Thursday, June 29, 2006

July 2006 City Documents

A few documents from the Parks and Forestry Committee Agenda for July 6, 2006.

Brick Works Site Remediation. Before the city can hand off the site to Evergreen, they determined that there is a little bit of cleanup to be done. It will cost the city $840,000 to remove a variety of toxic substances from the buildings and some from underground deposits.

Emerald Ash Borer Situation. They are on their way to Toronto. Unfortunately this invading beetle is marching it's way inexorably through southern Ontario despite efforts by the CFIA to stop it. Staff are recommending the city set aside $37 million, not to control the beetle but to cover the cost of cutting down the soon to be dead trees and chipping them. This is a serious situation. If you walk down a typical Toronto street, approximately 1/3 of the trees planted in boxes are ash trees.

Street Tree Strategy. This report discusses methods to improve and expand Toronto's urban forest. Currently trees cover about 20% of the city. If we do nothing this will likely decrease. Toronto's goal is to increase cover to about 33%. It also discusses the impact on the aforementioned EAB situation.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Collecting Insects

Plant pest collection device

If you've been at the Brick Work recently you might have seen this hanging in the bushes. The label says that it is for collecting plant pests. I haven't been able to determine what pests they are collecting but it is likely the TRCA who is doing the work.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Report on the Burke Brook EA

Burke Brook as it flows out of culvert on east side of Bayview. This is the site of the proposed fish ladder.

The Environmental Assessment process launched with an open house on June 13. The plan is to look at restoring fish habitat in the open portion of Burke Brook that stretches west from the Don River and flows through a narrow and deep ravine just south of Sunnybrook Hospital, underneath Bayview and up through Sherwood Park towards Yonge and Lawrence.

The city is looking at building a fish ladder to allow them to progress upstream from Bayview as there is a series of steep drops from an outlet pipe that they can't get past.

While this project has some merit, it appears to neglect the basic fact that there are no fish in Burke Brook that will use the ladder. Local naturalists pointed out at the meeting that there is an outlet pipe in the ravine east of Bayview coming directly from underneath the hospital that often has a strong disinfectant smell. It is likely that any chemicals in this outflow are making the water too toxic for aquatic life. Until the effluent issue is addressed the fish ladder proposal will be a waste of money.

The initial study looked at stream morphology, bank stability, and erosion issues but failed to look into water quality issues. Toronto Water, the lead department in this EA should really know better. Surely their experience with the pollution study on Taylor-Massey Creek in 2005 would give them some clues as to the state of Toronto's urban creeks - it boggles the mind.

The city did say that perhaps the water quality issue should be addressed before proceeding. The EA will continue with another meeting, to be determined. If you are interested in getting on the contact list, send an email to Josie Giordano.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Spring Photoblogging II

More flower photos from the spring. All of these photos were taken in various parts of the Don. I won't give exact locations because I know that there are people out there who would like to see these plant decorate their coffee table. The proper place for them is in their natural setting where they play an integral role in the local ecology.

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

More of a bush then a wildflower, but it still produces brilliant reddish pink flowers in the spring.

Smooth Yellow Violet (Viola pennsylvanica)

Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)

Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum)

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

Yellow Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum)

Don't see too many orchids growing in the Don, but I found these (beautiful!)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Another Blog for the Don

As previously reported, the 2006 Community Stewardship season has started in the Don Valley (as well as other parts of the city) . It just so happens that one of the new volunteers has felt inspired enough to create her own weblog. Called Beechwood Wetland Blog, it will no doubt feature regular posts for this summer's activities at the site. If you're interested in becoming a volunteer at this site or somewhere else, just send an email to

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Brick Works Dog Run

As reported here last year, the Brick Works Dog Run expansion was noticed in August, complained about in September and halted in October. At a recent Public Advisory Committee meeting I asked about the current situation. City staff reported that the relocation of the dog run expansion has been delayed because they want the contractor currently doing modifications at the entrance to finish the work there first. When that is done, work will commence on the realignment of the dog run fence. Work is expected to be completed around the end of July. Don Watcher will keep you posted on developments.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Spring Photoblogging I

Most people see the Don Valley as a blighted, disturbed place, filled with roads and highways, rife with non-native plants, most of them invasive. But if you look carefully you can still find pockets of beauty. On my various travels this spring I took a number of photos of native wildflowers. Some of these photos were taken only steps away from highways or buildings but to me I couldn't have cared, I always imagined myself deep in the woods. Click on any photo to see the full close-up. Watch for Spring Photoblogging II for more pictures...

White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Common Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)

Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema atrorubens)

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Visitors from the Other Don

My partner and I were entertaining some of his Scottish relations this past Sunday, showing them around the usual Toronto tourist sites. These folks are real nature enthusiasts and when we've visited them in Aberdeen, they've taken us on great hikes and walks "up the Royal Deeside". Aberdeen was settled between the Don and the Dee rivers, where they flow into the North Sea so I knew that a trip to the Canadian Don was a must. We took them to the Brick Works to walk through the Quarry Garden and it didn't let us down. It was warm and sunny (unlike the Saturday Bike the Don!) and the wildlife was out on display: Red-winged Blackbirds, Kingfisher, Killdeer and I think some sort of warbler. And to top it all off, I'm pretty sure we saw a Beaver in the pond farthest back! It was too big for a Muskrat and it was defintely a mammal. Oh, and there was a Black-crowned Night Heron too, I'm pretty sure. Bullfrogs were singng from the reeds, monarchs were fluttering around and there were lots of dragonflies. They liked the fossils and the old buildings. Aberdeen is nicknamed "The Granite City" as most of the buildings are made out of large granite blocks. Our guests were fascinated by the brick-making history of the site. I felt a surge of pride for our mighty Don River!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Rain in the Valley Haikus

The Bike Week event along Taylor-Massey Creek this morning was pretty wet. We cut it short and went south at the Charles Sauriol Reserve instead of going west and north. On my ride home, I made up wet biking in the Don haikus. Here are some, you're welcome to add your own (five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables):

Pouring down with rain
We cycle through the puddles
I'm really quite wet

The Don rushes by
Waiting for fish to leap up
Fish ladders of rock

Can I make it up
The steep Pottery Road Hill
Apparently yes

Bad dog on the trail
It's evil Dog-strangling Vine
Wow, it's everywhere

Friday, June 02, 2006

June 2006 City Documents

Here's a summary of items for June committee meetings related to the Don.

River Street extension, Class EA. Not a big thing, but indirectly connected to the West Don Lands project.

Crothers' Woods Trailhead. The city in partnership with Loblaws will build a formal trailhead for the trail system that networks through Crothers' Woods. Formerly just a hole in the chain link fence, this will be replaced with a cedar rail fence, signage, garbage bins, the usual stuff. Kudos to staff in NECP for pushing this one through.

Burke Brook Class EA. The city is conducting a study to restore fish passage on Burke Brook, a tributary of the West Don that winds its way through Sherwood Park and flows into Sunnybrook Park. The key proposal is to look at the feasibility of building a fish ladder where the creek flows underneath Bayview Ave. There will be a public meeting about this on June 13. See notice for details.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Announcing: Toronto Homeowner's Guide to Rain

Going live today is a new website project by Riversides called Toronto Homeowner's Guide to Rainfall. This website describes the problem of stormwater runoff and how it affects our rivers and lakes. This issue is the number one problem for the Don. Last November I listed the top five threats to the Don and this is the biggest.

The new website is an information resource that educates homeowners about rainfall and what they can do to reduce the amount of rainwater that flows off of their property. Check it out.