The effort to ''heal" and transform the blighted area surrounding east Hamilton's Windermere Basin continues this weekend with the creation of an air-cleansing tree barrier to be planted by volunteers.

Long marred by sewage, chemical runoff and the impacts of nearby heavy industry, the Basin's evolution into a man-made wetland will take another step with 400 new trees meant to buffer air quality for the Hamilton Beach community. 

Environment Hamilton, the group organizing the event, is inviting people to bring their shovels to help out with the planting Saturday.

Spot for 400 new trees

400 native trees will be planted at the public park space directly across Red Hill Creek from the Basin. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

Digging will begin at 10:00 a.m. at 447 Eastport Dr. and will go until 1:00 p.m.

The effort to transform the lands around the basin began five years ago. Windermere sits amid heavy industry, at the foot of the Red Hill Creek, alongside the Queen Elizabeth Way, and is downstream from closed landfills and the city's sewage treatment plant.

"So we're standing on the edge of the Queen Elizabeth Way and the prevailing winds take the industrial emissions out over the QEW towards the Hamilton Beach community so Hamilton Beach residents will be able to breath easier, I think, once there are more trees here," said Environment Hamilton Executive Director, Lynda Lukasik.

This is just the latest improvement to the area that for decades previous, was plagued by chemicals, sewage overflows, landfill leaks and eroded sediment.

 Windermere Basin Park 1950's

A an aerial photo from the 1950's of the Windermere Basin area. (Hamilton Waterfront Trust)

The man-made wetland came with a price tag ranging in the $20 million range and was supported by all three levels of government.

Environment Hamilton says the area is thriving despite the fact that it's surrounded by heavy industry.

"This really epitomizes sort of the contrast that we're challenged [by] here in Hamilton, that sort of butting up of you know, our impacts through things like heavy industry and the natural environment. And the nice thing is that the natural environment is bouncing back naturally," said Lukasik.  

 Windermere Basin 1998

A photo of the Windermere Basin area in 1998. (Hamilton Waterfront Trust)

Along with acting as a natural buffer against air pollution, the new trees will also work to improve habitat for wildlife in the area.

Lukasik says it's also an opportunity to bring community members together. She says this has had great, long-term impact because people take interest in the progression of the trees they've planted.

"I've heard from more than one person that they've gone back to the site and checked on the trees that they planted and it becomes really important to people and that's really powerful," said Lukasik.

Windermere Basin 2002

Windermere Basin, 2002. (Hamilton Waterfront Trust )

Even in its most degraded days, the area was a popular one with birdwatchers. That has only increased as the environment has improved.

Barry Cherriere has been visiting the spot on a regular basis since the early 70's. 

"It's a migration spot so I just come every day to see what new surprises might be here," said Cherriere.

Barry Cherriere

Barry Cherriere is an avid birdwatcher and has been doing so on a regular basis in this area since the early 70's. He says it's a great spot for birdwatching. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

Cherriere says that although there was better access to certain areas before the project, it's a great improvement in general.

"It's a great improvement because that was all water. It was water right from the Red Hill Creek to the very far berm. The Red Hill Creek just had a bulge in it and it was all water, duck habitat," said Cherriere. 

History of the Windermere Basin

The wetland was created in 2012 and was supported by all three levels of government. For decades the Windermere Basin was plagued by chemicals, sewage overflows, landfill leaks and eroded sediment. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

The planting has been made possible by Environment Hamilton and the Hamilton Naturalists' Club in partnership with the city's forestry department.