was happy to catch any fish.
Even with the less than appropriate weather for photography, the beauty of the Harbour brings me back each day with a new discovery with every visit.
The City of Hamilton and its partners officially opened the Hamilton Harbour Waterfront Trail and fish and wildlife habitat enhancements on July 1, 2000. The 3.4 kilometre long multi-use trail makes its way along the shore from Bayfront Park to Princess Point, and through the Desjardins Canal with a floating walkway paralleling the boat channel.
The trail connects to the Trans Canada Trail, the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail in Burlington, and the Desjardins Canal bordering Cootes Paradise. Special attention has been given to ensure universal accessibility, and to provide residents and tourists with focal points to observe natural, historic, and cultural features such as Cootes Paradise, Dundurn Castle, and the Royal Botanical Gardens.
This trail project allowed residents and visitors alike to appreciate our past and look to the future as the City and its partners continue working on the principles of sustainability and enhancing our overall quality of life.
Fish and Wildlife Habitat
Most harbour fish spend part of their life within the marshlands of Cootes Paradise and the Mouth of Grindstone Creek. The shoreline of the harbour’s western basin is a corridor connecting these marshlands to the rest of the harbour. A corridor “trail” for fish and other shoreline wildlife has been enhanced as part of the project.
Underwater structures marked by vegetative outcrops, “mini islands” provide permanent nearshore protection and incorporate fish habitat features into the design. Landscaping techniques and the use of natural materials make the structures visually attractive. The habitat requirements of native piscivores (Bass, Pike, Yellow Perch), specialists (Alewife, Gizzard Shad, Logperch), and generalists (Minnows) have been considered in the selection and configuration of the habitat structures. Many of the habitat structures will benefit several species simultaneously, owing to the overlap in habitat requirements of species.
The planting of trees and shrubs enhance the shoreline. A willow trench has been dug along sections of the shoreline and overhanging branches create shade for fish, perches for birds, and cover for waterfowl. Marsh pockets have been restored to the near shore in the Strachan Channel along with spawning beds for Bass. In total, an area of approximately 26 hectares has been improved for harbour fish and wildlife along the trail corridor.
Native plant material that is diverse and site-appropriate was incorporated into the design of the trail. Tree species including indigenous varieties of Maple, Birch, Serviceberry, Ash, Poplar, Cherry, Oak, Willow, Pine, and Cedar were planted by volunteers, City staff, and contractors. Additional plantings of indigenous shrubs, ground covers, perennials, and vines were also included in the project.
Points of Interest
Bayfront Park existed originally as a former industrial landfill site under private ownership. In 1984, the City of Hamilton expropriated the land for use as a public park. In 1992/93, the site was remediated and transformed into a versatile public green space. Park features include a 1.5 kilometre multi-use asphalt pathway, naturalized areas of shrub, trees and wildflowers, a public boat launch, grass amphitheater, beach area, expansive lawn area, and a parking lot with an elevated observation desk. Since its opening in 1993, this site has become one of the City’s most popular parks.
CN Marshalling Yard
The CN Marshalling yard is located on Stuart Street between Bay and Queen Streets. The arrival of the railway in the 1850’s and 1860’s led to industrial growth and residential development in this area. The railway, in conjunction with Hamilton’s shipping industry, provided Hamilton with an efficient, effective transportation system and encouraged firms to move to Hamilton. The rail yard once included extensive maintenance and repair facilities, machine shops, warehouses, docks and offices, but, over time, these have been discontinued at this location. Opportunities exist to recall these important activities through interpretive panels.
Located between the CN Marshalling Yard and York Blvd., Dundurn Park features Dundurn Castle, the Hamilton Military Museum, and Cockpit Theatre, and the Coach House Restaurant. The land, once owned by Richard Beasley, was sold to John Soloman Cartwright in 1832, and then in the same year to Sir Allan Napier MacNab, one of Canada’s first Premiers. MacNab commissioned Robert Wetherell, an architect, to design the castle. The castle was constructed over the foundations of Beasley’s home and was completed in 1835. In 1899, the City purchased the estate and maintains the Castle to depict the lifestyle of the original inhabitants. Plaques mark the importance of MacNab’s career and the Dundurn Estate, which is designated as a National Historic Site. In addition to the Castle, Robert Wetherell designed two adjacent buildings for MacNab: the Gardener’s Cottage and Castle Doune.
Harvey Park is located next to Dundurn Park on York Blvd., and was formerly known as Burlington Heights Park. The park was renamed Harvey Park in 1894 after Sir John Harvey, a British Soldier who distinguished himself during the War of 1812 and the Rebellion of 1837. Records show that Richard Beasley was among the first settlers in this area and arrived around 1785. Beasley built the first log house in the district in the area known as Burlington Heights, constructed a wharf, and traded to newcomers and would-be settlers. In later years, he built a brick house on Burlington Heights, which was later incorporated as part of Dundurn Castle.
The floating structure consists of eight (8) floats measuring 16.76 metres x 6 metres. Each float is constructed with expanded polystyrene encased in 100-150mm of concrete with steel mesh and parging on the bottom. Approximately 20cu meters of concrete was used in each section. One float weighs approximately 80 tonnes. The sections attached to ramps have extra flotation. The sections are connected by a cabling system and the complete walkway is hinged to concrete footings. This floating structure is designed to carry emergency and maintenance vehicles and will fluctuate with water levels up to 3m, or greater than 100 year storm conditions.
Desjardins Canal/High Level Bridge
The gap spanned by the High Level Bridge is not a natural feature; it was cut in the early 1850’s to provide a new route for the Desjardins Canal when the railroad came to Hamilton. The canal was opened in 1837, allowing Dundas, the local centre of commerce, to be accessed by hundreds of boats and barges.
The decision was made to run the railroad into Hamilton instead of Dundas, but it meant that the tracks would have to cross the “Heights”. Rather than maintain swing bridges across the canal route, railway engineers felt it was simpler to fill in parts of the old canal channel and make a new cut through the Heights. A high bridge was built to span the gap, eliminating the need for swing bridges. When the cut was made, Mastodon and Giant Elk bones were found fossilized deep in the bar. Burlington Heights is a giant sandbar formed at the end of the last ice age, when Lake Ontario was about 35 metres higher than present. During its formation, a lagoon formed to the west, submersing all of Cootes, its north shore, and much of the area now occupied by the Westdale Neighbourhood.
The Fishway is located on the Desjardins Canal between Hamilton Harbour and Cootes Paradise, under the McQuesten (High-Level) Bridge on York Blvd. The primary function of the Fishway is to prevent the spring migration of adult carp from Hamilton Harbour into the marsh. The Fishway is equipped with a series of baskets to capture fish and pass them over the Fishway.
The Desjardins Recreational Trail forms a 1 kilometre long link between Cootes Paradise, Hamilton Harbour, and Kay Drage Park on Macklin Street North. The Trail was initially developed as an access road to maintain the Cootes Paradise Fishway located at the historically significant Desjardins Canal.
Cootes Paradise Marsh is part of the Royal Botanical gardens (RBG). This area was once an extensive cattail marsh, and the RBG, in conjunction with partners including the Fish & Wildlife Habitat Restoration Project, the Bay Area Restoration Council, McMaster University, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, are working to restore this sanctuary. Over 20 kilometres of hiking trails surround the marsh, with access to the Bruce Trail. An exhibit outlining the story of Cootes Paradise, its history and restoration, is a feature of the Nature Interpretive Centre, located in the RBG Arboretum on the north shore.
Parking is available at Bayfront Park, entry off Bay Street North at Simcoe Street West. Washrooms are located in the parking lot and are open April to November from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily, with portable units along the Hamilton Harbour Waterfront Trail.
The Hamilton Harbour Waterfront Trail has received generous financial and service-in-kind support from the following Government Agencies, the Private Sector, and the Citizens of Hamilton.
- Millennium Partnership Program
- Fish & Wildlife Habitat Restoration Project
- Waterfront Regeneration Trust
- Dofasco Inc.
- Bay Area Restoration Council
- Hamilton Harbour Commissioners
- Hamilton Naturalists’ Club
- Regional Tree Planting Program
- Columbian Chemicals
- Berminghammer Foundation Equipment
- Hamilton-Wentworth Land Stewardship Council
- Canusa Games – Hamilton Branch
- City of Hamilton
- Public at large
The Hamilton Harbour Waterfront Trail is supported by the City of Hamilton, Canada Millennium Partnership Program, Fish & Wildlife Habitat Restoration Project, The Waterfront Regeneration Trust, and the community at large.
Doug Worrall Photography