What is your Hamilton?

I started this Facebook page (Setting Boundaries for Conversation Encroachment and Urban Sprawl), August 22, 2010. I didn’t know what to do with it as I wasn’t an environmentalist and I was relatively new to civic engagement, but I did know that I wanted to be part of a conversation. The images tell a tale of 13 years visiting the Binbrook Conservation Area and Tyneside Trail early mornings and late evenings with our dogs, exploring every inch in the thick of winter, and the brightest of warm, starry nights.

I believe I had recently visited Fifty Point Conservation Area when I started this page, and had remembered a time when it wasn’t surrounded by urban encroachment. I hated being reminded that I was in a city within such a beautiful space, and dreamed that I would never see the day where my peaceful country drives to and around those Binbrook waters, would know the reminder of the major metropolis that was only fifteen minutes to the core.

I always dreamed back then, of one day moving to Binbrook to raise my family. Although I grew up on the Hamilton Mountain, I lived in Attercliffe (just outside of Dunville), for some five years of my youth. Showing horses, party lines, skating on our neighbours pond, etc. It was just enough to grow an appreciation for country life.

Binbrook is no longer a cute, small town with one stop light and a small community theatre. It’s no longer the dream. Rockton’s cute.

What makes Hamilton so wonderful to you? Well to me, it’s the people. When you have lived somewhere for over 40 years; went to school, post secondary, played hockey, worked, played, volunteered etc., it tends to feel small and as if you know someone at every corner. But Hamilton is also Jimmy Thompson Memorial Pool, every arena, baseball diamond, and greenspace. It’s the water, the escarpment, Barton Secondary, Delta High School, Ottawa Street, Limegridge Mall, Copps Coliseum, Tim Horton’s Field, and so much more.

For me though, what makes Hamilton a place I love and am really proud of, is that 15 minutes to the east, south, and west of my downtown home, I can smell the wafting of manure, see endless rows of trees and vast plots of green, and where I can go to enjoy the silence and see the sky like I cannot through the hydro lines and glow of where I rest my head each night. From Freelton and Strabane, to Cope Town and Greensville, over to the outskirts of Binbrook and Mount Hope, and down to east most Stoney Creek and Winona. These are lands worth preserving for the gifts they hold for food production, but also for what they bring in beauty and wonder to those who live and visit our beautiful city.

During the pandemic, our family has gone for a lot of drives to get out of the house. We have a Spotify playlist that we add to each drive that is now 7.5 hours in length. We have browsed the falls, seen Castle Loma for the first time from the outside; it’s quite a site at night, my wife took us through her hometown of Brampton, I finally seen the magical hidden oasis; Paris, just the other week but most of all, we have driven through and around the borders of our own city when lockdowns meant you were not supposed to cross municipal borders. You can spend a couple of hours putting around, enjoying our many downtowns from Stoney Creek, Dundas, and Waterdown, and the dark yet still stunning, skylines of small town signs that make you feel like you have driven to 200 places, meanwhile you haven’t left your city.

It’s been hard watching Binbrook and Mount Hope balloon like they have. The plans for the airport also leave me warry. I love my city. I’ll do whatever I can to preserve what makes it unique and special and somewhere you can live and enjoy an experience vastly different than your fellow Hamiltonian a twenty minute drive to the other end of the city.

To me, being more careful with how we build the city is one of the most important conversations we can have and that means we cannot rush expanding our urban boundary.

What do we know about what post pandemic life will entail? I am pretty sure I will never go back to a physical office. It’s one of the reasons I felt like it was easy to oppose the building of the 413 because we don’t know what our roads will be like in the not so distant future. We also don’t know what our commercial landscape might look like down the road if more people not only work from home, but can now technically live wherever they want if they aren’t worried about a commute. I’d love to live within the countryside of Hamilton one day, if there is anything left without the threat of a subdivision puking up on either side.

Not only are these lands that I have mentioned vital to our families mental health, but environmentally all of those trees, greenspaces, and the watershed that is already being polluted by entities like the airport, is all something we cannot take back once we fill it with concrete and sewers and jam it full of vehicle emissions.

I love exploring Toronto and its many communities, but it’s no Hamilton. The best thing about my city is the land that surrounds it. Let’s take some time to all think about what our city means to us, and what it would mean not only environmentally but aesthetically, to tear into our Greenbelt which legally, should never be able to be reversed once designated as such.

The aerial view of my Hamilton is a mosaic of greens and blues. Not rooftops and parking lots.

What’s yours?

And that’s The Point.

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