Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bring Back the Don in Limbo

At the May city council meeting, there was a debate about the fate of the city's advisory committees. The discussion which spanned late Wednesday night and Thursday morning was long and convoluted. Several councillors stood up and made passionate defences for some of the committees. This mirrored the impassioned pleas (which fell on deaf ears) of some of our citizens. Some even suggested forming brand new advisory committees. I won't bore you with the details but the upshot was that only the Aboriginal Affairs Advisory Committee was re-established. All the remaining ones including the Task Force to Bring Back the Don were referred back to the mayor's office for further consideration. Another discussion will take place at the July council meeting.

While the Task Force is not quite dead we are currently in limbo. We can't hold meetings and can't make decisions. We can't recruit new members which is a priority for us and we certainly can't spend any money. Our main projects - the Don Trail and the Cottonwood Flats restoration project are up in the air.

The mayor was in favour of shutting us down but he couldn't muster enough votes to do so. What will come out of this two month hiatus is anyone's guess.

**Update** The National Post has weighed in with a pro/con debate on the advisory committee issue. Worth a read for a more in-depth look at this topic.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring Ephemerals

Trout lilies in Crothers' Woods

Spring this year has been cool, rainy and cloudy. When are the warm sunny spring days going to get here? However one beneficiary of this kind of spring are a group of forest herbaceous plants called spring ephemerals. These plants flower early, taking advantage of the sun before trees leaf out and shade the forest floor. With the cool spring it means that trees have been slow to produce leaves and this has resulted in a bumper year for spring ephemerals.

These types of plants are usually seen in more rural forests but there are some remnants of quality forest habitat remaining in the Don valley and other ravines in Toronto. If you know where to look you can find some stunningly beautiful flowers. However trees are finally starting to produce leaves so the time left to view spring ephemerals is growing short. I predict that many of these plants will be past their prime by mid May.


Early meadow rue


White trillium

Blue cohosh

Sunday, May 08, 2011

It's Spring Planting Season

Planting in Taylor Creek Park

Spring is here so that means it tree planting season! Planting activities are in full swing and as usual there are plenty of events happening. Some future events to keep in mind;

Friends of the Don East. Two more events on May 28 and June 4.

Taylor Massey Project. They have a planting on May 14.

City of Toronto. This list includes events from across the city including the Don.

Community Stewardship. Want a little more than tree planting? Sign up for the community stewardship program. There are four sites in the Don Valley.

School planting in E.T. Seton Park

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Vandalism a Sad End to Park Feature

Wrecked barbecue in Taylor Creek Park

I was passing through Taylor Creek Park on the weekend when I spotted this sad site. Someone decided to bust up this barbecue site just west of Dawes Road. In the old Metro days the city placed barbecue ovens in local parks for the benefit of park users. Fast forward to today and it is now city policy that these are no longer maintained. All the original ones are slowing deteriorating when they fall apart they are not replaced. It may be that there are now more portable bbq alternatives then there were 30 years ago but it just strikes me as a sad reminder of how parks used to be run in the city. Who remembers the "Please walk on the grass" signs?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Wetland Survived Winter (a little worse for wear)

Wetland, spring 2011

I visited the Taylor Creek wetland this weekend. I was doing stewardship there last year and wanted to check out how things are looking. From a natural perspective things are looking good. However, the manmade constructs - not so good. When they built the wetland they installed a round viewing area that juts out into the pond. This provides a panoramic view of the pond and is a popular place for visitors to take in the sites. The viewing area consists of an interpretive sign, a gravel covered walkway and the viewing area is lined with large stone blocks. Unfortunately, it was poorly constructed. The large blocks were placed on a layer of smaller stones. These stones were affected by ice or frost during the winter. During the spring thaw the stone underlayer gave way and now all the large blocks are sagging forward toward the water. Two of the blocks have rolled into the water leaving gaps in the wall. It would have been better to mount the stones with another set of large blocks underneath. This would have been more expensive but would have lasted longer.

Stone blocks surrounding viewing stand are sagging or have collapsed into pond

On the plus side, I spotted a muskrat swimming in the pond. Of course I had put my camera away just before it swam by. I waited for awhile for it to reappear but a dog walker and dog (unleashed) came by and it disappeared. I suppose it will try and make a home here. The conditions are right except for the periodic inundation of stormwater/sewage from a nearby outlet and the ongoing menace from unleashed dogs. Still, muskrats are adaptable to urban environments and it may survive.

Garbage dump

On a down note I discovered a small cache of garbage dumped at the parking lot near Dawes Road. It is mostly broken furniture and shelving. I notified 311 and hopefully it will be removed soon.