Carmela Fragomeni - The Hamilton Spectator
- Sep. 26, 01:02 EDT
Celebrated artist Robert Bateman is lamenting the planned "desecration
of (his) sacred place," the Niagara Escarpment, to make way for
the mid-peninsula highway.
Bateman, a world- renowned painter and naturalist, lived on the escarpment
near Mount Nemo in Burlington for 26 years. His first show was in
Burlington in 1967 when he was a high school teacher there.
"I've been gratified every time I come back -- I drive down Britannia
Road -- at how intact it still is. It makes me smile with pleasure,"
Many of his early paintings are of wildlife in the area being considered
for the mid-peninsula highway.
Bateman has been an active member of naturalists' clubs and conservation
groups since the early 1960s and has become a spokesman for many environmental
Bateman, who now lives in British Columbia, said bulldozing the escarpment
and the surrounding rural areas might be the worst thing to befall
the UN-proclaimed world biosphere. "It's a terrible feeling of what
He hopes his voice adds strength to that of the Citizens Opposed to
Paving the Escarpment (COPE) in fighting a provincial proposal for
the new highway to cut through the escarpment and rural Flamborough
"I think it's a dreadful idea ... We badly need to give our heads
a shake on this," Bateman said yesterday from Venice, Fla., where
he was signing prints of his works.
"I would have hoped the 21st century would have seen a newer, brighter,
more progressive approach to transportation.
"We should be following in the footsteps of Europe and get a handle
on the automobile taking over our lives so much."
Bateman wants to help COPE rally people in large numbers to oppose
the plans and make the Ontario government listen. The 72-year-old
artist, who has travelled the world exhibiting his paintings, called
Mount Nemo an almost sacred place for him.
He said Halton region is one of the three places in the world closest
to his heart. The other two are Haliburton, where his family has had
a cottage since the 1930s, and Salt Spring Island, where he has lived
He considers the mid-peninsula proposal to be the same kind of Progressive
Conservative mentality that brought Ontario the Walkerton tragedy
in which seven people died from contaminated drinking water.
He cited provincial cuts in the Environment Ministry as one of the
COPE is hosting a media conference featuring Bateman at Spencer Gorge
Wilderness Park in Flamborough above Dundas Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Sue McMaster of Flamborough, a COPE member, said her group feels "pretty
lucky" Bateman has made time for their cause.
"He is someone who really and truly appreciates the escarpment and
the surrounding area for what it truly is," McMaster said. "He understands
the implications of this highway ... He has publicly shown his interest
in saving the escarpment. A lot of his early work is of this area.
"He is known for depicting exactly what we're trying to save."