Half-a-million dollars of taxpayers money may have gone floating down the Upper Hager Creek with the rest of the debris excess water brings with it following heavy rainstorms.
That’s the figure the City of Burlington spent to install specially designed concrete chambers with grates at the entrances to two culverts.
But residents of Tyandaga subdivision claim erosion continues and the ravine is a sea of mud.
In August of 2008, resident Terry Spearin almost lost his life when his right foot got caught between guard bars while he was trying to clear a blocked culvert and his left foot got stuck in the mud.
Kerns Road resident Gary Milne heard him screaming for help and rushed down to the creek, but by the time he got there firefighters already had arrived.
“There were three fire- fighters in the water and they couldn’t pull him out with ropes at first,” Milne said. “The water level was up to his chin.”
After they finally did get him out, firefighters told Spearin he would have had about three minutes left before he drowned. The Burlington Fire Chief then alerted City Hall to the problem. Milne said he believes the problem stems from the City’s creation of an asphalt gutter alongside of Kerns Road, just south of Kerncliffe Park. When it rains heavily, he said, excess water comes down the hill then empties into a valley of soft soil.
“That’s what’s causing the erosion which buries culverts,” he said.
The mud at the back of his property is 10 feet deep at times, he said, and he is very concerned about devaluation of his property, let alone the danger for children and dogs who might wander down into the ravine.
At one time, one of the culverts was buried under 15 feet of mud.
About 75 people attended a public meeting in May and residents were asked for their input, but the City’s environmental assessment is continuing and a report won’t be ready until the end of the year, and that has Milne breathing fire.
He said the City was way off base in blaming residents, who throw their grass clippings into the ravine, for a large part of the problem.
Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven said the City has been working on the problem for several years and had several meetings with residents.
“Part of the reason for the delay,” he said. “is that Mr. Milne has objected every step of the way to what staff is attempting to do. Nobody else is objecting.
“We need to replace the major culverts at Forestvale Drive and at the south end of Four Seasons Drive. They are old and undersized.”
Craven also said there needs to be more public education about the Hager Creekway.
“We believe there’s room for more dialogue with residents about how a healthy creekway can be built and I plan to hold some more public meetings” he said. “The land is privately owned, but the creek is the responsibility of public authorities, so it’s a partnership.”
However Milne, an engineer himself, says the culverts do not have to be replaced.
“That’s fantasyland!” he said.
His solution to the problem is to have the City make three or four cutaways from the asphalt gutter so that the excess water flows into a field, rather than into the Gloucester Driver storm sewer where it eventually flows down a big valley of soft soil and creates erosion.
Milne said City staff simply don’t know what they’re doing and he accuses Craven of blocking information he has asked for.
He said it’s interesting the City report is not coming out until after the municipal election in October. Dr. Bill Vivian, a retired veterinarian who lives on Forestvale Drive, also said the City has done nothing positive to remedy the situation.
Cary Clark, manager of environmental development and engineering for the City, said the problem is being analyzed
“We are in the process of going through an environmental assessment on the ravine,” he said. “The cost of the recommended works will depend on the preferred alternative.”
Upper Hager Creek starts at the lookout near the Niagara Escarpment summit and runs downhill towards Lake Ontario. Several storm sewers empty into the creek.
Written by: Denis Gibbons