Throwback Thursday - Arts Beat February 2018 - 1
Stephen Near


50 Years - 1941-1991 - Royal Botanical Gardens

February 1991



Hamilton-Wentworth has, in the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), a jewel of unparalleled price.

Unparalleled because the value of gardens, parklands, and wildlife sanctuaries can only continue to increase. Land is the one commodity that is not being made any more. On the contrary, much of what there is being inevitably lost to the pressure of an expanding city and ever more popular municipality.

The RBG is one of the biggest botanic gardens in the world, 2,700 acres in extent. That it exists at all is a tribute to Hamilton’s City Fathers of the 1930’s and to all those professionals and volunteers at the RBG who have ensured its continuity by establishing its international reputation. RBG celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year and we look to the Regions  and the Provincial Government to ensure that its work and its reputation progresses with equal vigour for the next half century.

This is a particularly opportune moment. At no time in the recorded history of this planet have the concerns of the environment been seen to be also the concerns of humankind. And, central to these environmental concerns is the world of plants: plants feed us, clothe us, provide materials for our shelter and, above all, by their mere existence, make animal and human life possible. Sophisticated man in a post-industrial society is as dependent on plants as were out prehistoric hunter-gatherer forebears with one significant addition.

That is our use of the natural world and the plants that clothe it for our spiritual and aesthetic needs. Again, never has this been more necessary.

The mandate of a botanic garden, and RBG in particular, fulfils all of these aspects by its scientific research, its educational programmes and by the beauty of its cultivated gardens and maintained natural areas. It is an unrivalled resource for residents of this municipality because it is in our very midst.

But, it must be emphasized, RBG is an autonomous institution, with its own Act of Legislature - a provincial body, just as Ontario has no other botanic garden. Yet, there is a great danger locally of its being taken for granted, as if it were merely another public park, albeit, a big one (RBG is three-and-a-half times the size of Central Park, New York!). My majoy vision for RBG is coupled with my vision for Hamilton-Wentworth: that all parts of the community should take pride in RBG’s uniqueness and hence, take pride in what is here. No other community in Canada has this resource. Not even Toronto! In economic terms, combined with Hamilton Wentworth’s location and its other cultural attractions, (Hamilton place is best hall in the Province, Dundurn the best house, for 2 miles York Boulevard is the best entrance to Canadian city and so on), RBG brings in significant tourist dollars. At last this year, with the institution of visitor fees, RBG itself stands to gain from tourism.

Paterson, Alan. “50 Years - Royal Botaniacal Gardens - 1941 - 1991” Arts Beat, vol. 4, no. 5, Feb 1991, p. 17.