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