Parks are brown deserts: Here’s what’s feeling the heat in Hamilton

Posted: Jul 20, 2016

How the city is reacting to rising temperatures

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Dead grass is abundant in Hamilton’s Bayfront Park, and weeks of heat and little precipitation. (Clare Bonnyman/CBC News)

This summer is having a serious effect on Hamilton’s turf.

The ground is brown, and city parks are looking more like sandy deserts than welcoming destinations.

The hot and dry weather is having an effect on city department’s, businesses and citizens. Some good, some bad; all hot.

Hamilton has felt more than 11 days hotter than 30 C since the start of June. With more in the forecast, it’s shaping up to be the hottest summer the city has seen in a while.  Here are some of the ways the drought and heat are having an impact.

Parks and Cemeteries

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Weeds are thriving in the weather, and provide spots of green amongst the fields of dead grass. (Clare Bonnyman/CBC News)

Hamilton’s manager of parks and cemeteries, Tennessee Propedo, said that while the weather’s not great, the grass lying dormant  — read, brown — in the heat has offered opportunities for staff and summer employees to knock items off the to do list. With no grass growing, the teams of summer staff who normally keep parks and fields trimmed are picking up other work.

While still trimming the weeds that survive in this weather, “general maintenance issues are getting addressed,” he said.

“It gives us an opportunity to catch up on some normal maintenance that we don’t get to very often” like paint goal posts or tend to newly planted trees.

‘Turf is a very hearty creature.’- Tennessee Propedo,  manager of parks and cemeteries

The parks and cemeteries department follows the same rules as residents when it comes to watering, and while irrigation is useful in keeping soccer and ball fields and recreational areas more green, for most areas they rely on Mother Nature.

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In previous years with this condition, grass fires were a major problem for Hamilton Parks. Operations. Luckily this year, they haven’t had to worry due to smoking bans. (Clare Bonnyman/CBC News)

“Unless there’s irrigation there’s not a lot you can do,” said Propedo.

At this point, the ground is so hard that shuttling water to the site would be a waste. Instead, Parks is hoping for a solid stream of steady rain to soak the ground and let the water get to the roots.

The one blessing Propedo is counting, is the smoking ban in place in all parks.

“We haven’t encountered any grass fires or anything like that,” he said, a much larger issue they faced previously in hot and dry conditions.

But despite the brown earth, he’s not concerned.

“Turf is a very hearty creature,” said Propedo. “It’ll come back.”

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Despite the colour, the grass is still getting mowed -if only for the weeds. But Tennessee Propedo from the City, says it has freed them up to do more work. (Clare Bonnyman/CBC News)


Another hearty plant, grape vines are resilient enough to withstand the heat. But vineyards in the area are struggling with the lack of rain. In some cases local vintners are having to try out new tactics.

Sean Douglas, of Ridge Road Winery in Stoney Creek, said in an email that for the first time in 18 years they have had to water the younger plants.

“The older vines have that deep tap root that enables them to find water sources, but younger vines do not have this advanced root system,” he said.

Vineyards around Hamilton have resorted to watering plants due to the dry heat. (Ridge Road Winery)

While grapes only begin to struggle after prolonged temperatures of 35 degrees, a consistent lack of precipitation is a different story.

Douglas says if they don’t see precipitation soon, there is a risk the grapes will stop ripening and the growth they’re enjoying this summer will come to a screeching halt.

Wild Waterworks

For many, the best way to escape the heat has been to go for a dip, and for Wild Waterworks, it has meant a serious boost in sales.

Sara Kinnear, manager of the water park, said that attendance is more than double last year’s already.

“Hotter days do bring more people out,” she said. And this year especially, as the next closest water park — Wild Water Kingdom in Brampton — has been closed.

The park is up almost 25,000 in attendance since this time last year, with more than 51,000 visitors since the park’s opening in June. Last season was the fifth busiest since the Park’s opening since 1983, and Kinnear is hopeful that this summer will continue to be even more successful.

Wild Water Works is enjoying more than double the attendance they had this time last year, with more than 51,000 visitors since June. (Wild Water Works)

The dry weather has had little effect on the park, forcing them to use more water than before as they’re not relying on rain. But, Kinnear said, it’s not a huge deal.

The only day the park closed this year was July 1, and with continued sunshine in the forecast the staff is excited.

“Bring on the sun,” said Kinnear. “It’s fantastic for us.”

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