Red Hill Valley Turtle Meeting Place a spot to rest and reflect
The Turtle Meeting Place is one of two existing meeting spots along the Red Hill Valley trail system
Taking the shape of its name, the Turtle Meeting Place is the latest spot for people to gather and reflect on the large Indigenous footprint on the Red Hill Valley.
The meeting place is the newest instalment of created spaces along the Red Hill Valley trail system where people can not only stop for a break and take in the beautiful landscape, but also learn about Indigenous history as it relates to the valley.
From an aerial view, the creature's figure is apparent. Its name is fitting since the turtle represents Mother Earth.
"The whole idea is that the turtle is the symbol of the earth to many of the Indigenous cultures, so that's why we decided to go with that symbol," said Rick Hill, coordinator of the Joint Stewardship Board, a body that represents both the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the City of Hamilton.
The turtle is located at the northern end of the valley just south of the pedestrian bridge over the QEW, by way of the end of Brampton Street.
Construction finished last fall. They're just approving the signs for it, says Hill. A public opening is expected this summer.
In this kind of era of reconciliation, more and more people want to hear and understand and appreciate the Indigenous perspectives on the environment in particular.- Rick Hill, coordinator of the Joint Stewardship Board
"Both the city of Hamilton and the Six Nations have decided that we're going to really focus in on how do we get people to appreciate this great gift we have called nature, and getting people as they're walking in trails and enjoying nature (to) think a little more about the Indigenous footprint that was there before," said Hill.
"Through these gathering places, we'll be able to engage and tell these stories. In this kind of era of reconciliation, more and more people want to hear and understand and appreciate the Indigenous perspectives on the environment in particular."
The Turtle Meeting Place cost $194,000, the city says. That includes about $41,000 in consulting work and staff project management, which includes designs and site assessment. Construction cost $153,00.
The turtle is the second of four meeting places scheduled for the valley.
The Bear Meeting Place was completed in 2014. It's located at the southern end of the valley, just west of the viaduct for the Red Hill Valley Parkway that's accessible via Mount Albion Trail Access or Mud Street Trail Access.
The Bear Meeting Place cost about $126,000 — about $46,000 in consulting work and staff project management, plus $80,000 in construction costs.
Both meeting places are made from natural products with the exception of the signs.
The city says conceptual designs for the remaining two meeting places, the Nest and the Eel, are done.
It's all part of celebrating our Indigenous culture and history.- Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins
Planning for the Nest Meeting Place is underway and construction will start in the next year.
The timing for the Eel is being determined.
"With each one, we try to look at a different connection to the environment with the bear, the turtle, the heron and the eel just getting people to realize that these were all creatures at one time called the valley their home," said Hill.
The Joint Stewardship Board was created in 2005 during the process of constructing the parkway in the valley, to oversee the well being of the valley.
Coun. Chad Collins of Ward 5 sits on the board. He says the city forged a partnership and relationship with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs, an agreement that was signed by Hamilton representatives and the chiefs at Six Nations.
"We've had a very good working relationship since 2005," said Collins.
Collins says a main goal over the next year or two is to find a location and resources for an environmental interpretive centre intended to showcase Indigenous history related to the valley. This is a component of the 2005 agreement with smaller projects in the interim, in their lead up to getting the centre open.
"It's all part of celebrating our Indigenous culture and history, and bringing our two communities together," said Collins.
Hill says there's always going to be pressure between the need to develop and the need to preserve, and they want to help facilitate a discussion around the ramifications of both.
"It's almost like our last chance to really think, what kind of ecological future does Hamilton really want?"