Home / Tech News / A parking lot back to a pond — that’s how McMaster University plans to ‘re-wild’ its west campus

A parking lot back to a pond — that’s how McMaster University plans to ‘re-wild’ its west campus

The process will be gradual as the Hamilton post-secondary institution has to first find ways to reduce the demand for parking.

It will gradually allow 1,300 parking spots to be reclaimed by nature as part of a new master plan.

A drawing of people enjoying a pond

Decades ago, McMaster University paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

Now the Hamilton post-secondary school is looking to reverse course and “re-wild” its west campus that sits beside the Cootes Paradise nature sanctuary.

The strategy is part of its new master plan developed by international design firm BDP. The project is the firm’s first for a post-secondary campus in North America, after working on several in Europe.

The area, west of Cootes Drive, is primed for naturalization, said Yves Bonnardeaux, senior architect with BDP Quadrangle in Toronto.

It’s used predominately for surface parking, with over 1,300 spots, but is also located in a flood plain and surrounded by old growth trees, creeks and trails, he said.

“The university sits right beside the kind of eco-park system that links Dundas all the way to the lake, which is super important,” said Bonnardeaux.

The area is expected to become an extension of Cootes Paradise, with a pond likely to form over the parking lot.

cars in a parking lot surrounded by trees

Rewilding is a way to re-naturalize environments in degraded locations — an approach that has gained popularity in Europe in recent years, and remains less explored in North America, according to Canada’s science agency.

It usually involves removing human-built impediments like dams, or in this case pavement, and then allow nature to take back the space. It’s an approach being used in the Scottish Highlands and Detroit, and on Vancouver Island.

The naturalization process at McMaster will be gradual, with BDP recommending the university first find ways to reduce demand for parking to free up the land.

Hamilton’s LRT to play a role

That could include building an above-ground parking structure to replace some spots and creating more on-campus housing so students don’t have to commute in, Bonnardeaux said.

The planned light rail transit (LRT) line that will link McMaster to the rest of the city will also be crucial, Bonnardeaux said.

Saher Fazilat, McMaster’s vice president of operations, told CBC Hamilton the university has committed to not developing the west campus any further.

As the rewilding process takes shape, students and faculty may also use the west campus as a “living and learning lab,” Fazilat said.

McMaster doesn’t have a set timeline for the rewilding project, but it’ll be part of achieving its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, said Fazilat.

The new master plan replaces one originally from 2002.

“This time around we wanted to go big and bold with sustainability,” said Fazilat.

The 10-year strategy recommends McMaster no longer allow vehicles in the “heart of campus,” create more public gathering spaces, as well as embrace its “outstanding natural surroundings.”


Samantha Beattie is a reporter for CBC Hamilton. She has also worked for CBC Toronto and as a Senior Reporter at HuffPost Canada. Before that, she dived into local politics as a Toronto Star reporter covering city hall.

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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