Gil Simmons : Environmentalist of the Year – 1984

Gil Simmons believes her immigration to Canada thirty years ago gave her a sensitivity to urban surroundings and to subtle, and not so subtle, changes that threatened her neighbourhood — the North End.

In 1959 Gil and her family moved to 449 Bay Street where she and her husband, Bobby still reside [as of 1985]. From her cosy dining room overlooking the Bay, Gil observed, and understood, the threat of the huge piles of rocks and dirt being dumped into the Bay.

Gil’s enthusiasm for what is unwittingly neglected, enabled her to share her concerns with others. Thus, translating observations into community action, the Save the Bay Committee originated in 1971 and, although the organization no longer exists, the goals have endured. In 1984 the City of Hamilton purchased the landfill properties. In 1985, Gil was vice-chairman of the City’s Waterfront Advisory Committee which hoped to ensure this waterfront area as a people place.

Gil has been involved in numerous other community groups and issues including Victoria Park Community Association, North End Re-development Plan, the Perimeter Road Study and the neighbourhood and secondary planning process, all of which focused on Hamilton’s shoreline. But Gil’s community activity extended far beyond her own backyard. She was secretary and president of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, Hamilton Branch; president of CHOP (Clear Hamilton of Pollution); and a member of the Federation of Environmental Groups; Community Planning Association of Canada and Central Area Planning Committee.

Gil gained constantly through lessons learned and support received from a wide range of community-based groups including the Durand Association; COST (Coalition on Sensible Transit); the Local Architectural Advisory Committee; the James Street North Heritage Study Committee and the Hamilton and District Council of Women. She was also deeply grateful for many sound factual discussions with a tolerant and always helpful planning department staff.

Gil’s future plans entailed returning to school to study Urban Planning. She wanted to find the answer to the question, “How do we create neighbourhoods that enhance human relationships?”. It seems that Gil was already finding answers to her own questions. Her work during the past decade in Hamilton had done just that.