OUR COUN­TRY

The for­mer politi­cian thinks back to child­hood days spent ex­plor­ing Cootes Par­adise Marsh in Hamil­ton, Ont.

Canadian Geographic - - CONTENTS - Ad­ven­tures of Huck­le­berry Finn. —As told to Michela Rosano

Sheila Copps on child­hood days spent ex­plor­ing Cootes Par­adise Marsh in Hamil­ton, Ont.

CCootes Par­adise Marsh, on the west­ern flank of Hamil­ton Har­bour, is a hid­den jewel. When peo­ple pass the Sky­way Bridge, they see the city and the steel mills and Hamil­ton’s in­dus­trial her­itage, but Cootes Par­adise, a pro­tected wet­land, feels like a snapshot from the past be­cause it hasn’t been touched. French ex­plorer René-robert Cave­lier de La Salle made con­tact with In­dige­nous peo­ple in this area in 1669, and I can just imag­ine that it looks the same now as it did then. Cootes Par­adise is a huge swath of land with many nooks and cran­nies and an abun­dance of wildlife — it’s ac­tu­ally part of a UN­ESCO World Bio­sphere Re­serve. Its phys­i­cal beauty, where the calm wa­ter of the bay meets the Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment, is what moves me the most. When I was in ele­men­tary school, I used to go on hikes there with my friends. We were free-range kids in those days, so we took the bus from our east-end homes as far as it would go and then walked the rest of the way. We had a ball play­ing around the marsh, the ad­ja­cent Royal Botan­i­cal Gar­dens and the trails. Hamil­ton has a lot of birch trees, and they seem to re­ally thrive at Cootes Par­adise. I re­mem­ber spend­ing hours just look­ing up at those gi­gan­tic birches while mak­ing whis­tles with the broadleaf grass that grows in the marsh, and I used to love swing­ing from the long rope vines that grow on some of the trees. One day, we com­pletely lost track of time; all of a sud­den, we looked up and it was dark. It was a mag­i­cal day, like some­thing out of

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