Friday, March 30, 2007

Dance for the Don

Or maybe it's a rave. Either way it's one of the oddest fundraiser ideas I've ever seen (maybe I'm just showing my age). The website for Ektoplazm Psychedelic Trance Event says they are raising money for Bring Back the Don. While it is not an officially sponsored event, I wish them all the best. If they followup with a donation I'll let you know.

When I mentioned this website to some of my colleagues their immediate thought was that this event was going to be at the Don Valley Brick Works which has been host to some similar unofficial events. However, I called the infoline listed and it directs you to an address on Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market.

If anyone does go, I'd be interested in getting a report.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

DWRC Seeks New Members

The Don Watershed Regeneration Council (DWRC) is seeking new members for a two year term. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority has posted a notice about the application process on their website.

The DWRC is a volunteer committee run by the TRCA to comment and advise on issues concerning the Don River watershed. It has similar functions to the Task Force to Bring Back the Don but is larger in scope, ie. it deals with the entire watershed which runs through Markham, Vaughan, and Richmond Hill as well as Toronto. There are similar councils for the Humber and Mimico/Etobicoke watersheds.

You have until April 27 to submit an application.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Paddle the Don Website

Paddle the Don will be on May 6 this year. In preparation for this long running event, the TRCA has launched a Paddle the Don website. This event is a once per year chance to canoe the Don River. You put your canoe into the river at Wilket Creek Park and canoe all the way to the Keating Channel near the harbour entrance. There is a shuttle bus which runs you back to the start so you can pick up your car. I have paddled it twice and I highly recommend it. It gives you a new perspective on the river.

Normally the river is too shallow to allow normal passage. This wasn't always the case but urban intensification has drastically altered the waterflow within the watershed such that normal ground water sources have been interrupted by dams or diverted into sewers. The paltry flow that is left is too little to allow for river navigation.

The event started because some people lamented this fact. To make it happen the TRCA opens the dam at the G. Ross Lord reservoir on the West Don. This raises the water sufficiently for one day to allow for canoe travel.

In 2001, the Discovery Channel did a documentary on the event which can still be viewed online.

Monday, March 26, 2007

More on Crothers' Woods

I found these on the TORBG website. These maps are the official management plan maps and give more detail then the map I drew from memory. These three maps show the existing trails, a proposed final layout, and an inventory of trails to be closed. I recommend clicking on each map to get a better view as the detail is quite small.

I found a blog called Dodgeville who also reported on the management plan. It offers a different perspective on the process.

Map Legend:
Green - beginner DT
Bluish - beginner ST
Red - intermediate ST
Yellow - paved DV trail
White/Yellow Dashed - closed

Existing trail network

Proposed trail network

Trails to be closed

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Spring is in the Offing

The Don River just north of Pottery Road

Spring is officially here. What with early daylight savings it feels really good to get out and experience the sights in the valley. Many groups are busily arranging spring events such as Friends of the Don East who have their first event scheduled at Todmorden Mills on April 15. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hindu Offerings

Here is an odd news item. One of the Hindu traditions is to throw the ashes of their dead into a river. In India there are several sacred rivers where this is allowed. There is no equivalent river in Canada but the Hindu community is making do with local rivers. These offerings are now showing up in the Credit River in Mississauga where there is a large Hindu community. A CBC radio reporter talked to the Minister for Governmental Services who said there is currently no law prohibiting this activity.

I have no data for the Don, but there is no reason why it wouldn't be used. As long as the ashes are free floating (not dumped in a plastic bag), there shouldn't be much ecological impact. Ashes are light enough so that they should remain suspended in the water until they reach the mouth of the river where low flows will allow suspended sediments to settle out of the water.

The mouth of the Don is currently the Keating Channel. Ashes would likely settle out there. The TRCA already dredges about 35,000 cubic metres from the channel every year. This material is then dumped in the Leslie Street Spit embayment.

Perhaps the Hindu community could be convinced to spread their ashes in the spit embayment which would just cut out the river middleman. Since any ashes put in the Don will end up here anyways it seems like a good compromise.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mountain Bikers Meeting

The Toronto Off Road Biker's Group (TORBG) had their second meeting on Monday. From their posted minutes it sounds like they had a heady discussion. Salient points of the meeting:
  • Discussion regarding Crothers' Woods Management Plan
  • Skills and stunts proposal for Earl Bales Park
  • Upcoming events
  • Long term strategizing
I wish them all the best with their group. Good things may yet come of it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

480 Lakeshore Gets a Makeover

I use Google to do automated searches for items concerning the Don River. That's how I found this rather obscure article in the newsletter for the Canadian Consulting Engineer.

Apparently the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation has launched a design competition for the area south of the railway corridor and north of the Keating Channel and between Parliament St. and the river. Four teams from Boston, New York and Zurich are competing to design a park for this neglected area. What seems to be missing is that Bring Back the Don already has a vision for this space which you can see on their website. The results can be viewed at BCE Place between April 16-24.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Management Plan for Crothers' Woods

Trail system in Crothers Woods
Red: Existing Ridge Trail
Blue: New beginner loop using existing trail
Green: New trails proposed

The long awaited management plan for Crothers' Woods was presented to the public at a meeting at city hall this week. The meeting was well attended by the environmental community as well as the mountain bikers. There was even a dog walker or two in attendance. The plan was put together by David Leinster from the Planning Partnership. The plan has two main features:

1. Rationalization of the trail network

The plan calls for a reduction in overall trail length of about 1.8 km. This will reduce trail fragmentation which is the main concern for environmentalists. The plan also calls for the creation of the some new trails, especially for beginners (see map).

The plan also called for the closure of the trails in the section known as 'The Flats'. This is a section of the valley between the CN tracks and the river that is only partially accessible. Most of the access is across the tracks at informal crossings which is of particular concern to the city. This proposal caused the most discussion as the bikers are particularly proud of the effort they have put into this section (see my previous post on the subject). The bikers did propose some alternatives such as a bridge or a tunnel but I think these are unlikely. A bridge (or two) will likely run into at least six figures and is not something that the cash strapped city will spring for, especially to get access to such a marginal area.

Another contentious topic was the proposal to remove unsafe stunts. This is a bit of a euphemism because currently there are no safe stunt structure so by definition they are all unsafe. Again the bikers don't want to see their hard work destroyed. They proposed to work on standards for structure which the consultant agreed was a good idea.

2. Invasive species management

As with other parts of the Don Valley, Crothers' Woods is threatened by a number of non-native invasive species such as Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), Dog-strangling Vine (Cynanchum rossicum), and Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense). The consultants concluded that complete removal of these species is unrealistic but their spread can be controlled by concentrating removal efforts in the vicinity of the access points. This should help to limit the spread of seeds which may be carried on clothing of park visitors.

The final version of the plan will be released by mid-April. The city said they needed to spend another year working on an implentation plan so any actual work other than the continuing program of trail improvements won't take place until 2008.

Personally I think the plan is well balanced and will provide the city with a management plan which will improve the health of the are over the long term.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Evergreen's Plan for the Brick Works

Evergreen has been putting a lot of effort into theire plan for the Brick Works. They have just recently put their plan online and you can view it here.

Highlights of the plan:
  • Renovation plans for the buildings
  • Discussion of how the quarry park fits in with Evergreen's plan
  • Summary of programs to be offered
  • Sustainable design features
Evergreen has secured sufficient funding to start their project which will begin sometime within the next year. For anyone interested in the Brick Works, the plan is a must read.

Castle Frank Article

The Toronto Star wrote a good historical piece on Castle Frank, the summer residence of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe on the west bank of the Don Valley. Worth a read.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Coyotes in the Don

The Torontoist blog has a pretty good post on Coyotes in the city. They are certainly in the Don which is a big part of the natural areas within Toronto. The article says it all so I won't repeat anything. If anyone sees a Coyote in the Don, email me!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Lost Rivers Does the Don

I just noticed that the excellent Lost Rivers website has some new pages on the Lower Don, specifically the stretch south of Riverdale Park. The new pages include details on buried streams just east of the Don, an approximate path of the river before the Don Improvement Project and a map of storm sewers in the area, and recent proposals on how to improve the current situation.

Check it out, it's well worth reading.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Winter Walk in the Don

Went on a ramble in the Don this weekend and came across a few interesting things which warranted a picture or two...

Strange tracks in the snow

We walked through the back area of Todmorden Mills to see if the Skunk Cabbage were blooming yet. We could just barely see them sprouting so they didn't seem worthy of a photograph. However we did come across some strange tracks in the snow (see picture). They are quite large at least 8 cm long and 6 cm wide. At first I thought it was some humongous animal like a heffalump, but my companion informed me that no, it was not a heffalump. More likely it is a snowshoe hare. Apparently as it hops through the snow its four paws come together in this pattern as it prepares to hop to the next position. It move this way, especially in deep snow.

Ducks in the river

Further north we spotted some ducks swimming in the Don River. I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to birds and didn't know what they were so I took a picture anyways. I looked them up later and my bird book informs me that the first three are likely Common Goldeneye. The last two I am not sure, maybe White-winged Scoters, although they could be immature Goldeneyes. We also spotted a Belted Kingfisher with its distinctive chittering call as it skimmed across the water surface. If these birds were foraging here it must mean that they hoped to catch something, a small fish or maybe a crayfish.

Winter at Beechwood Wetland

We passed by the Beechwood Wetland and wandered over to the ice-covered pond. I took this shot of one of the trees. I particularly liked the diffused sunlight as it peeked out from behind the clouds.

Small bird nest

In a field near Beechwood I noticed this bird nest hanging from a broken branch in the middle of a rose bramble. I extricated it for a closer look. It is about 4 cm in diameter so fairly small. The twigs appear to held together with dried saliva which I've heard is not uncommon for nest building. I have no idea what kind of bird builds this type of nest so if anybody knows something post a comment!

Ice formation at the Brick Works

On the wet west wall at the back of the Don Valley Brick Works a wall of shale always has some ground water seepage. In winter it freezes making these unusual ice formations. It's a great place to visit. When you stop to listen you can here the trickle of water beneath the ice.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

New Wikipedia Article for the Don

Due to work and school commitments I haven't done much Wikipedia work but mid-terms are past and I decided to create an article on Crothers' Woods. I've been wanting to do this for awhile but in light of the pending release of the management plan, I decided to put up a first draft.

As always, you are free to edit the article to improve it for content and accuracy. According to Wikipedia policy you're edits should be as unbiased as possible.