by Brenda Duke

Several years ago I attended the ground breaking of the new Victory Gardens on the grounds of Hamilton Health Sciences. It is a lovely space that offers patients and staff an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. In the background, the newer David Braley building attested to the quality and commitment of HHS to provide exceptional health care in our city.
Across the street, on the north side of Birge Street at Wellington, the view was a lot different. An overgrown city median abutted the CN tracks. The area was littered with debris and illegal dumping. There was so much room for improvement beyond the standard clear cutting of long grass and weeds.

I was already aware of the area through my work with Beautiful Alleys and knew they were working on a partnership with CN Rail to form the Track Gang. But it needed more than just cleaning up the garbage.

Other partners working with The Hospital Zone to improve the area had the same vision. Trees For Hamilton, HHS, Beautiful Alleys, and Environment Hamilton’s Friendly Streets Project came together and formed a plan. We wanted a space that would greet visitors, welcome the residents, patients and staff and build the bio-diversity of our City with plants and trees. There was a benefit for everyone.

Our plan was submitted to the City, we secured a substantial grant from Hamilton Community Foundation, CN Rail generously contributed and we waited for City approval. During the wait, we advocated for tree canopy and had six trees planted. Life stepped in and the pandemic happened, plans were on hold, staff shortages held up plans to meet and safety concerns from both CN and the City made the proposed project out of our range financially. But we persevered and adjusted some aspects of the plan. With the help of Sarah Emhke acting as our liaison with the city, our revised plans were approved.

Almost four years later, The Birge Street Meadow had the go-ahead. We started with Phase One, planting corner gardens that would define the space. On August 21st, we placed raised beds and planted a variety of pollinator plants, shrubs will be planted to accent that area, the city clear cut the space. More partners joined us; Butterflyway Hamilton, the Environment Hamilton/Hamilton Naturalists’ Club’s Pollinator Paradise Project, The Backyard Movement and volunteers planted and pruned to prepare for next years’ Phase Two.

By the end of 2023, we will see our vision realized with almost 700 meters of native meadow with plants and grasses supporting our environment, attracting pollinators and creating a positive visual impact for everyone. With solid partnerships and community support visions can become reality and dreams can come true.