The Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) wants the city to reduce the speed limit on Cootes Drive, among other measures, to save Hamilton’s population of endangered turtles. But a Dundas councillor says he doesn't want anything too drastic yet.

There are four rare turtle species living around Cootes Paradise, and they’re getting crushed by passing cars, said Tys Theysmeyer, RBG’s head of natural lands.

He wants the city to reduce the speed limit from 80 to 60 kilometres per hour, erect more fencing and improve the Dundas wastewater plant, among other efforts.

The degradation of the wetlands are the biggest danger to turtles, he said. But “cars are definitely up there.”


The snapping turtle is amongst the most common seen crossing Cootes Drive to reproduce. Royal Botanical Gardens is asking the city to lower the speed limit on Cootes Drive, among other measures, to protect the city's rare turtles. (Julia Chapman/CBC)

But Coun. Russ Powers, who represents Dundas, says a 60-kilometre speed limit might be too drastic for the steady flow of traffic on that road. He wants to hear what the city's traffic department says about it.

"The drop in speed is too dramatic, but maybe drop the 80 to 70 or 65," he said. 

He'd also like to see what more fencing does before it the city implements a drop in the speed limit. "Maybe the reduction of speed is too much too soon." 

Theysmeyer presented to the city’s public works committee, which referred his requests to staff.

About 1,500 turtles live in the area of Cootes and Olympic Drives, he said. The population has dropped to half of what it was in the 1980s.

There are were initially 7 species but three have disappeared, leaving just four. Among the rare species is the Blandings Turtle. Fewer than 25 live in Hamilton, and only three are left in the Cootes area.

Theysmeyer’s requests included:

  • Water quality improvements to the Dundas wastewater plant and canal.
  • Establish a wildlife corridors committee to look at road kill locations.
  • Lower the Cootes Drive speed limit to 60 kilometres per hour.
  • Do more to limit non-native plants, such as phragmites, along the road.
  • Move the Dundas Community Garden behind Olympic Arena off RBG property.

The committee also voted Tuesday morning to spend $3 million on erosion control along Cherry Beach Road in lower Stoney Creek.