Stewards of Cootes Watershed:

We are a neighbourhood-based team of stewards, each of us responsible for ensuring the health and biodiversity of a section of Cootes Paradise and the creeks that flow into it. We seek to educate and align our community in the steps we all can take to improve our watershed’s health. Our work is a critical link in restoring Cootes Paradise Marsh back to its full ecological magnificence. We do this for the health of our natural environment, the health of our community and out of pride as Hamiltonians.

Since September 2012, we have been an extremely active group. Take a closer look at our latest number of cleanups we have hosted, hours volunteers have worked, and the amount of garbage we have removed from Cootes Watershed.

All of this has been done to prepare these initial reaches of watershed for our core activity - Monthly Stewardship, where as a starting point we maintain a standard that not a single piece of garbage is to be found along the watershed, and in doing so, ensure from all who come in contact, that the creeks and marsh of Cootes Paradise are viewed with the respect that is deserved.

As the “hiking boots on the ground” of the watershed, we are often the first to witness events of environmental significance, which we convey through our Steward’s Field Report to the Ministry of the Environment, the City of Hamilton, the Royal Botanical Gardens or the Hamilton Conservation Authority. Our reports include environmental threats such as, incidence of contamination to our waterways, sites of erosion, prevalence of invasive species, encroachments, algae blooms, and garbage dumping, as well as environmental success stories including the presence of rare flora and fauna, and the successful re-establishment of breeding grounds.

Our Field Reports have already resulted in a number of success stories. We have succeeded in having a private real estate developer extend a fence on their property thereby protecting the flood plain of Ancaster Creek from illegal dumping by third parties. Our report of a significant discharge of raw sewage into Spring Creek has resulted in a strong response by the City of Hamilton under the direction of the Ministry of the Environment to eliminate this problem. We have succeeded in having the City revise their operating proceedeurs at all 21 ice rinks across the city to prevent future contamination of the watershed by the ice marking paint that gets lifted off the pads at the end of the season. All told we already have 11 success stories like this, with pending files on 7 more issues in need of attention.

As our organization develops, we will be at the ready to leverage our presence across the watershed to support and extend the scientific research and monitoring work of government, agency and university based initiatives. Such work might involve taking water quality samples, specie population counts, and collection of research data.

We’ll also be rolling up our sleeves to help in the remediation of erosion sites, clearing of debris jams, planting of trees and marsh plants and the suppression of invasive species.

There is a clear interest within the community in the health of the watershed but ironically at the same time there is a poor understanding of the impact we have on the creeks that run through our neighbourhoods and the wetlands they drain into. This presents an important opportunity to engage our neighbours on how we can as individuals and together as a community ensure that our watershed’s ecosystem returns to sound health. Our “Connect to Your Creek” presentations to be rolled out in the neighbourhoods of each creek across the watershed seek to do precisely this.

We encourage you to contact us if you would like to join us in this rewarding and important work.