Monday, April 30, 2007

Spring 2007 Planting Events

The city has published its summary of spring planting events. You can view the two page PDF here. This includes events city wide including the Don. I will continue to summarize weekend events on Thursdays for the next month or so.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

NOW Slags Mountain Bikers

The NOW magazine published an article about mountain biking in Crothers' Woods in its latest issue. It covers the topic fairly well but unfortunately it reads as pretty one-sided. "Chainsaw-toting trail bike high-flyers cutting valley into mucky ribbons" is the article's by-line which gives you a pretty good read on the reporter's stance.

Naturally this has the biker's pretty incensed. If you follow their chat forums you can see they're upset.

Some of them might say that I lean towards this type of thinking, but that is not exactly correct. True, I have criticized some of their "stunts" as an abuse of the valley but overall I support their presence. As long as they respect the natural environment I think the bikers are a positive presence in the Don.

The city is currently putting a management plan together for the forest which includes a rationalization of the trail network. In some places this is leading to some serious fragmentation of the natural area. Once implemented and with proper management the plan will develop this area of the valley into a great place for both human users as well as its natural denizens.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Don Valley Events for April 28-29

Just one event this weekend but it's a big one.

Saturday, April 28

Trees Across Toronto, 10 AM - 12 Noon. This is a city wide event. The site in the Don is Sun Valley, the same site we've been going to for the past three years. We'll plant about 1000 trees. Expect a huge crowd.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Trumpeter Swan Spotted in the Don Valley

Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)

I noticed this picture on one of the mountain biking forums. Someone there asked me if I knew what it was. They thought it might be a Trumpeter Swan but I thought it unlikely since these birds while native to this area were extirpated due to overhunting in the early 1900s.

I looked into it further and found out that there is a program by the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre in Midland to reintroduce these birds into Southern Ontario. The website says that they band the birds plus attach a large yellow tag to the bird's wing. The picture shows one of these tags which I think says "915".

The bird was spotted in a pond near Crothers' Woods. I am not sure if it is a migrant or if it is looking for a nesting area but it is certainly significant that it has made its way to Toronto. It would be nice if they became reestablished here.

The wildlife centre is keeping track of where these birds show up. If you spot one you can report it using this form.

Well Built Stunt

Technical trail feature on a Don River trail

Construction close-up

Stunt in use

I took a lot of flak from the biking community for my post a couple of days ago. Some of them can get pretty rankled when you criticize their work. The construct that I portrayed may be well built but it is in the wrong place. Building something that close to the water is not good, especially a river as volatile as the Don. One good rainstorm like the one in August 2005 and it will be turned into a pile of junk.

This is not to say that all the "technical trail features" are poorly constructed. I came across this one last year and took some pictures. I was particularly impressed because it conforms to IMBA building standards, new wood (no reused pallets), screws used instead of nails, and nothing attached to the tree. In addition the stunt doesn't block the trail so a timid cyclist (like me) or a hiker can veer around it.

The only thing this builder didn't do is obtain permission from the landowner to build it. The main landowner in the Don Valley is the Toronto Region Conservation Authority. Surprisingly, the city doesn't own this land but does manage it on behalf of the TRCA. This is a legacy of Hurricane Hazel. In the aftermath, the TRCA became responsible for all the river valleys in Toronto.

While this stunt (and others like it) are unauthorized it is unlikely that anybody is going to tear it down anytime soon. Both the city and the TRCA have other priorities. So in the meantime, if you've got the right bike and the gumption, get out there and enjoy them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Don Mouth Designs Critiqued

Beach Riverdale Mirror Article

Two weeks ago, the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation held a public meeting to showcase four different designs for the mouth of the Don. Since then I've seen two articles that reviewed the designs.

The first one was in a recent issue of the Beach-Riverdale Mirror. Journalist Mike Adler interviewed Dalton Shipway, a long time Don Valley activist who has grave concerns with all the designs. Too much development and not enough marsh I gather is his lament.

A second article from the Spacing Wire blog by Ian Malczewski is a more in depth review where he analyzes each design. In the end he gives the nod to the Valkenburgh design with the Stoss team as a close second.

The TWRC will announce the winner on May 6 at a ceremony to be held at the corner of Villiers St and the Don Roadway. Coincidentally, this will also be the place where canoeists end their trip for the Paddle the Don Day.

Previous Don Watcher blogs on this subject here and here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Rickety Crossing

"The Flats" trail at the south end of Crothers' Woods

Recently the city completed a draft management plan for Crothers' Woods which cautiously optimistic reviews from both the cycling and environmental communities. One of the points which stuck in the craw of the cyclists was the suggestion that "The Flats" trail be closed. The main reason for this is access as it requires access across the CN Rail line at the bottom of the valley. Since it is illegal to cross the tracks, the city had to put this in the plan.

There are only two ways to access the land between the railway. The first is to wade the river. The second is to crawl underneath the southern railway bridge. On the north bank is a sandbar that can be used to connect the trail. It is rather low and cramped but usable. Unfortunately it can get very muddy because the river frequently inundates it during a high water event.

CN Rail bridge looking north

After viewing the plan, the cyclists suggested some alternatives which the city said they would investigate. Rather than wait for that to happen, one of the cyclists who goes by the nickname "Trail_Head", decided to take some action. Using rock filled shopping carts as anchors he connected them with steel pipes topped with 2x4s to create a ramped bridge that would allow you to ride a bike under the rail bridge without ducking your head.

Jury-rigged bridge underneath railway

While his effort is laudable, I'm afraid it will be for naught. The first big rainstorm that floods the Don will wash it all away. The use of shopping carts to anchor the structure is certainly novel but will do little to withstand the power of a flooding river.

During the August 2005 storm, the waterflow on the Highland Creek was so strong that it moved 2 tonne boulders as if they were pebbles. When the next big flood hits the Don, this delicate looking thing won't stand a chance.

For more information on the management plan, see my previous posts on the issue.

1. November 2006 - Crothers' Woods ESA

2. November 2006 - public consultation on plan

3. January 2007 - "The Flats" trail

4. March 2007 - draft version of management plan released

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Tree Planting at Riverdale Farm

Tree Planting at Riverdale Farm

This year's spring planting at Riverdale Farm was a lot sunnier than last year's event so it went a lot quicker. Hordes of children and their parents showed up this year so the 150 odd plants went into the ground in less than an hour. We needed to check all the plants with a tug test because the ground was a little soft in places and some of the trees were not firmly anchored in the soil. This was just one of many plantings that are happening around the city for the Earth Day weekend.

Ginger and her piglets

After the tree planting I strolled around the farm to see what else was happening. In the pig pen, "Ginger" was busy feeding her seven newborn piglets. The spring time is when many of the animals give birth to new broods. The farm is a hidden treasure in downtown Toronto that benefits many children and educates them about farm life.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Don Valley Events for April 21-25

Things start to heat up this weekend with earth day plantings this weekend.

Saturday April 21

Riverdale Farm Tree Planting. Bring Back the Don. 10 AM - 12 Noon.

Hanlan's Point Tree Planting. Toronto Bay Initiative. 10-12 Noon. Meet at the island ferry docks at 10 AM for the ferry to Hanlan's Point.

Terraview Willowfield Tree Planting. Friends of the Don East. 10 AM - 12 Noon. Plant trees and shrubs near the headwaters of Taylor Massey Creek in the Ellesmere and Vicoria Park Road area (see map).

East Don Parkland, Cummer Park. East Don Parkland Partners. 10 AM - 12 Noon. Meet at the bridge crossing the Don River halfway between Bayview and Leslie.

Sunday April 22

Earth Day Walk with Ed Freeman. Lost River Walks. 2-4 PM. Meet at Summerhill Subway Station

Taylor Creek Park cleanup Taylor Massey Project. 8-10 AM

St. Clair Ravine cleanup. Taylor Massey Project. 1-3 PM

Wednesday April 25

Milne Hollow cleanup. Sunnybrook Area for Scouting. 6-7:30 PM. Join the scouts to help cleanup the north end of the Charles Sauriol Preserve.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bring Back the Don Emoticon

Bring Back the Don's "Three Fish" logo

According to Wikipedia, the emoticon has been around for 25 years. However the phenomenon has only been popular for the last five or so years, especially in emails. Last year I received an email from John Wilson the chair of the Task Force to Bring Back the Don and noticed that he was using a new fish emoticon:


On a lark I replied back and said that he should use an emoticon version of BBTD's logo:

><((((+> ><((((-> ><((((º>

So there you have it, an emoticon symbol for Bring Back the Don :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Don Mouth Design Launch

Audience at BCE Place

Model of the Stoss team's vision

Valkenburgh's version

I attended the presentation event for the competition to redesign the mouth of the Don River launched by the Toronto Waterfront Regeneration Corporation. I was quite surprised to see so many people. I estimated between 250-300 people showed up. The evening was a little long. Each group had a 20-30 minute presentation which went all the way to 9 PM.

The presentations were all over the map and it was a little hard to tell how the slide drawings might relate to what would eventually get built. Also nobody mentioned how much any of these designs might cost.

There are poster boards and 3-D models for all the designs which should be available for viewing at BCE place for the rest of the week.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Cleanup Day at Todmorden Mills

Cleaning Crew at the Mill

About 35 people turned out on Saturday to help cleanup Todmorden Mills. As usual most of the garbage was found next to the DVP, Pottery Road and directly behind the apartment buildings. Most of the garbage consisted of paper and plastic but there were a fair number of bottles. Of course, this year we can now cash in the liquor bottles at the beer store thanks to the new deposit.

Collection of garbage removed from the valley

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Redesigning the Don Mouth

TWRC event poster (click to expand)

On Monday, April 16, the Toronto Waterfront Regeneration Corporation will unveil four different proposals for redesigning the mouth of the Don. Both the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail have articles about the competition. I also noticed that the Torontoist blog has a sneak preview of the designs.

The Weiss/Manfredi design is actually pretty close to what Bring Back the Don envisioned several years ago. You can see the designs yourself (and put in your 2 cents worth) at the Allan Lambert Galleria, BCE Place from 6 - 9 PM.

**Update: The TWRC has a page that includes PDFs of the display panels that will be shown at BCE Place. If you can't make it to the exhibit you can view it here.

Friday, April 13, 2007

BBTD Newsletter Online

The Task Force to Bring Back the Don publishes a newsletter two times per year. In addition to the one we send to everybody on our mailing list, the Spring 2007 edition is also available online.

Highlights of this issue include:
- A deer story, by local musician, Danny Marks
- Aspirations for a new city council
- Crothers' Woods management plan
- plug for the 2007 stewardship season

Don Watcher blog readers may find the article on Crothers' Woods strangely familiar. In fact it is a reprint of an earlier posting about the management plan.

There is also a photo included in the stewardship article entitled "Volunteer removes invasive Japanese Knotweed from Beechwood Wetland". In fact it is actually someone planting! Anyone who can tell me the name of the person in the photo gets a prize (former Task Force members are excluded - that's a hint by the way).

P.S. Kudos go to Aynsley Morris who almost singlehandedly put this issue together while the Task Force is on a hiatus. Thank you Aynsley!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Don Valley Events for April 14-15

Spring and Fall are the seasons for volunteer work in the Don Valley. This weekend marks the advent for some of the Don River groups. I've decided to do a regular Thursday blog that will list all the events I can find for the upcoming weekend. Here are the events that I know about.

Saturday, April 14

Annual FODE Spring Cleanup at Todmorden Mills. 10 AM - 1 PM. Friends of the Don East hosts this recurring event. It gets volunteers to cleanup garbage at Todmorden Mills. Todmorden Mills is flanked by Pottery Road, the Don Valley Parkway and a couple of highrise apartment buildings. All of these generate a lot of garbage and it usually finds its way into the forest. There will be a barbeque and an interpretive walk as well. In partnership with the Todmorden Mills Wildflower Preserve.

Sunday April 15

*** Event Cancelled due to bad trail conditions ***

TORBG Trail Building Day. 10 AM - 4 PM. The Toronto Off-Road Bicycling Group is hosting a trail building day in Crothers' Woods. These sessions seek to improve the biking/hiking trails to make them sustainable for long term use. Tools and gloves will be provided. In partnership with the City of Toronto and the International Mountain Biking Association. Meet at the Loblaws parking lot at 55 Redway Road (off Millwood Road).

P.S. If you know about an event not listed here send me an email and I'll publicize it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Brick Works Video

The Don Valley Brick Works is gaining popularity, not just for the environmental restoration of the quarry but also as an historical and architectural curiosity. Kirsty Bruce posted a video on YouTube that serves as an introduction to her thesis for a degree in architecture.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

West Don Lands Icon Bites the Dust

The Canary Restaurant at the corner of Cherry St. and Front St. East is, sadly, closing soon. As reported in the National Post, the Canary is a victim of the construction work to build the berm on the west side of the Don River, they said most of their business dried up when the Bayview Extension was closed at the Queen Street bridge.

It's too bad really. Even though this restaurant was just another greasy spoon, the food was loved by many and provided some character to an otherwise drab neighbourhood. Of course nothing lasts forever and the neighbourhood will soon take on its own character once the berm is completed and housing starts to fill one of the last big empty spaces in downtown Toronto.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Japanese Knotweed Video

There's a video on You Tube about Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) which is one of the nastier invasives threatening the Don Valley. I found this video courtesy of the Invasive Species Weblog, one of the blogs I follow. The video discusses the history and biology of the plant and is about 5 minutes long. Well worth a look.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Task Force Member Moves up in the World

What's the reward for a job well done? Another job of course! Chris Hilkene has been a member of the Task Force to Bring Back the Don for the past three years and has ably assisted us on numerous policy issues. According to this press release, he has now been appointed to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. From what I can gather this body is some sort of quasi-government think tank on sustainability issues. It is sponsored by Environment Canada. Here is an excerpt from the news release:

"Christopher Hilkene is the President of the Clean Water Foundation, a Canadian non-profit organization dedicated to engaging individuals in actions that preserve, protect and improve our water. He specializes in surface water management issues and has made significant contributions to water policy in Canada. ... In addition to his work at the Clean Water Foundation, Mr. Hilkene teaches at York University's Faculty of Environmental Studies on the Great Lakes and environmental policy. ... He has served on the Boards of Directors of number of organizations including the George and Helen Vari Foundation, the Riversides Foundation, the Niagara River Restoration Council and the City of Toronto's Task Force to Bring Back the Don. Mr. Hilkene holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Western Ontario, and a Master of Environmental Studies degree from York University."

No word on whether he intends to continue with Bring Back the Don, although the Task Force is currently in a lull because the new council only just renewed our mandate. We also need to recruit new members because we've lost quite a few members in the past three years. More on that when I have some details.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Design Competition for Don Mouth

TWRC event poster (click to expand)

This is a reminder for the event being held from 6 - 9 PM on April 16, 2007 at BCE place, Allan Lambert Galleria. I blogged about this event a couple of weeks ago, so no need to rehash the details.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Great Lakes Wiki

Wikipedia is not the only website to use the open editing concept. There are several websites that use the concept. One that I personally enjoy is the Star Trek wiki (I like to think of myself as a trekker, not a trekkie :-).

Recently I found out about a new wiki type website that deals with the Great Lakes. It looks pretty new. For example, there is no article about the Don River (although I may add one). I will definitely bookmark this wiki as it is an area of interest for me.