Engaging community volunteers: Hamilton Harbour watershed

Volunteers planting native cattails.

Photo: Dave Heidebrecht, Bay Area Restoration Council.

2013-2014 Funding: $168,500, including $54,000 provided by the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund

Other Project Contributors:  Bay Area Restoration Council, City of Hamilton- Public Works, Ontario Trillium Foundation, CUMIS Group, Arcelor/Mittal Dofasco, McMaster University, Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton Conservation Authority, TD Canada Trust, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

From volunteers planting native cattails to adopt-a-creek celebrations and snowshoe hikes, community involvement is the focus of a “hands-on” initiative supported by the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund aimed at encouraging local residents to help clean up and restore the Hamilton Harbour watershed.

Hamilton Harbour is a 2,150-hectare bay located at the western end of Lake Ontario. The Area of Concern covers about 500 km2 and includes the harbour, the Cootes Paradise wetland, and the surrounding watershed. The Area of Concern has been subject to the impacts of intensive industrial and urban development around its shores for many years.  

A key objective under the Remedial Action Plan is to build increased community awareness and support for ongoing and future restoration of the harbour and its watershed. Leading that task is the Bay Area Restoration Council (BARC), a community not-for-profit group that works with all levels of government and the private sector to keep harbour restoration issues at the forefront of community discussions and decision-making. Among other activities, BARC delivers school programs, coordinates volunteer planting events and prepares and distributes resource materials and newsletters.

BARC sought to engage community residents through a wide range of activities focusing on the streams and wetlands that drain into the harbour. These activities included:

  • seven adopt-a-creek events that allowed volunteers to take part in water quality sampling, litter clean-up and removal of invasive plant species in several tributaries; two of the events were guided snowshoe hikes at the Cartwright Nature Sanctuary;
  • four marsh planting days that saw 40 volunteers plant about 3,000 cattails in Cootes Paradise under the supervision of staff of the Royal Botanical Gardens and BARC; cattails help to reduce erosion and increase fish and wildlife habitat; and,
  • a special series of events - North Shore Friend-Raisers - organized to reach out to private landowners on the north shore of Hamilton Harbour and enlist their support in rehabilitating and protecting the surrounding streams that impact water quality in the harbour.

For more information on the Hamilton Harbour Area of Concern, please visit: Bay Area Restoration Council.

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