Mini-putt course just off the Escarpment Rail Trail east of Victoria is being restored to a community asset.
By Ben Babcock
Published April 29, 2016
If you veer off the Lower Escarpment Rail Trail a little east of Corktown Park and across Victoria Avenue, you will encounter an abandoned mini-putt course just south of the trail.
Abandoned mini-putt course (RTH file photo)
This was a late add-on to the old Sportsman's Lanes Bowling Alley at 467 Charlton Avenue East, added in the late 1980s or early 1990s.
The bowling alley operated from the 1950s to the '90s under a few owners until it became a taxi maintenance facility and, later, the operations centre for Ontario Patient Transfer (OPT), Hamilton Cab and a limousine service.
The building was demolished last year and the site is planned to be developed into The Vista condominiums.
Sign for The Vista condominiums at 467 Charlton Avenue East (RTH file photo)
The fellow who led the group that operated the bowling alley is a bit of a legend in bowling circles. Apparently five-pin bowling was invented here in the GTHA and is unique to Canada.
Sportsman's Lanes featured both five-pin and ten-pin bowling, I believe. At this week's Plan Local Ward 2 event, I chatted with a City staff member who spent several summers working at the mini-putt and has fond memories of the experience.
A few of us Stinson residents have started to maintain the greens lately, and this seems to have led to greater use as more people bring their own putters and balls to play a few holes.
Another view of the mini-putt course (RTH file photo)
We're making this effort to draw a little attention to this quirky little treasure in the hope that people will use it more frequently and exercise a little more stewardship of the area, which is otherwise not a part of the regular maintenance operations carried out by the City of Hamilton.
It is hoped that this positive usage will displace some of the more deleterious usage that the spot otherwise sometimes sees. So far that seems to be working.
The area is quite beautiful and in some ways resembles an amphitheatre. Some of us feel the site would make a great trailside parkette and we intend to explore that idea with the City under the Neighbourhood Action Strategy, in which the Stinson Neighbourhood is included.
Of course, there are always some folks who are more skeptical about change, but we're trying to win them over by staging brief, respectful and fun pop-up events, on and beside the Rail Trail, to demonstrate that increased usage is actually a plus for nearby residents.
Programming-wise, I have been exploring the idea of staging some small theatrical productions there, à la Shakespeare in the Park, and possibly incorporating it into the Fireflies In The Night event, held in the evening of Hamilton's 100in1Day.
If you are a frequent user of the Escarpment Rail Trail and have an interest in its further development, you already know that the Trail is a great resource in many ways, but its potential is even greater.
There are a number of these spots along the Escarpment Rail Trail, including the famous Uli Stairs, hand-crafted by a Hamiltonian named Ulrich.
Uli Stairs (RTH file photo)
Another treasure is the original Barton Reservoir. From within its bowl there is an odd acoustical effect that must be experienced. A few people have proposed that the City develop that fabulous resource into a full-on amphitheatre and performance space in the style of the Mill Race Theatre in Cambridge.
Mill Race Theatre, Cambridge (Image Credit: Justin Bastin)
This would be a walk-in, bike-in, roll-in-accessible, non-amplified entertainment facility that folks from both above and below the escarpment could access without using a car.
It might be a little reminiscent of Summers' Theatre [PDF] that once operated at the top of the Incline Railway, near the current Wentworth Stairs.
The recently-discussed potential tramway between Gage park and Mountain View Park could be designed with a midway stop at the Rail Trail, to service the amphitheatre and give greater access to the trail for people at the Kenilworth mid-point who may not be able to scale the stairs.
A few Stinson residents are planning to hold the 'Second First Annual Escarpment Rail Trail Golf Tourney' at some point this summer, probably after 100in1day. A date has not been set yet, but it will probably fall on a Saturday.
We did a dry run for the event on April 1 when we did the year's first clean-up, hence the curious name.
For the official event this summer, I'm suggesting a Flintstones/Bedrock theme and encouraging people to dress up accordingly for the photos.
In any case, keep an eye out for the event date once it has been finalized. It will be posted on the Raise the Hammer Events Calendar and other social media and circulated locally.
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