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Windermere Basin Trail


Environmentalist Lynda Lukasik remembers when Windermere Basin was an industrial cesspool and finds it exciting to show people how restoration efforts have transformed it into a naturalized wildlife area in the shadow of heavy industry.

Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton led a public education walk Saturday, along with others, through the Windermere Trail that starts at Eastport Drive and circles around to where the Red Hill Creek flows into the harbour.

With heavy industry like steelmaker ArcelorMittal Dofasco across the waterway as a backdrop, Lukasik spoke happily about seeing coyotes, small deer, feral animals and new bird species over the past year.

"It's exciting to talk about places where (good) things are happening," she said. "We've gone from an industrial wasteland to a rich urban ecosystem, all through remediation."

Lukasik credited the city with doing a lot of work to restore the area.

"I love this project. It's a wonderful example of the city doing something good … we have amazing initiatives like this that are rebuilding the ecosystem."

The purpose of the public hike was to show people some of the cool areas that exist in Hamilton, organizers said.

The lookout at the Red Hill Creek, for example, "was literally a cesspool, without a lie. It's now a wetland," Lukasik said.

The majority of the sediment was from the sewage treatment plant nearby, she added.

There is now a shoreline bird habitat with special features such as nesting boxes, along with a grated fishway to prevent invasive carp from taking over other species.

The walking paths are built over industrial fill, Lukasik said.

Joining Environment Hamilton on the walk were birders and a Redeemer University environmental science student, who gave a talk about how the sweet white clover found there is an invasive species in North America.

"It makes the soil here unsuitable to the species that should be growing here. It also steals energy from plants around it," said Anna Marie Benjamins.

Len Manning of the Hamilton Naturalists' Club educated the group about the tree swallows along the walk — and the numerous nesting boxes built for them there.

"Any birds like this that eat insects only are declining (in population)," he said, adding that while there is no definitive reason, the insect population itself is declining, possibly due to pesticides.

The good news: "This is the largest colony of tree swallows I've ever seen."

Lukasik led the walkers closer to where the Red Hill empties into the harbour.

"In the past," she said, "you would have seen a lot of orange plumes coming up from the smokestacks of the industries. It was huge billowing clouds of smoke."

One of the benefits of restoring habitats and wetlands is that they bring people closer to industry to keep an eye on what's going on, she said.

Hamilton resident Sarah Hemingway, who moved here two years ago from Kitchener, said this was her first such educational walk.

"I wanted to connect with (like-minded) people … you get to know the people in the city on walks like this."

cfragomeni@thespec.com

905-526-3392 | @CarmatTheSpec



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