Parks, Gardens & Conservation Areas
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Rotary Park is a 13 hectare parcel of land overlooking 12 Mile Creek and opposite DeCew Falls Generating Stations I and II. Designated "The Tree Park" by Rotary International it features a raised garden known as the "Friendship Garden". The park provides great views of Twelve Mile Creek, Brock University's Schmon Tower, and the DeCew Stations, as well as the Niagara Escarpment.
Visit in the fall to fully appreciate the beech-maple forest on the opposite bank when the leaves change colours.
The park is popular with dog walkers year round, and is frequented by tobogganers in the winter months sledding down the slopes. The Twelve Mile Creek Mountain Bike Trail system also cuts through the park and can be seen at the west end of the park coming out of the pine trees, and re-enters in the east end through the grass. The trails are accessible for pedestrians, but use caution, because not all cyclists yield to those on foot like they are supposed to.
The Park was used as a landfill site from 1970 until November 1980. During this period few environmental regulations existed and the technology for dealing with problems such as leachate seepage and methane gas were still in their infancy. When it was decommissioned in 1980 the plot was covered over with a thin layer of clay and topsoil, and it was designated as a city park. Originally somewhat isolated, the Park has been surrounded by a number of new subdivisions since 2000, so it is now situated in a well-populated area.
In a 2005 brief to the City of St. Catharines, the Rotary Clubs of St. Catharines described the history of the Park and outlined their vision for its rehabilitation.
In 1983, the Rotary Clubs of St. Catharines had approached the City of St. Catharines with a request to develop the site as a park, which was being prepared for closure. The proposal included a 1.6 hectare plot in the northwest corner designated as The Tree Park. Also proposed was a circular sloping flower bed 7.5 metres in diameter and displaying the Rotary logo, known as the Friendship Garden. In addition, people would be encouraged to plant trees in memory of someone they wanted to honor. A map would show what trees were donated and in whose name. The two Clubs would work together putting the grounds in shape. The City of St. Catharines agreed to maintain the park after its establishment. The concrete planter for the FriendshipGarden was installed, and the TreePark initially proved to be very popular, with 74 trees being dedicated. A Rotary International Conference was held in Toronto in 1983, and on June 9 of that year Rotary International President Hiroji Mukasa of Japan officially opened the Park in the presence of a large number of dignitaries and Rotarians.
For environmental reasons, the Park soon fell into disuse. Problems with the site included leachate which continued to leak into 12 Mile Creek, poor integrity of the clay cap resulting in sinkholes and settling, landfill gas emissions resulting in offensive odours, unattractive and potentially hazardous protruding metal gas vent pipes, and a general lack of maintenance.
In the subsequent quarter century, many of the emission problems apparently diminished with time. Officially, the Park was not open to the public from the late 1980s until 2011, but the site began to experience increased use in latter years from the growing number of local residents who visit the Park for hiking, dog-walking, and tobogganing in winter. The City of St. Catharines kept the grass cut, but the site was otherwise unmaintained.
Despite the disrepair and the remaining environmental concerns, the Rotary Club of St. Catharines felt strongly that environmental problems would be solved eventually, and that there are tremendous future opportunities in incorporating the Park into a proposed 12 Mile Creek Greenbelt bordering both sides of the waterway. Key attributes include the unique and spectacular views of the Escarpment and the Twelve Mile creek afforded from the east edge of the park, and the proximity of the site to existing trail systems and the proposed 12 Mile Creek Greenbelt.
On 19 September 2005, the Rotary Club presented their revised park proposal to the City of St. Catharines, which accepted it in principle in December 2005. Remediation work on the site took the Rotary Club design recommendations into account, but as of early 2010 little progress had been noted.
Substantial progress was made between spring 2010 and late summer 2011. The remedial work of a 1-metre clay cover and methane venting was completed, concurrent with the contouring of the site. New 3m wide gravel pathways, two lookouts, new fencing, a 24-foot Rotary Wheel surrounded by junipers and bluegrass, and parking for 36 cars were installed, along with benches and signage prior to the official reopening of Rotary Park on September 15, 2011.
Page created by Mark Jemison, with updates by David T. Brown (2010) and John Ross MacDonald (2011).
TripClip Audio File
Click to play or download Rotary Park TripClip (mp3 format)
This destination is also part of the TripClip tour 'Touring the Twelve.'
Click to play or download Rotary Park: Mountain Biking the Twelve Mile Creek System TripClip (mp3 format).
This destination is also part of the Community TripClip tour Mountain Biking the Twelve Mile Creek System, submitted by Mark Jemison.
Open dawn to dusk
QEW exit 49, St. Catharines (ON 406)
Exit Fourth Avenue, St. Catharines
Left (south) on Louth Avenue
Right (west) on Pelham Road
Left (east) on Addison Drive
From Niagara Falls:
QEW exit 48, St. Catharines (Martindale Road)
Right (south) on Martindale Road
Continue (south) on Louth Street
Right (west) on Pelham Road
Left (east) on Addison Drive
The Park has an interesting history; it was a landfill site from 1970, until it was decommissioned in 1980. When the landfill was closed the site was covered with a clay layer, topsoil and then seeded with grass. Take some time to wander the park and try to locate the methane gas vents, the large black pipes protruding from the grass, and the leachate monitoring sites (blue rectangular posts). Rotary Park provides an interesting look at how efforts can be made to reclaim land after previous degrading uses.
Rotary Club of St. Catharines. 2005. Report on Rotary Park
St. Catharines, City of. 2005. General Committee Minutes – Thirty-second Meeting, Regular, Monday, December 12, 2005 - ITEM NO. 592 - Report from the Transportation and Environmental Services Department Dated November 28, 2005 Re: Rotary Club Presentation Regarding Rotary Park - File: 68.31.182 (pp. 11-12) http://www.stcatharines.ca/cityservices/citydepartments/corpsupportsvcs/agendas_minutes/docs/minutes/05gmdec12.pdf.