Destroyed Sherman Inlet will be restored
But public access denied due to security
THE HAMILTON PORT
Authority will finally begin long-promised work next year to restore a unique industrial harbour wetland destroyed by illegal dumping more than 15 years ago.
But tight marine security rules have sunk an earlier proposal to create public access trails through the resurrected Sherman Inlet, port authority head Ian Hamilton told councillors Monday.
The outlet of a small creek and storm sewer near the end of Sherman Avenue North was a rare surviving slice of wetland in the east harbour — until it was largely filled in by the port authority’s predecessor, the Hamilton Harbour Commission, in the early 2000s.
A citizen complaint spurred a federal investigation and order almost a decade ago to clean up and resurrect fish habitat.
The wait is almost over, said the new port authority president, who told councillors Monday a plan to address federal environmental concerns in the illegally filled inlet should be ready by the end of the year, with actual work beginning in 2018.
Hamilton said the port will “restore” the previously filled-in shoreline and “revegetate” the creek outlet, with plans to leave the area a “naturalized”
outpost in an otherwise heavily industrial section of harbour.
In 2013, the agency told The Spectator the cleanup plan was delayed because of changing priorities — in particular, the $140 million, multi-year megaproject to trap toxic industrial coal tar in the harbour’s Randle Reef.
It committed at that time to revisit Sherman Inlet in or after 2017.
Coun. Matthew Green asked Monday if the agency would also provide public access to the restored green space as outlined in a land use proposal celebrated by environmentalists in 2007.
That plan called for trails through the wooded area and along the water.
The port authority has had to scrap that plan because of “safety and security” concerns, Hamilton said.
Advocacy group Environment Hamilton tweeted out criticism of the decision during the port authority’s update to councillors Monday.
“Deeply disappointed by this news — this space was promised to the public and is much needed along this stretch of harbourfront!”
Hamilton cited more restrictive marine security protocols that came into effect after 2008 that forced the agency to fence off a number of previously accessible port areas.
A tall chain-link fence currently separates the public from the remaining wooded area around the creek north of Sherman Avenue — although dog walkers can still be seen using the area from time to time.
He also noted the inlet is also the dumping ground for a city combined sewer outfall — a pipe that pushes both rainwater and excess sanitary sewage into the environment during large storms.
“It would be difficult to turn it into a real nice park unless you address that issue as well,” he said.
But Hamilton said the agency recognizes the public interest in the harbour and is trying to compromise by offering a “viewing tower” in the parking lot of winter boat storage facility on Pier 15. From that location, Hamilton said residents should be able to see Sherman Inlet — even if they can’t visit.