Thursday, April 27, 2006

City Documents, April-May 2006

This is turning into a semi-regular feature. I usually spend a few hours each month perusing city committee documents posted with agendas. Some are directly related to the Don, some are indirect and others are quite tenuous. Nevertheless, I post the links here for your edification. Note that anyone can see these documents. Just go to the city's website for committee listings.

City Council, April 25

Green Roof Incentive Pilot Program: The city is offering an incentive to anyone who wants to install a green roof on their building.

Rainwater harvesting at CNE: One of those tenuous connections but it could reduce wet weather flow which is one of the biggest threats to the river.

Bring Back The Don's Chester Springs Marsh Funding Request: The goal here is to fund a study of the marsh to determine its current ecological and hydrological conditions. Things aren't going as planned in our 'flagship' restoration site so we want to get a handle on how to manage it going forward.

City Response to Regulation 97/04: Municipal whining about provincial policy on conservation authority planning limits. It seems that this will substantially increase the TRCA's ability to stick its nose into city business. Just a pissing contest.

Planning & Transportation, Monday May 1

Rainwater Harvesting in Toronto: A powerpoint presentation about said topic to the committee.

Works, May 3

Wet Weather Flow Implementation Update: Update on wet weather flow progress in 2004-2005. This five page report makes for excellent reading!

Economic Development and Parks, May 4

Dogs in Parks Strategy: Last but not least, the city is finally getting its act together on an issue that is starting to get out of hand. Long overdue. Expect this one to be hotly debated.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Waterfront News

Here's a little bit of news about the waterfront that's indirectly related to the Don. The Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation board has officially appointed three citizen members to the board including former Task Force to Bring Back the Don chair, Mark Wilson (no relation to current chair John Wilson). Mark was the first chair of the Task Force from 1991-1997. Mark hosted one of the first websites about the Don although he no longer maintains it. Here is the full press release.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Rainy Earth Day Planting

Planting on a slippery hillside

Young planters get into the swing of things

Not the best start to the planting season but about 30 people showed up to plant trees and shrubs at Riverdale Farm. There was the usual mix of native trees and shrubs, namely Sugar Maple, Elderberry, Red-osier Dogwood, Alternate-leaved Dogwood, and Staghorn Sumac. The digging was easy so it went pretty fast despite the weather.

On an administrative note, this is Don Watcher post #100. I started this blog back in July last year. That means, I've averaged about 2.5 posts per week. The blog is now getting an average of 110 visits per week. I think that's a pretty good start! I haven't done any advertising other than word of mouth, so if you like what you see here, please pass the link to your friends.

Monday, April 24, 2006

More Wiki

For those of you who are long time followers of this blog, you've probably noticed an overabundance of links to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. That's mostly because I am also a volunteer Wikipedia editor. In my spare time I have been creating articles about the Don River. Since my last post I have added two new articles about Friends of the Don East and the Task Force to Bring Back the Don.

I created both articles. As with all Wikipedia content anyone is free to add or change the content. This is both a strength and a weakness. The advantage is that many contributors can add to each article creating a better piece of text. The disadvantage is that a malicious person can vandalize the text. Overall I think the pluses outweigh the minuses.

Read the articles yourself, and if you so desire you can add to them or change them (I tried to be accurate, but there could be something I got wrong or omitted). However, be warned - I've placed a watch on both articles so I'll know when something has changed.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

That Earth Day Thing

Earth Day is such a misnomer. Overblown and overhyped, it now seems just an excuse to spend one day of the year doing something 'good' for the planet. Yet we still drive SUVs, buy overpackaged consumer goods and still muse on the necessity of building nuclear plants. What we should really be doing is rethinking our way of life and rebuilding it to one that doesn't overbuild, overpollute, and overprocess our way out of existence. Mother nature keeps hinting about what's to come, we're just not listening hard enough. The problem with nature is that it likes thresholds. If we keep going the way we are now we're going to cross one of those thresholds and it's not going to be a doorstep - it'll be a cliff.

Sorry for the rant (at least River Rat will like it). Anyways, if you still want to do the Earth Day Thing, there are a couple of events in the Don this weekend where you can assuage your guilt. On Saturday, April 22 starting at 9:30 AM, Friends of Riverdale Farm is hosting a tree planting event. It will be down by the ponds, just follow the path lined with shovels.

On Sunday, April 23 at 12 noon, Friends of the Don East are holding a tree planting in Taylor Creek Park. It is in the Dawes Road area at the foot of Halsey Ave. Here's a map for directions.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Spring Beauty

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Another early riser, this flower can be seen sprouting up in various places in the lower Don and some of the neighbouring ravines. It is native to Eastern North America and ranges from Florida up to Nova Scotia. Each plant produces a single 8 petaled white flower. Bloodroot gets its name from the red sap that exudes from the stem or roots if it is broken or crushed.

It grows low to the ground, and spreads easily. According to Wikipedia, its seeds are spread by ants. Ants take the seeds into their burrows. The ants eat a fleshy part of the seed called an elaiosome and store the seed in the burrow until it germinates. Both the ants and the plants benefit. This is called a mutualistic behaviour.

The plant sap has been used as a dye and there are references to some medicinal qualities but it turns out that the sap is a potent neurotoxin. Ingestion should be avoided. To us current day urban dwellers the biggest benefit is its aesthetic qualities. To ensure that future citizens can also enjoy its beauty, just take pictures and leave the plants for the ants.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Cleanup a Success

FODE President, James MacArthur, gives pep talk to cleanup crew

Todmorden Mills received a spring cleanup on the weekend. It was sponsored by Friends of the Don East (FODE) and the Todmorden Mills Wildflower Preserve. Participants scoured the site armed with garbage bags and picked up refuse that has collected over the past year. About 25 people showed up including a group from the Don Heights Unitarian Congregation.

Picking up garbage on hillside just below Pottery Rd.

As usual the garbage consisted mostly of plastic and paper garbage with a liberal mix of bottles and cans thrown in. The back area of the Mill is a popular location for teenage partiers so there is always a good collection of beer bottles and cans. My favourite pickup item though was plastic-wrapped dog shit. How nice of dog walkers to pickup after their dog only to throw it away in a convenient natural setting. For some reason they couldn't wait until they reached a nearby garbage can.

Unitarians from Don Heights

There were a couple of unusual items found - a 5 foot diameter truck tire, a ghetto box radio, and a pig's head. OK, the pig's head was just a rubber hallowe'en mask but I had great fun pulling it out of a plastic bag as a practical joke "Hey, I found a pig's head. Wanna see?"

The cleanup has been done annually for the past 8 years. While much of the garbage collects over the previous 12 months, there is some garbage that has been there for years, sometimes decades. This is an indication that the cleanup crew can't find enough recent garbage so they are looking for the hard to find stuff. Of course it's still wishful thinking that this won't be an annual event for sometime to come. So I guess I need to say, see you next year. Here's a big thankyou to all the participants.

Postscript: TMWP volunteer Glenn G. has posted some additional photos of the cleanup. Follow the link to his photogallery.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Real Don Hike

The TRCA hosts an event every spring called Paddle the Don where you put a canoe into the river at Eglinton and Leslie and paddle all the way down to the mouth at Lakeshore. The past couple of years they have also tried another event called "Hike the Don" which allows people to walk the same valleys that the canoes traverse. This is more of a walk. All of the hike will be on paved walking trails which the whole family can do.

If you are a more serious hiker, I will be leading a hike tomorrow, April 16. The hike is sponsored by the Task Force to Bring Back the Don and the Toronto Bruce Trail Club. It starts at Davisville Subway station at 10 AM. During the hike we will visit the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, David Balfour Park, the Brick Works, Crothers' Woods, Charles Sauriol Preserve and E.T. Seton Park. The section past the Brick Works will be almost exclusively on mountain bike trails so be prepared to share the trail. These trails are very up and down. Some are muddy and at times very tricky to walk on. If you like a challenge you'll love this hike. If you don't then you'll have to wait until the TRCA event in May. See you on the trail.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Todmorden Mills Spring Cleanup

First event of the spring, 10AM Saturday, April 15

Todmorden Mills is part heritage museum and part natural preserve. Due to its proximity to the edge of the valley it tends to collect a fair bit of garbage. Come out on Saturday to help keep this bit of natural Don Valley in good shape. Click here for a direction map. The cleanup crew will meet at the south end of the entrance road. There will be a BBQ and interpretive walk following the cleanup.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

West Don Lands Park

One of the highlights of the West Don Lands revitalisation project is the creation of a park on the west side of the river between the Lakeshore railway and King St East. Practically speaking, the main reason for the park is that it will occupy the area where the berm will be built. Since they can't build anything on top of it, we get a park instead. Since this is the way of the world, I'll bite my tongue and just say thankyou.

There is a public forum on Tuesday, April 18, 2006 from 7 -9 PM in the Champagne Ballroom, Novotel Hotel at 45 The Esplanade. If you go, make sure to ask why there no trees will be planted on the berm.

On a related note, the Lower Don Trail will finally close on April 17, 2006. The TRCA has awarded the construction project to dig a pedestrian tunnel underneath the Lakeshore railway bridge and they will be starting construction very soon. PDF News Release.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Spring 2006 Events

Spring has officially arrived (March 21st). This event is celebrated annually in the Don Valley by a flurry of announcements from different groups that includes plantings, cleanups, walks, and workshops. Listed here are places online where you can find these events listed.

Friends of the Don East: FODE kicks off the spring with a cleanup at Todmorden Mills on Sat. April 15. They will also be hosting three planting events and several walks in and around Taylor Creek Park and the Lower Don.

Bring Back the Don: BBTD hasn't posted events yet but the Spring 2006 newsletter is online and the events are listed on pgs 3-4. The first event is a hike lead by yours truly and Dave Tyson on Sunday April 16. This is a joint event with the Toronto Bruce Trail Club. TBTC runs several urban hikes, some of which are in the Don Valley. You can find these hikes listed on their website.

City of Toronto: The city hosts planting events across the city and these events are now posted on the Green Toronto website. There are five events listed for April 22-23, three in the Don, one on Highland Creek and another on Toronto Islands.

Toronto Regional Conservation Authority: The TRCA holds many events across the city as they have responsibility for all the watersheds from the Rouge River to Etobicoke Creek. They host several events in the Don including the popular Paddle the Don on May 7. Their first event is an open house on Wednesday April 5th at the Brick Works, co-hosted with Evergreen.

Taylor Massey Project: TMP is kicking off its season with a couple of cleanup days in the upper reaches of the Taylor-Massey Creek watershed. Starting on the weekend of April 22, They will be cleaning up ravine areas between Eglinton Avenue and St. Clair Avenue.

So get out your calendars and plan your spring volunteer participation schedule! Hope to see you out there.

Note that some of these events are listed on more than one website as they might be jointly hosted.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

New Species Invades the Brick Works

Sign posted in Brick Works parking lot

Sometime this winter, someone released a flock of penguins in the Brick Works ponds. They have since adapted to the local conditions and are breeding like rabbits. The problem has become so bad that the city has posted this sign in the parking lot. Apparently they are attracted to the warm engine blocks so they crawl under the cars. When cars start up they become trapped, and this can create a real mess. A local pol passing by said "You gotta watch these little devils. If you drive away with one of them under the hood, it can really fowl up the engine, if you get my meaning."

Currently there is no plan to remove them from the ponds. There presence has resulted in at least one benefit - they are eating all the goldfish that people have dumped in the pond. Another advantage is that they are very territorial. Dog walkers have learned to keep their dogs on a leash, as some dogs have learned the hard way that an angry penguin has a very sharp beak.

Donwatcher intends to keep a close eye on the situation and will keep you posted on new developments.

(Oh, by the way, April Fools!)