Giant’s Rib Escarpment Education Network’s (GREEN) “Waterfall of the Month” for Summer/September 2017 is the Hamilton Area Waterfalls.
The Niagara Escarpment is an UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. This designation recognizes the Escarpment as a protected natural environment in the most heavily developed and most densely populated region in Canada, with Hamilton being the largest urban centre along the Escarpment. Most other Biosphere Reserves in the world do not include a major city in them.
Over the past 15 years, numerous agencies, groups, and individual waterfall enthusiasts have done their share to make the public aware of the many waterfalls along the Escarpment in Hamilton and to promote them for tourism. It appears that they have succeeded too well, as now numerous problems have arisen and attempts have been made to decrease their popularity and the number of people visiting the falls.
There are several aspects regarding this:
1. There is a delicate balance to preserve the natural environment along the escarpment, creeks and waterfalls, and yet allow for visitors. This balance has been exceeded in a few areas, such that the natural areas cannot sustain the large numbers of people now visiting them.
2. There is a mentality that if a tourist site is located within a large urban city, that “it should be safe”, however if the same tourist site is located in the forest or jungle, people are more aware that dangers may exist. These same dangers of the forests can exist at Hamilton area waterfalls if they go off the marked trails.
3. The type of people visiting the waterfalls is changing, as now the “selfie” craze is encouraging more people to put themselves into more dangerous situations than ever before.
4. If people go off trail, they should be prepared with proper footwear, clothing and have an exit plan.
5. As many waterfalls are located on private property, people should not trespass without approval from the property owner.
6. There should be no garbage left behind as this is a natural environment and not just an urban tourist attraction.
7. With the large numbers of visitors to Hamilton area waterfalls, many people have become stranded, or injured including some fatalities, that the City of Hamilton has had to perform numerous rope rescues, including one Saturday in 2016 where rope rescues were done at three different waterfalls across the city, at the same time.
8. The last nail in the coffin has occurred at Albion Falls which now is fenced off with no access to the bottom and instead, by-law officers are issuing tickets for those who climb the fences.
The Giant’s Rib will do its part in trying not to increase the number of tourists to the Hamilton area waterfalls by not publishing “GREEN’s Waterfall of the Month” any longer. Thus, after more than 100 waterfall articles, we are sorry to say that this article will be the last.
By Joseph Hollick