“Where I want this to go is that there is a succession plan, and maybe I’m not here to do this in the future, but there is someone else to step into this role. This work will be built up enough that someone else can take it forward.”Elizabeth Seidl, from her interview with Parkpeople.ca in August of 2017
Who are the volunteers within our communities that help keep our neighbourhoods safe, clean, and who advocate for upgrades and the beautification of parks, schools, and other assets that surround our homes?
For eight years, Elizabeth Seidl was the protector of a cherished asset that intersects the Crown Point Community Planning Team coverage area from Delta West, through Crown Point, Homeside, and beyond. Of course, we are talking about Hamilton’s Pipeline Trail.
Elizabeth and her family moved to Crown Point from St. Catherines in 2013 and within six months, she found herself attending our local community planning team meetings. As many of us seemed to naturally do, Elizabeth gravitated towards another stalwart volunteer, Rebecca Doll, who quickly found people to connect Elizabeth with.
In those early days, the planning team was conducting surveys to gauge everyone’s opinion as to what to do on the trail. They applied for a grant, which needed a charitable partner, and that’s where the Hamilton Naturalist Club came in. Bev Wagar (More Than a Pretty Garden), a long-time lead within the Crown Point Garden Club, designed the garden and was the first person to get involved in the project. From that point on, Bev and Elizabeth became good friends.
In 2015, a garden was developed between Park Row and Edgemont along the Pipeline Trail. The garden club also takes care of the triangular garden at Edgemount as well. When the garden was first designed, milk weed was chosen as one of the plants with butterflies in decline and it being a host plant for caterpillars. The volunteers have cycled through a few different plants over the years in these spaces.
Access to water along the trail is always a challenge, with home owners providing some access because there currently is not any access to a water supply by the city. Residents receive an honorarium for providing water to the club with funds provided in part through an annual plant sale and city, Ontario, and Canada arts grants.
Over the years, parades were held across the pipeline and a grant was even received for Canada 150 to help support the parade that year. I remember our family participating in one of those parades with a homemade go-kart my sister made for our annual Pumpkin Prowl event. It was a ton of fun seeing the costumes and other creative karts built for the occasion.
Also in 2015, a master plan was developed for the Pipeline Trail that addresses infrastructure like lighting and unevenness of the pavement. To date, the funding required for these upgrades still requires advocacy at council.
As we all walk the trail and watch the kids playing at the playgrounds, riding their bikes along the path, and couples walking their dogs, Elizabeth notes how the community has changed over the past five years including an influx of young families.
When Elizabeth and her family moved to Hamilton, they were looking to put down roots. They bought their first house, their daughter was quite young, and she felt called to something. When the Pipeline Trail was mentioned during her early attendance at the Crown Point community planning team meetings, she knew what that calling was.
She recalls helping another beloved former Crown Pointer, Mary Bowness, with a Jane’s Walk which is an event held nationally at the beginning of May to celebrate Jane Jacob’s birthday. The event encourages people to share stories about their neighbourhoods, discover unseen aspects of their communities, and use walking as a way to connect with their neighbours.
Many people joined that walk (including Jason Thorne – General Manager of Planning and Economic Development for the City of Hamilton), leaving Elizabeth wondering where all these people that she didn’t know come from. Jason has been a great advocate for the trail since the beginning of this journey.
“I realized that sales is really storytelling, like telling the story of the Pipeline Trail. Through my work with the trail, I have been building my own confidence in being able to go out there and tell my story, in a way that’s interesting and that makes people want to be a part of it.”Elizabeth Seidl from Parkpeople.ca
As we made our way from Ottawa Street to Kenilworth Avenue, Elizabeth talked about the work that still needs to be done. She is heartbroken to leave our community, the wonderful friends she has made, and dedicated volunteers she has met during her time in Hamilton, but in some ways she feels like she has done what she needed to do here.
“Now the trail requires someone else’s vision to help move things forward”, Elizabeth mentions as our walk comes to a close.
We thank Elizabeth for her tireless efforts these past eight years. From paperwork to master plans to so many great memories, her work has left the future heir of our beloved trail with a strong base from which to continue the beautification and the long-term growth of this shared east Hamilton asset.
As a life-long Hamiltonian with deep Hamilton/Crown Point roots, it means a lot to see new faces not just fall in love with a city so few outsiders seemed to have any regard for growing up, but to put so much heart and love into breathing new life into these steel bones.
“I’m feeling a bit like a deeply rooted plant that is being pulled out of the ground. It’s a delicate process and so many of you have done kind things to help send me off and I’m so very grateful to you. Thank you for giving me joyful moments and things to look forward to during this transition period. I’m so very lucky to be surrounded by so many caring people.
When I moved to Hamilton 8 years ago, I honestly had no idea what to expect. What I found here was better than I could have imagined, in terms of friendship, community and spirit. I will always carry a piece of this place and its people in my heart. And you better believe I will be back visiting you all and also the Pipeline Trail and the gardens.”An excerpt from Elizabeth as she said her goodbyes.
Elizabeth will be deeply missed. She most definitely built this work up enough so that someone else could take it forward.
It was advocacy in 1887 from local cyclists or ‘wheelman’ that championed the original gravel cycling trail along the pipeline that opened in 1889, and it’s community volunteers like Elizabeth who have kept this trail on our minds and it’s continued safe use in our hearts.
Who will continue this story?
And that’s The Point.
Here are a few tips from Elizabeth for you; our next Pipeline Trail steward.
5 key lessons from the Pipeline Trail
1. ‘Keep the iron warm’ with regular events and updates
2. Use many different outreach methods – experiment!
3. Build a diverse chorus of voices in support of your park
4. Craft a shared vision to focus your efforts (and bring everyone back to it if the work strays)
5. To make sure your project is sustainable, plan for a future without you in charge
To continue the open communication with neighbours and the public, Elizabeth Seidl is looking for a volunteer to manage the Pipeline Trail Facebook and Twitter accounts. Anyone who is interested can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.