The richness of the natural areas at the "Head of the Lake," especially around Cootes Paradise Marsh, has been recognized for many years. These lands are part of the Greenbelt surrounding the Greater Golden Horseshoe and considerable sections are already protected by various agencies, including Conservation Halton, Hamilton Conservation Authority, Royal Botanical Gardens, the cities of Burlington and Hamilton, Halton Region, the Hamilton Naturalists' Club and the Bruce Trail Conservancy.
However, these biologically diverse, internationally recognized natural lands will potentially be subject to increased use as the population grows over the next two decades. Additionally, the natural areas will invariably be affected by physical changes to the surrounding lands and waters that will come with urban growth and development.
In anticipation of this urban growth, these organizations have joined together with the public and stakeholders to seek a vision for these natural lands, and new ways to effectively manage, restore and preserve them for future generations. Particularly important will be finding means to bring more resources to the conservation and restoration of these natural spaces, and to improve appropriate recreational features and uses.
Seeking a shared vision for a park system was recommended by the Remedial Action Plan for Hamilton Harbour. Funding support for the development of the vision was secured from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation in 2007, allowing two years of background research (compiled in the Phase 1 report) and public and stakeholder consultation. The resulting Cootes to Escarpment Park System Conservation and Land Management Strategy articulates the vision for a new park system.
In late 2009 and early 2010, the partner agencies all endorsed this vision and, with funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, the partners spent the next two years putting in place key foundational elements needed to realize the vision for the park system. These include a Land Securement Strategy, Communications and Marketing Plan, Brand Strategy, and governance model and founding agreement to formally establish the park system.
In June 20, 2013, the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System officially came into being via a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among the nine partner agencies. This MOU creates a new Governing Council and Management Committee to provide decision authority and guidance for implementation of the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System, and a new Secretariat office to coordinate this work.
Information about the different phases of the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System Project can be found on the Project workplan page.
Information about the natural lands within the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System study area can be found on the Natural heritage features page.
Dr. David Galbraith, Head of Science at the Royal Botanical Gardens and Chairman of the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System management committee, speaks to attendees at the Hamilton Environmental Summit 2015 on the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System