Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hockey Arena Proposed for Don Valley Site

Aerial Photo of site proposed for hockey arena (click to expand)

This past fall has seen some rumblings in North York about locating a new hockey arena on a site in the Don Valley right next to the East Don River. The site is partially wooded and has been an active location for a number of tree plantings. The proposal has been put forward by the Don Mills Civitan Community Service Club. From their website it appears their primary purpose is to run youth hockey leagues. They currently use the Don Mills Civitan Arena at Don Mills and Lawrence. The arena is 47 years old and is in poor shape. Rather than rebuild or renovate at the current location they are looking for a new location because the club maintains that there is very little parking available.

Several sites have been proposed but the Don Valley site is the largest contiguous space available. The land was formerly owned by the province but was transferred to the city when the 401 was constructed. One of the main stumbling blocks with development on this site is that the province placed a covenant on the land expressly forbidding any development.

This has not dissuaded local councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong from pushing this idea through North York Community Council. In a meeting on November 18, the council decided to get Parks, Forestry and Recreation to report on the feasibility of using the site. This report will be tabled in the spring of 2009.

Minnan-Wong thinks he can get the province to remove the covenant. Besides this little detail the location is not without some issues. It borders Don Mills Road on the east but this stretch just so happens to be at the top of a steep hill as Don Mills Road climbs over the 401. A steep embankment (see map) is the only egress to get into the site.

The Task Force to Bring Back the Don is studying the issue and will no doubt issue a position some time in the new year. There is also a local ratepayers group called Don Mills Friends fighting the closure of the arena. Their position is that the arena is an historical structure and deserves to be retained.

We'll have to wait for a few more months to see how this plays out.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in the Don Valley

Winter scene in Sun Valley, December, 2008

I was in Crothers' Woods a couple of weeks ago and took some photos of the track that circles the old landfill. In 2009, there will be some construction here as a new sewer line is built from Bennington Heights to the North Toronto Sewage Treatment Plant. I will be following this project as it gets underway.

In the mean time, have a Merry Christmas and I look forward to reporting on Don Valley issues in the new year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Graffiti Mars Evergreen Brick Works Kick-off

Graffiti in Brick Works Quarry Garden

I stopped by the Brick Works today. It was cold and sunny but the park is sheltered from the wind so it was quite bearable. Unfortunately not everyone is here to appreciate the scenery. A couple of days ago some yobbo spray painted all the signs and rocks in the quarry garden with the word "evergreed". Apparently his/her editorial opinion on Evergreen's project to renovate the Brick Works. It is ironic that the vandal targeted the park area which is still city owned and managed and not part of the renovations. Evergreen's lease extends only to the north edge of the buildings. However there is nothing to really say where their property ends and the city's starts.

This is an understandable confusion. It is not readily apparent that the property is in fact two distinctive sections. However neither the city nor Evergreen have made this clear. Evergreen's own conceptual drawings show a seamless connection, as if to say they have some control over the park as well as the buildings.

This may need to be clarified and I will certainly bring it up at the first meeting of the Brick Works Public Advisory Committee which will start to meet next year.

Interpretive signs cleaned off easy; evidence of paint remains in snow. The rocks are another matter. They will need to be treated with a high pressure spray to get cleaned up.

Is the Brick Works one place or two?

You can't visit the Brick Works without taking in the view

Monday, December 15, 2008

TRCA Revives "On the Don" Newsletter

TRCA's newsletter "On the Don"

After a five year hiatus, the Toronto Region Conservation Authority has revived its On the Don newsletter about the Don River watershed. This new version of the newsletter was created mostly at the instigation of the Don Watershed Regeneration Council which is a citizen's advisory committee sponsored by the TRCA.

The old newsletter was published on paper but the new one is meant to be distributed by email. As a PDF, it will be available for download from the TRCA's website. A limited number of printed copies will be made available at libraries and public kiosks and also at shows and exhibits where the TRCA has a booth.

In this issue are articles on the new Walk the Don program, a history of Pacific salmon in the Don, and an update on the Don Watershed Plan. Note the link listed for the watershed plan is incorrect. It is actually www.trca.on.ca/donwatershedplan.

If you want to be notified about the publication of the newsletter, you can send an email to donlist@trca.on.ca with a subject of 'Subscribe'.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

DVP Stormwater Meeting Low Key Affair

Small but congenial crowd turned out for this public meeting

I attended a public meeting on the city's Class EA launched to looked at alternatives for stormwater runoff from the Don Valley Parkway. About 30 people attended this meeting which is a marked contrast to the last EA meeting I attended. The last one was run by Toronto Hydro to look into building a platform off the Scarborough Bluffs to measure wind speeds. That one was attended by over 1,000 people and was a considerably more rambunctious crowd. Both evenings were cold and raining so that didn't seem to be a factor in deterring turnout, but I digress...

Where did they get this picture?

Back in June the project team came up with three sites for stormwater ponds including a major revision to the oxbow wetland at Todmorden Mills. It took considerable lobbying by concerned members of the Friends of the Don East and the Task Force to Bring Back the Don that this wasn't a very good idea.

Display board shows proposed new pond location

It seems they got the message. At this meeting, the new plan is to place the stormwater treatment pond in the middle of a cloverleaf on ramp to the DVP which is adjacent to Todmorden Mills. Treated water would be directed into the oxbow wetland where it would make its way into the Don River. The revised plan protects the existing wetland. The new treatment pond will need to be periodically dredged to remove accumulated sediment. This process would be very disruptive to a natural habitat.

They also corrected the omission from their original drawings by mapping the location of the Enbridge gas pipeline which limits minor improvements proposed for small runoff areas. All things considered it appears to be a thoughtfully run project and once implemented should make a modest improvement to the Lower Don valley environment.

Local activist Paula Davies was instrumental in getting the Todmorden Mills stormwater treatment pond moved completely into the cloverleaf location

As with all Class EAs, the city is looking for comments about the project. Comments for this phase of the project will be accepted up until December 23rd, 2008. You can download a copy of the comment sheet from the project website.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Don Station on the Move

Don Station being dismantled

I passed by Todmorden Mills this week and was surprised to see the Don Station in pieces, literally. It is being dismantled so that it can be relocated to a railway museum downtown at the Roundhouse. The station was relocated to this site about 40 years by Charles Sauriol when it was threatened with demolition. Originally located just south of the Queen Street bridge it was an active station for about 60 years.

Local legend has it that it was built to serve the Belt Line Railway but my railroad aficionado friends tell me that it was actually built in 1896 which was two years after the short lived Belt Line went bankrupt.

This relocation is part of a plan for Todmorden Mills first proposed about a year ago that also involves restoration of an old bridge and other site improvements.

Building sliced in two

Parts of roof ready for transport

Cupola on a separate trolley

The station building, spring of 2006. It's been boarded up for as long as I can remember. Once the move is complete, maybe it will get a much need renovation and be open for visitors

Monday, December 08, 2008

Evergreen Starts Brick Works Renovation

Yilin Zhao, a local schoolgirl praises Evergreen's initiative. Other speakers included Jim Flaherty (Feds), Aileen Carroll (Province), Mayor David Miller, and Geoff Cape

I attended Evergreen's official ground breaking ceremony this morning at the Brick Works. It was chilly and snowy but I still rode my bike. There were about 200 people in attendance but I saw only one other bicycle in the racks (hmmph!). It was nearly 2 years ago when Flaherty and co were last here to announce $20 million in funding for this project. Props to the feds for coming through on a project in the Don (the first of many?).

There was a lengthy series of speeches. Apart from bad Ottawa jokes they mostly thanked everyone under the sun who had anything to do with the project. The one bright spot was a group of schoolchildren recruited for the photo-op. One of them stood at the podium and made quite a good speech about why the environment is important to her (hope everyone on the podium was listening).

After the speeches there was a ceremonial tree planting followed by champers all around. Now that we've seen the project kickoff, expect to see some dust to fly in the near future as construction gets underway. You should be able to follow the project's progress on Evergreen's Brick Works journal blog.

Large crowd in attendance

Champagne anyone?

A trip to the Brick Works should always include a visit to the quarry ponds. Here's a shot of the southern pond looking north to Governor's Road.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Brick Works Ground Breaking Ceremony

Evergreen is finally getting their Brick Works project started, even if it's only a ceremonial thing. Mayor David Miller, Ontario's Minister of Culture Aileen Carroll and the fed's Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty will be present on Monday for the ceremony (Don Watcher will be there too).

You can read more about it in their press release.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

DVP Stormwater Project Meeting

Meeting Notice

The City of Toronto is hosting a meeting to talk about a Class EA that is dealing with stormwater runoff from the Don Valley Parkway. The meeting will be held on Tuesday December 9, 2008 in the auditorium at the S. Walter Stewart Library, 170 Memorial Park Avenue. A presentation at 7 PM will be followed by an open house. Details of the project can be viewed at project website.

Lower Don Lands EA Meeting #2

Meeting Notice

Waterfront Toronto is having a second public meeting in this Class EA process. The meeting will be held at St. Lawrence Hall, 157 King Street East in the Great Hall on Wednesday December 10, 2008. Open house begins at 6 PM. A presentation begins at 7 PM. If talk about transit, stormwater, sewage, and other public infrastructure fascinates you, then this meeting is a mandatory event. Visit the project website for more details.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Reach by Reach: TMP's Plans for the Creek

Taylor Massey Project has been quite active since their inception four years ago. Their mandate is to restore and protect Taylor-Massey Creek and its surrounding watershed. Recently the TRCA releases a draft plan for the entire Don River watershed and created plans for seven subwatersheds of which Taylor-Massey Creek is one of them. In response to that plan, TMP released its own version for subwatershed restoration. Called "Reach by Reach", it is a detailed 49 page document. It further divides the Taylor-Massey Creek watershed into 12 reaches. Each of these reaches has its own issues which are described in the document as well as a strategy for tackling them. There is also a 13th reach called the "Warden Hydro Corridor". This is not a reach of the creek but does form a major part of the strategy.

TMP calls this a 'draft' document. They invite the public to comment on the plan and a final plan will be released when the TRCA finishes its own plan next year. If you want to comment on the plan, send them to eco@theTMP.org. My own comments will be forthcoming.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Walk the Don

Location map of walks (click to enlarge)

The Toronto Region and Conservation Authority has created a new feature on their website. Called Walk the Don, the program features three self-directed walks, one in Wilket Creek Park, another in Sherwood Park, and the third in the Lower Don.

Each of the walks is described in a 4 page booklet which you can download from the website and print. The walks will last from 1-2 hours and are designed to be walked at an easy pace. Each booklet describes interesting features of the ravines and forests that you will pass through on the walk.

The Lower Don and Wilket Creek walks describe a mix of historical and natural heritage while the Burke Brook walk concentrates on describing names of trees and plants that you may find along the paths. All three mention problems such as storm water and invasive plants that are prevalent throughout the Don watershed. If you follow these booklets, I have no doubt that even experienced naturalists will learn something new about these places.

Two more walking guides will be released in the near future with more planned for 2009. So if you're interested in finding out more about the Don, here is an easy way to go about it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Glendon Forest Trail Construction

Trail construction notification

Here's an item I've been keeping an eye on for the past couple of years. There was a section of the trail just south of Glendon Campus that was in bad shape. A narrow spot between a fence and the river, it was badly eroded due to overuse and ground water seepage. There was also drainage pipes spilling storm water into the river. All that has now been fixed. I went by in July and took some photos of the completed work. As you can see they have armoured the riverbank and placed a new and wider gravel trail on top. Hopefully the new trail withstands whatever flood the river can throw at it.

Trail in April, 2007

The river where outflow pipes loosely hang over the bank

July 2008: the new and improved trail


...and after

More pictures of Glendon Forest.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Don River Documentary

Rescuing a River, directed by Jeff Fish

I watched a newly posted video on YouTube called Rescuing a River. It is about 12 minutes long so it's divided into two parts to fit YouTube's 8 minute maximum. When I watched it I got a vague impression that I had entered a timewarp. In the video are interviews of Jack Layton, Glenn Harrington and Deborah Martin-Downs all of whom were active with the Don in the early years of the Task Force to Bring Back the Don. Layton for one looked considerably younger (he has hair!). Martin-Downs is now a senior manager with the TRCA. According to Harrington's website, his company has worked on projects similar to the one that created Chester Spring Marsh in 1996. There were also a couple of shots of Don locations that have changed considerably since the time of the shooting this film. After watching it to the end the credits revealed the story - this video was shot in 1990.

The video was a documentary on the river as it was in 1990. It is quite good and it covers most of the problems of the Don River. In short, an urbanized river that is being subjected to increased runoff and water that is polluted and warmer than is natural. Increased turbidity means that dredging at the mouth is still a big issue. Unfortunately, all these issues are still relevant to the Don today.

What the video doesn't show is what has happened in the past 18 years. Layton and Harrington did foresee that wetlands would be created and habitat would be improved in the Don Valley. Harrington led the team that designed and built Chester Springs Marsh which was the first major restoration by Bring Back the Don. Layton talked about an expanded mouth of the Don and that idea is currently under Environmental Assessment.

So, yes, it is an improvement on other video efforts (including my own) but it would be nice to see an updated documentary on the state of the river today.

Rescuing a River, Part II

Friday, November 21, 2008

Taylor-Massey Creek Article

Taylor-Massey Creek is in bad shape but the Taylor Massey Project has big plans to improve it. An article in the Toronto Community News outlines a $4.25 million plan to fix the worst parts of the creek's watershed. The plan will restore selected sections of the creek and associated ravines. The plan also includes the creation of a trail along the course of the creek. However, part of TMP's plan is to run the path along a disused Hydro Corridor which only partially parallels the creek's path. A better plan would be to create a Discovery Walk type route that more closely follows the creek's path.

TMP will be releasing a detailed plan next week. That will deserve closer reading.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Deputation on BMX Facilities in Toronto

On Friday, I attended a meeting of the Community Development and Recreation Committee at city hall. I was there to make a deputation on an item entitled "BMX Facilities in Toronto". This was item 6 on the agenda but item 1 was a major item called "Starting in the Right Place: A New Approach to Employment and Social Services in Toronto". There was a staff presentation and several deputations so it took nearly two hours of waiting to get to item 6. There were about 90 people in attendance, most of whom left after item 1.

The item I was interested in concerned the presentation of a report produced by staff on the state of BMX facilities in Toronto. Here is part of the text I delivered in my deputation:
Over the past several years, I have observed an increase in activities in our ravines with respect to cycling activities. In particular, is the relatively new sport termed “BMX Freestyle Dirt Jumping” which involves the creation of a network of earthen jumps and ramps for bicycle stunts.

While they are no doubt fun to build and use, they have a serious impact on the natural environment including soil compaction, increased erosion, and disturbance of the forest understory. In some cases trees have been cut down either for construction material or to clear space for these earthen jumps. Some of these sites are well maintained but others are strewn with garbage and refuse. If they are abandoned then the forest takes many years to recover.

I believe many of the problems are related to supply and demand. There are simply not enough facilities in the city to meet the increased interest in this sport. In addition, the existing facilities are widely spaced and not easily accessible. Scarcity and accessibility issues have led to the proliferation of informal ravine dirt jumping sites.

I agree with the report’s recommendation that a dialogue with members of the BMX sporting community needs to be continued. The city also needs to engage youth and encourage them to join clubs which can sponsor organized activities.

I also think that the lack of places for these activities can be addressed by the creation of more facilities which should be dispersed throughout the city. Toronto needs at least three more, one centrally located, and two others in Etobicoke and Scarborough. These facilities need to be developed in consultation with prospective users since a poorly designed facility will be underused. To me, the attraction to dirt jumping is two-fold. There seems to be as much enjoyment out of building the ramps as there is in using the finished course. Cyclists should be allowed to create and modify their own dirt jumps at city facilities. A supply of soil, water, and tools will be needed at each site.

Once there are sufficient facilities available, we can direct Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff, to close down and restore the informal ravine sites. We cannot in good conscious call for the removal of these sites if there is nowhere else for them to go. To remove them without first creating alternatives for these activities would only lead to their creation somewhere else.
As it turned out I was not the only deputant. A dedicated mountain biker who goes by the handle Solotrek, has used facilities such as DJs which I have previously written about. He was more up to speed on the current facilities and I was somewhat chagrined to discover that they are poorly maintained and are not in very good condition. The two sites, one behind an arena near Bayview and Cummer in Willowdale and the other in Wallace Emerson Park in the Dupont-Landsdowne area are in park areas out of site from staff. They don't keep a good eye on them so they are often used by off-leash dog walkers and the result is a lot of dog poop which is not fun to ride in. At the Bayview site someone dump piles of fill on the course making it partially unusable.

Bayview site, covered by illegally dumped fill (photo by "Ghettocruiser")

Dirt jumps at Wallace Emerson Park (photo by "Solotrek")

If the current facilities can't be properly maintained I am not holding out much hope for new locations. The city really needs to work with local bike groups to maintain these sites better and get new sites constructed. Only then do I see any progress being made to windup places like DJs.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Don River on Facebook

Facebook is an interesting cultural phenomenon. It is a web-based social networking site allowing friends to contact each other and to keep connected. You can also share photos and videos and there are online chat features. There are also these things called groups. Groups are a device that allow connections based on events, issues, common interests, and the like. There are thousands of these groups, some of which have an environmental focus. Not surprisingly, the Don River is the focus of a few of these. Here are a couple that I have found:

Friends of the Don East - this group networks people interested in activities associated with the NGO of the same name

Save the Don River - this group is run by someone named Mike Music who placed a video on Youtube that I recently critiqued. The group also has other videos shot on the Don, presumably by Mike. The group appears to be a loose collection of people who seem to be interested in general environmental issues concerning the Don River.

If anyone knows of other Facebook groups associated with the Don River I'd be interested in knowing about them. Note: you need to be a member of Facebook in order to participate in these groups. To date, it's free.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Don River Video Critiqued

"Save the Don River" by Mike Music

Recently I have created some videos to highlight issues and events in the Don Valley. For example, my videos from the Pottery Road weir illustrate the influence of rainstorms on water levels. Other videos show benthic invertebrate testing and wetland planting events.

There are a few other videos about the Don and unfortunately they are not very high quality. A case in point is one called "Save the Don River" which I came across on YouTube recently. It's about 7 minutes long and comes in three parts.

The first part which lasts 2:30 minutes is shot just south of the Queen St. East bridge. Several people are interviewed while looking at a pile of debris that has collected up against a concrete pillar that supports an on ramp for the Gardiner expressway. The people are asked for their opinion about the Don River while the videographer points to the debris pile. The responses are typical - they think the river is dirty and should be cleaned up. They think the debris is a mess and the city should do something about it.

There are two points I want to make. First, while the debris looks messy there is no real point in cleaning it up since the next big storm will dislodge it and send it down to the Keating Channel where it is trapped and scooped out of the water. Secondly, it is important to be aware of people's opinions about the Don River. It seems from this small sampling of the public that people are not aware of the issues concerning pollution on the Don and we still have a ways to go to educate people about these issues.

The second and third parts were taken somewhere in the east Don between the forks of the Don and Lawrence Ave. East. This is the Charles Sauriol Conservation Preserve and sports some areas that are still fairly natural. The second part lasting 2:30 minutes shows one or two salmon swimming in the river. The tagline erroneously states that they are spawning. In fact the salmon are non-native Pacific salmon that are released as fry in rivers (including the Don) around Lake Ontario by the Ministry of Natural Resources. This is done to support the sports fishing industry. The fish live for about five years in the lake, then following some instinctual drive they return to swim up these rivers. Unfortunately the habitat they require doesn't exist in the Don. They required shallow, cold water gravel beds to spawn. Even if they did find it, the eggs would be washed away as the Don regularly floods too heavily for them to survive.

The third part (about 2 minutes) shows white-tailed deer tracks in the riverbank mud as well as a passable shot of a deer feeding in a meadow. I don't have a problem with this part. There are also some nice scenic shots of trees and flowers.

Mr. Music seems to be well intentioned, albeit somewhat misinformed. I do commend him for creating this video but I am sure that someone can do better. The Task Force to Bring Back the Don is investigating the feasibility of running a video contest on the Don River. This might be a project for its 20th anniversary which happens next year.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yellow Fish Road

Yellow Fish sidewalk sticker

I came across this plastic sticker affixed to a sidewalk north of O'Connor Drive in East York. This is part of the Yellow Fish Road program which seeks to educate people about where the water goes when it enters a storm drain. Lamentably, in most of downtown Toronto, it goes straight from here into the Don River. This leads to "wet weather" events such as one I documented in this video in the summer of 2007. Hopefully this sticker will lead people to stop dumping waste water and chemicals down the sewer. Waster water should be dumped in your basement sink which leads to the sanitary sewer. Chemicals such as paints and cleaners should be disposed of through the city's Environment Day program.

The program which has been around for some time is run by Trout Unlimited Canada. Locally, The TRCA runs it. You can contact them at 416-661-6600 x5373.

Storm drain grate

An older yellow fish, hand painted on a street in the Beaches neighbourhood. Several others nearby were very faded.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fall Colours

Don Valley, looking southwest from a hillside below Bermondsey Works yard

I went for a walk in the East Don yesterday. Most of the spectacular colours of fall leaves have disappeared leaving muting greys and browns. I was planning on making my way up to Lawrence to view some riverbank work but got sidetracked by other things. I'll try again later. Meantime here are a couple of shots from my trip.

A white pine with some interesting yellowish needles

A ladder of turkey tail fungi walks up an ash tree stump

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More on Signs

Graffiti stained sign shortly after installation

Sign after city crew 'cleaned up' graffiti

Sign after 20 minutes of work by yours truly

Last week I reported on the state of a new sign on the Lower Don Trail. Shortly after installation it was vandalized with purple spray paint. I noticed this on Friday October 10. I was informed that the city would clean this up if notified so I contacted the local parks supervisor who told me that it would be looked after.

Much to my surprise... it was, so to speak. Someone came by on Friday, October 17 and attempted to remove the graffiti. Instead of returning the sign to its original clean white finish they somehow managed to turn it pink instead.

Seeing how I have had previous sign experience, I decided to visit the sign and have a go at it myself. I used a common non-abrasive household cleaner, a sponge, some water and a little elbow grease and I managed to return the sign to its original state. There is still a couple of places where you can still see a faint pinkish tinge but it is pretty close to clean.

Hopefully the city crew will take note and apply themselves a little better to keeping the sign clean. We'll see.

Monday, October 13, 2008

St. Clair Planting - One Year Later

Planting site, Fall 2007

Planting site, Fall 2008

I participated in a new planting site last year in the St. Clair Ravine Park. The planting, hosted by Friends of the Don East, replaced a mowed grass hill with about 150 trees and shrubs. I was somewhat concerned that the local residents might not take too kindly to the intrusion, but the planting seems to have taken hold. All the rain we received allowed this planting to survive with almost 100% success rate. Some of the trees are about 2m tall. Another five or so years and it will look like part of the forest. Then we can move on to the next section of hillside.

FODE is hosting two more plantings this fall on Oct. 18 and 25. Check out their calendar for details.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lower Don Sign

Lower Don Sign, May 2005

July 2005

October 2008

One of the first interpretive signs in the Don was placed beside the Lower Don Trail at one end of the footbridge that crosses the river near Riverdale Park. Unfortunately, for as long as I can remember, it has collected a variety of unsightly graffiti tags. As you can see from the first two pictures it became progressively worse. Earlier this year it was almost completely covered with paint.

I complained several times about this to the city but couldn't get anyone to take responsibility. Recently though the city replaced the sign with a new one, but as you can see from the latest picture it's been tagged again. I took this picture on Friday and the paint was fresh. This time around I have been assured (by reliable sources) that city staff will keep on top of it. I sent this picture to the parks supervisor so I hope they can get to it next week. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Chester Springs Marsh - Then and Now

Chester Springs Marsh as viewed looking south from the Bloor Viaduct, about 1996

Chester Springs Marsh, 2008

Picture comparison: the mowed grass is completely replaced by trees and shrubs with some bits of meadow in between. A path circling the wetland is now totally obscured. The only indication of it now is a garbage can placed at the northern entrance point (top end of the graffiti). The red tinged sumac grove in the lower right of the picture is still there although there is a patch missing from the middle. This was created by a homeless encampment which was recently abandoned.

It's been 12 years since the Task Force to Bring Back the Don created a new wetland in the Lower Don. Chester Springs Marsh was the first major project of the Task Force and it has influenced restoration efforts in the Don Valley ever since. As you can see from the original photo, it was built in a former grassy meadow with just a few large trees and some shrubs along the river bank. The photo also shows a few saplings new planted.

Today those saplings have grown to heights of 10m and have turned the grassy meadow into a forest. The marsh is now totally obscured by these trees as the new photo shows. The reality is that the marsh now contains very little water and the area is now more of a wet meadow. Shrubs are starting to encroach on this space and the wetland that it started out to be is fast disappearing.

How did this happen? There are a number of reasons for this some of which were not foreseen in the original design. The marsh was meant to have continual water which would be topped up periodically by high water from river floods. However the channel that connected the marsh to the river quickly silted up so that the refresh now only occurs during extreme high water events. This means that any water that gets in likely dries up before the next refresh.

Another problem was what was underneath. The marsh was built on a former landfill and its excavation exposed some of the rubbish buried there. Some it was stuff like old pieces of pottery and other turn of the century knickknacks. When people discovered this, a flock of scavengers descended on the site digging pits looking for buried treasures. This activity inadvertently created wells which drained the marsh.

So rather than a marsh we have more a meadow that gets occasionally inundated. This is not necessarily a bad thing but there are other issues with the marsh. One of them is the problem of non-native species that have invaded the site. These include garlic mustard, dog-strangling vine, Japanese knotweed, creeping thistle, and teasel to name a few. These plants are starting to dominate the understorey and are crowding out native plants. There are some non-native trees including Siberian elm, black locust and Manitoba maple but they are not yet crowding out the native trees. The native trees are doing quite well and they include a couple of uncommon species such as hackberry and red mulberry.

CSM as viewed from the side. The wetland is no longer visible. Small trees such as willows and shrubs such as dogwood are no encroaching on the area formerly occupied by the pond.

What is the future for the marsh? That is still up in the air. The Task Force has requested a study be performed on the marsh but they are taking their time. The results of the study could recommend that nothing be done or that some level of management or remediation be performed. Whenever that study is completed, I'll let you know the results.

Friday, October 03, 2008

New Wetland Under Construction

View of the wetland. Compare this view to a picture I took last November. You can use the two spruce in the middle of the picture as a reference.

About a year ago I reported on a new wetland proposal in Taylor Creek Park between Victoria Park Avenue and Dawes Road. Not much happened until about a month ago when they brought in construction equipment to start excavating.

The difference between now and year ago is striking. Before, this used to be a soggy meadow choked with cattails. Now it is a pond up to 1m deep. I expect the cattails to regrow in places but the potential for better quality habitat is enormous. Most of the water comes from ground water which is very close to the surface in this area. The hillslope behind is wet in places and there might be some runoff contained here. It should be interesting to see how much the water level fluctuates now that it is exposed to evaporation.

A lookout on the marsh will give visitors a bird's eye view of the site.

Wetland Design Plan

The design is pretty close to the proposal (see above) . There is a winding path and viewing stand in the front with most of the wetland at the base of the slope. The ground is still very wet when not on the path so this should deter most people from nosing around. There is still some planting to be done but I expect that the marsh should be officially opened in the Spring of 2009.

Bundled maple trees waiting to be planted