Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hamilton buys Eramosa Karst

Finally, some genuinely good news about the environment and Hamilton -- two words one doesn't normally associate with one another. The Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) has purchased a gem called the Eramosa Karst. A karst, from what the Germans call the Kras region of Slovenia and Italy, is defined as a "is a three-dimensional landscape shaped by the disolution of a soluble layer or layers of bedrock, usually cabonate rock such as limestone or dolomite. These landscapes display distinctive surface features and underground drainages and in some examples there may be little or no surface drainage."

For the better part of my life -- 23 years -- I lived in the same neighbourhood where the karst is located -- Heritage Green - Albion Estates, or what was once known as "Satellite City." The geological formation had been leased for years as farmland and was actually slated for housing and commercial development, but about ten years ago during some exploratory work was "accidentally" discovered. Some parts of the karst, unfortunately, had been paved over before the extent of the undergroud system of caves and sinkholes was evident. To their good sene, however, all levels of government as well as commercial interests realized its cultural and possibly historical significance -- in an area that is the very definiton of suburbia with a fairly good mix of homes ranging from low-income housing to middle class layouts and huge backyards to executive mansions. Instead, the area will come under the jurisdiction of the HCA.

I actually used to take walks in the same open fields, not realizing what was underneath me and everyone else. There were some cave openings but no one though much of them, they just seemed to be oversized gopher holes. Now the HCA has it -- thought to be the only karst in Ontario -- it will be protected "forever." At a price of just two bucks for the section which was owned by the province (73 hectares), it's also a great bargain -- the market cost of the site is in the tens of millions but the sentimental value is priceless. The hope is to buy the rest of what's left in the next two years, when the area is re-opened to the public and to link it to several trail networks including the Bruce and Trans-Canada.

Inherent in this is a need to protect other open spaces across Canada of a unique nature and to preserve it for future generations, unlike the mostly anti-environment Conservatives who pick and choose a few sites worth saving for the photo opportunity and letting industry do what it will with the rest. A couple of years ago, the Nature Conservancy of Canada -- of which my grandmother is a member -- identified nearly 300 areas that were in desperate need of "greenbelting." The cost to do so: $250 million. When one considers that amount of money was spent in Sponsorgate, we could have instead had a legay for generations. Governments have a role, but commerce must also recognize the need to re-create. This is one area where P3s -- private-public partnerships -- could actually do some good. Co-operation by all three levels of government and Aboriginals is also essential.

If the private sector won't do its part, however, then the feds should use its "eminent domain" power under Article 92 (10) (c) of the 1867 Constitution and declare all of them "works" that are for the benefit of all Canadians. The last time this power was used was back in 1985, if I recall correctly, and it should be used again.

I do find it rather interesting the local paper mentions this on the first day of advance polling for local offices in Ontario -- one which I am about to go to, as I write these words. If they think this is going to sway a lot of people and support the status quo, they demean our intelligence.

Vote for this article at Progressive Bloggers.

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