By Chris Firth-Eagland, CAO, Hamilton Conservation Authority
We’re sharing this important reminder that the beautiful Niagara Escarpment has hazards that need to be respected. Enjoy this natural wonder, but with caution and common sense.
In light of recent incidents at both Tews and Webster’s Falls, the Hamilton Conservation Authority would like to remind trail and conservation area users of some safety tips for exploring conservation areas, especially those with Niagara Escarpment features.
On Monday, a male hiker lost his footing and slid down the side of the Escarpment while walking off-trail. He grabbed onto a branch that saved him from a longer fall. He was rescued from the area by rope rescue units of the Hamilton Fire Department. The labour-intensive rescue took 90 minutes and five emergency vehicles were on scene. There have been several other incidents in Escarpment areas owned by the Hamilton Conservation Authority where visitors were either off-trail or in the areas after they close at sundown.
There are areas in the Spencer Gorge/Webster’s Falls Conservation Area that are fenced off and closed to the public for safety reasons. Some visitors are climbing over or removing fencing to enter these areas, which are unsafe. The slopes and edges of the Escarpment can be unstable and pose a fall hazard. If a user falls in an Escarpment area, the only way to assist them out of the area is through a rope rescue by the Hamilton Fire Department, who are trained to carry out these rescues safely.
We ask that all visitors to conservation areas respect the rules, stay on trails and do not climb or otherwise bypass fencing, for their own safety and the environmental health of the areas. Keep well back from the edge of gorges and Escarpment areas, at least a body length. Adults should keep children and pets well away from these areas. Some natural areas may not be fenced. Visitors should also take care when walking at the bottom of gorge and Escarpment areas due to the chances of falling rocks or slips and falls on wet or algae-covered rocks.
Visitors should keep to marked trails at all times, not only for their own safety, but for the safety of the many rare and sensitive plants and small animals that could be easily damaged or hurt if you leave the trails.
Please stay safe while enjoying your local conservation areas. For more information on Hamilton Conservation Areas, see www.conservationhamilton.ca.