More than 450 million years ago, a shallow tropical sea covered a vast area of Ontario and beyond. Along the shore stood what we now know as Mount Nemo.
Today the Mount Nemo plateau in north Burlington is part of a world-renowned biosphere reserve. It has been recognized by UNESCO for its ecological importance.
That’s why In May of last year Burlington Council agreed that a Heritage Conservation District Study process should be initiated for the plateau, which is bordered by Britannia Road on the north, Walkers Line on the east, Dundas Street on the south and Milborough Line on the west.
Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison was the lone dissenting voice.
A preliminary study of the plateau by Heritage Consultant Andre Scheinman found that the area had the potential to be a heritage district for both its landscape features (lot patterns, views, landscape) and its historic buildings, some of which already have formal heritage designation. The study went back to the Aboriginal and Euro occupation eras.
At one time a new mid-peninsula highway was proposed to pass through this part of north Burlington, but the provincial government has changed its plans.
Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor, who represents the Mount Nemo area, said the City is trying to decide if a heritage designation would provide extra protection if the government proposed something else in the future. The latest documents from MTO show several possible connections between the proposed Mid Peninsula corridor and Highway 401, three of which are mostly contained in Hamilton’s boundaries and none going near Mount Nemo.
Critics say the City is flushing money down the toilet because the Ontario government could overrule any type of designation if it really wanted to launch a project in the area.
John Vice, chair of Conservation Halton, said he believes it is an inappropriate use of public money.
“I remain suspect of the motivation,” he said. “It seemed to me one of the underlying drivers was a way to oppose the mid-peninsula highway. It’s an ineffective strategy because the Province is not bound by lower level organizations.
“I don’t see at any level how creation of a heritage study would produce a result that could not have been achieved with an existing agency dedicated to its particular discipline.”
Some residents have raised concerns regarding extra layers of government bureaucracy like the Niagara Escarpment Commission, Conservation Halton, Halton Region and the City.
Taylor said there are two phases – the study phase and the plan phase. If council decides to go through with both, the bill will be about $180,000.
The Nelson Aggregate Company already operates a 210-hectare (519-acre) quarry on the north side of No. 2 Sideroad within the plateau. And stone has been quarried there for more than 100 years. But city council succeeded in blocking expansion of the quarry.
The plateau is a natural habitat for turkey vultures, little brown bats and the Jefferson salamander. It is a source water recharge area with over 20 tributaries originating on top of it and along its slopes. Headwaters of the Grindstone Creek originate on Mount Nemo, as do headwaters of Bronte Creek.
Some of the oldest eastern white cedar trees this side of the Rocky Mountains are located there.
Hikers love to trek out to Mount Nemo, where they can look out across the fields and get a clear view of the skyscrapers and CN Tower in Toronto on a clear day.
The area also once was home to a Hamilton owned camp for Boy Scouts, who often gathered there to prepare for journeys to World Jamborees.
The Bates family is believed to be the first on to settle in what has then Nelson Township in 1800 and Augustus Bates was the first white child born in Halton County.