As the mid-March snow melts away, a new initiative is warming up in Westdale. King Street West café My Dog Joe has launched a monthly hike series to bring the community together and teach a little local ecology and history.

“As a business owner, the main idea for me is to drive business and our brand,” said Jeff Groat, manager of My Dog Joe. “The main idea is to hang out, have some breakfast or coffee. People can get a coffee to go if they want of course. And then we’ll walk.”

Groat explained that his wife originally came up with the idea after seeing some of the experience-based opportunities AirBnB was offering. He then approached former colleague and McMaster graduate student Reyna Matties about leading the hikes.

“The focus of the hikes are to have fun and get out in the community but also to learn about the local ecology and history,” Matties explained. She added that her background in conservation biology and ecology means she can tell hikers about the local environment, including the area’s ecosystem or natural history.

“[The hikes] are themed [based on ecosystem]… there’s lots of really diverse areas here and one of the things I’m hoping to show is the diversity of ecosystems that are local and also accessible by walking or biking or different types of transport,” she added.

The first hike, held on March 25, explores the Chedoke Stairs and Radial Trail area near the Chedoke golf course. The course runs just over 6 kilometres, and Matties hopes to show off different parts of the Niagara Escarpment, providing noteworthy details about the ecology and history of the area.

“[We’ll do] a bit of geology and then also a bit of history of the Chedoke Radial Trail that formed on a previous railway,” Matties said. “Hamilton has a few different trails that are railways converted into trails which is unique and we can bike on them or hike and it provides an awesome opportunity to explore the escarpment.”

Groat is also excited to get a new perspective on the city, especially as spring blooms in Hamilton.

“I love that there’s all this nature and it’s so close by and more or less intact, especially in the Cootes Paradise area,” Groat said. “And you know, it’s our neighbourhood. We do business here, customers live here, so I think it would be nice for us to celebrate that a bit and be good neighbours and you know, take part in the neighbourhood.”

Groat is looking forward to learning more about the Hamilton environment, but he is also excited to see who is interested in the hikes.

“Hamilton’s a cool place, and it’s nice to just meet people and chat. I like that part of this business here. I work behind the counter a couple of days a week, I see the same people all the time,” he added.

Groat concluded that while only three hikes are currently planned, there is a possibility that more will follow throughout the summer based on the success of the first few.

“Really it’s about meeting people, having something to do on a Saturday morning.”

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