The Accidential Advocate: The Great Meadowlands Debacle

By Marc Risdale

Late last November, the members of the HCC’s Advocacy Committee learned about the development of a new Management Plan for the Meadowlands Conservation Area. We scoured scores of maps and were collectively stumped. Nobody had ever heard of such a place nor could we locate it. Even the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) website was devoid of any meaningful information.

Nevertheless, the HCA was holding a Public Information Centre (PIC), as required by its mandate, to present a preliminary report. Dutifully, your faithful Advocacy Committee trooped out to the Meadowlands Salvation Army in Ancaster to learn what was afoot.

It turns out that Meadowlands Conservation Area is a modest chunk of land acquired by the HCA in 2003. It lies beside Stone Church Road and is bisected by Stonehenge Drive. The HCA finally had the resources to develop the land and thus the time had come to build a Plan.

The PIC itself was sparsely attended, which afforded your Committee members a great opportunity to discuss the Plan at length with the consultants commissioned to do the work and representatives from the HCA.

The crux of the Plan was to build a multi-use trail network throughout the CA, complete with interpretive features, in a bid to counteract neighbourhood encroachment and foster a sense of stewardship within the community, while protecting the existing natural resources.

We left quite satisfied that the Plan would be good for us as a club.

The second PIC was held in the third week of the new year. This would be the unveiling of the draft Plan. Again, we scampered out to Ancaster but this time we were met with a very different scene. The room was flush with local residents. We were excited to see the community take such an active interest in the development of this neat little parcel of land.

Imagine our dismay when we learned that this mob was in fact there to see what they could do to halt the Plan entirely! To listen to the throng, you would think that the development of a multi-use interpretive trail was akin to inviting the Plague. It would be unsafe. Property values would plummet. Deer would evacuate the area.

On it went until, mercifully, Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson stood up and addressed the audience. Having just finished his term as an HCA Board member, he was well aware of all the benefits a proper trail network would bring. His solution: a compromise. The trail will go through but there will be slightly less of it.

As unpleasant as the evening had been, it was a stark reminder that we, as cyclists, are still viewed by some as pariahs. Keep on the lookout for threats to your rights as a rider and a taxpayer and be sure to say your piece. If we don’t stand up for ourselves, the crazy people surely won’t!