Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday May 12, 2016
Want to visit Webster’s Falls? Be ready to pay $15
The Hamilton Conservation Authority has hiked its fees at Spencer Gorge/Webster Falls Conservation Area in an effort to curb the influx of weekend visitors.
“The local environment is taking a pounding,” said chief administrative officer Chris Firth-Eagland who estimates the park has seen more than 3,000 people at a time during a peak weekend — the park’s estimated capacity.
He said conservative estimates suggest the park had 140,000 visitors in 2015, up from about 80,000 two years earlier. The increased human activity not only endangers a fragile ecosystem, including century old trees, “sensitive plant regimes,” and bird species like the recently departed Louisiana Waterthrush, it has also created traffic and parking issues for locals.
“The place is gridlocked when the leaves change colours,” said Firth-Eagland.
As one step in the solution, said Firth-Eagland, the HCA has aligned its pricing to be similar to prominent HCA attractions like Christie Lake, Dundas Valley, Valens Lake and Fifty Point. As of May 21, visitors will pay a $10 parking fee and $5 per person to gain access to the Spencer Gorge/Webster Falls park. The revised fee schedule also applies to the Tew Falls parking area and site.
Between May 21 and Oct. 31, HCA membership passes will not gain free admittance on weekends. In all other HCA conservation areas the membership passes will remain valid on weekends and admittance fees appear to remain unchanged.
The City of Waterfalls Initiatives founder Chris Ecklund says the move by the HCA wasn’t surprising.
“For the waterfall initiative as a whole, the Number 1 complaint is the cost of admission to the HCA properties in general,” said Ecklund. “We have people saying they can’t afford it because they’re on a fixed income.
“This cost is insanity.” (Source: Hamilton Spectator)