BURLINGTON—On the weekend of August 21-22, proceeds from the Conservation Halton Parks entrance fees will be used as fundraising for their newest park, currently known as Area 8, located at the former site of the Milton Limestone Quarry. Funds raised will be used for environmental restoration and trail development, so that the site can be fully transitioned into a conservation and recreation area, with the support of the Conservation Halton Foundation.

Earlier this year, Conservation Halton announced that the new park would be open to the general public near the end of 2021, but in the meantime, has offered tours and experiences throughout the summer, using their award-winning reservation system. One of these experiences will be Hike for Area 8, in which participants will have an opportunity to hike, bike or run, either in their community, at one of the parks or even at the new park, Area 8. Participants can register, either as a team or an individual, and raise funds on the Conservation Halton website. According to Conservation Halton, they are able to create 1 metre of trail for every $10 that is donated. With a fundraising goal of $15,000, they are hoping to create 1.5 kilometres of trail at the park.

In 2020, more than 1.5 million visitors from the GTHA, and even further, visited Conservation Halton Parks. This growth was driven by a demand for outdoor areas and safe activities during the pandemic, which has drawn attention to the importance of greenspace for our communities as well as the limitations in outdoor education and recreation. In response, Conservation Halton has made it a priority to open Area 8 to the public in 2021.

“With the increased demand that we have seen for greenspace, we decided to focus our fundraising efforts on Area 8 and opening the new park to the public,” says Garner Beckett, Executive Director of the Conservation Halton Foundation. “Hike for Area 8 is an opportunity for the members of our community to explore the new park, and actually be part of the restoration and development that is taking place right now.”

The Milton Limestone Quarry opened in 1958 and played an important role in the infrastructure development of the area, including construction of the 401 and 407 Highways and Pearson International Airport. However, decades of industrial activities have impacted the soil, trees and other plants in the area. In the 1990s, Conservation Halton identified the quarry as a potential site for environmental restoration and worked with the original owner on a restoration plan. Eventually, the owner donated the land to the Conservation Halton, and restoration work began.

Today, the former quarry has been restored into a beautiful natural area, nestled into the escarpment, with hiking trails running along its edges. The process has taken more than 20 years, starting with the formation of the lake. Over the years, Conservation Halton has constructed habitat structures, planted 5,700 trees and shrubs, and created 1,500 square metres of fish spawning habitat. Already, native species, including a number of rare species, have started to make their home in the new habitat areas. As a result of this work, the efforts and their outcomes were awarded the highest honour in pit and quarry restoration from the Ontario Sand, Stone & Gravel Association (OSSGA) in 2018.

According to Conservation Halton, the future park will be a community recreation and learning space with a focus on nature, conservation and restoration. The park will include gathering areas, healing spaces and immersive experiences to foster a respect for nature, create a sense of community and support mental and physical wellness.

“Area 8 is a source of pride for everyone who has worked on the area over the years,” says Hassaan Basit, CEO of Conservation Halton. “Thanks to the skill, expertise and enthusiasm of the staff involved, we are delighted that the former quarry has been brought back to life and that we will be able to welcome the community to one of our most unique parks yet. The journey has been so special, and it is far from over, but we can’t wait to share it with everyone.”

The Conservation Halton Foundation will also host its annual fundraising event in support of Area 8, which will be an indoor and outdoor dinner event, on September 16, 2021. This year, the theme is Terra Firma, which means “solid ground” in Latin and refers to the importance of soil in ecological restoration, as well as the feeling of standing on solid ground for the first time in months. Tickets for Terra Firma can be purchased on the Terra Firma website.

Members of the public who would like to visit Area 8 before it is open for general admission can reserve an experience, including yoga classes, bonfire evenings, birding hikes, and guided tours of the park, through the Conservation Halton reservation system.