Burlington’s natural heritage greatly influenced the settlement patterns of the area. The City’s natural environment also provided the community, from the past to the present, opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.
Lake Ontario was a major factor in the early settlement of the Burlington area. Three main ports sprang up along the shore. James Gage built a wharf at the foot of Brant Street in Wellington Square with Port Nelson (at the foot of Guelph Line) becoming known for shipping wheat. Alexander Brown built Brown’s Wharf at Port Flamborough (now LaSalle Park) and it became a major lumber shipping port.
Burlington’s Creeks also had a major impact on settlement patterns. When settlers first arrived in the area, they often first built a house then a mill. This is true in the case of Henry Zimmerman in the Village of Zimmerman, James Cleaver in Lowville, William Panton in Kilbride, the Pegg family in Dakota and Titus Cummins in Cumminsville. All of these early settlers knew the importance of establishing their respective settlements near the Twelve Mile Creek, as it provided water power to their mills and other industries.
The Niagara Escarpment is one of the area’s most notable landmarks. The Niagara Escarpment extends from the Niagara River to the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula and continues through Manitoulin Island. Prior to Euro-Canadian contact, the Niagara Escarpment was well-utilized by First Nations peoples in the Burlington area. It provided a transportation route along which the long trek could be made northwesterly to the Bruce Peninsula. The escarpment was also exploited as a natural resource by early pioneers to the Township of Nelson and Burlington. Various quarries in and around the City of Burlington, that were in operation, provided aggregate resources to assist with the construction of homes and businesses in the area. The Niagara Escarpment is still a source of aggregate resources today. The Niagara Escarpment in Burlington has been used recreationally for many years.
Burlington’s many Parks and Trails take advantage of the area’s natural assets. The most notable is Spencer Smith Park along the lake front, which was established in the 1940s. Mount Nemo represents some of the best cliff ecosystems and views on the Niagara Escarpment. Another set of parks were built around the area’s historic assets: Bronte Creek Provincial Park contains the Spruce Lane Farmhouse; LaSalle Park was the site of Alexander Brown’s Wharf and now contains a 1917 dance pavilion; and Paletta Lakefront Park & Mansion centres on a 1930s estate.