Thursday, June 9, 2016

Next Public Meeting for the Shoreline is June 28th

If you would like to be involved in the process of protecting the natural environment and shaping the future of Toronto's shoreline, please attend this meeting. 

Keeping the remaining 2 km of sand beach natural is the best legacy we can leave for future generations. We do not need more paved and hardening shorelines.

This project is based on outdated ideas from the past. In 1992 the province of Ontario established the Waterfront Regeneration Trust to implement recommendations of 'Regeneration', a Royal Commission report which included public consultations. One of the recommendations was to create a continuous waterfront trail along the shorelines of Lake Ontario. This is not a good reason to continue with this project. This is not 1992. 

This project is not environmentally responsible. We need to let the TRCA know that we are serious about protecting what natural beauty and biodiversity remains and paving a shoreline is not the way to go about this. There is nothing regenerative about paving our beaches!

This information is from the TRCA website:


The purpose of this second PIC meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 28th, will be to review and receive feedback on the Preliminary Preferred Alternatives and draft Effects Assessment Criteria.
Agenda for the evening is as follows:
  • 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. | Open House
  • 7:00 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. | Presentation
  • 7:45 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. | Q&A and Discussion


For further information on the project or to provide comments, please contact:
Lionel WorrellProject Coordinator, Waterfront Watershed Strategies Division
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
5 Shoreham Drive, Toronto ON, M3N 1S4
Phone: 416-661-6600 ext. 5305 



Blessed Cardinal Newman Catholic High School - 100 Brimley Road South, Scarborough, Ontario M1M 3X4

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Bank Swallows of East Point

Bank Swallows flying along the bluffs

The Bank Swallow; Riparia Riparia 
Status in Ontario: Threatened
Location: East Point Park and Bird Sanctuary
East Scarborough, Toronto Ontario

“Threatened ” means the species lives in the wild but is likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address factors threatening it.

A few facts about this delightful song bird:
  • Bank Swallows nest in burrows along vertical faces of silt, sand or clay. Territories may support colonies of 10 to 2,000 nests with burrows 2-3 ft deep
  • Bank Swallows are extremely social birds. They are seldom alone when outside the nest and because of this close proximity, they have developed many complex social behaviours
  • A small songbird, the Bank Swallow is distinguished in flight by its quick, erratic wing beats. They fly shallow typically gliding for 2 seconds at a time
  • An Aerial Insectivore, the Bank Swallow catches and feeds on insects in flight 

The cause for concern:
  • Bank Swallow numbers have been declining by about 5% per year over the past 40 years resulting in a cumulative decline of 90%
  • The global breeding population in 1970 was 19 million
  • It may now be estimated at 1 million

Threats to their population:
  • Changes in insect populations, habitat loss, and the use of pesticides along traditional migratory routes have contributed to their decline 
  • Changes in nesting habitat include alterations to vertical banks and bluffs
  • Erosion-control, flood-control and other building projects that remove or alter these banks make them unsuitable for nesting

Bank Swallows at East Point:

This colony of Bank Swallows is along the bluffs of East Point Park and Bird Sanctuary.

Due to the rich biodiversity of the area and the unique geological features of the bluffs, East Point has the following recognition: 

ESA - Environmentally Sensitive Area 
ANSI - Area of Natural and Scientific Interest

The bluffs along the shoreline of East Point provide excellent nesting conditions for the bank swallow. The sediment is soft enough to allow for excavation and stable enough to stay intact for the duration of the nesting season. 

East Point has significant and diverse habitat: 

Wetland, Forest, Ravine, Meadow, Bluff and Shoreline. 
55% of the plants of East Point are native.
  • Wetlands include ponds, thicket-swamps and meadow marshes
  • The extensive meadow habitat is 20.3 ha of Native and Exotic Forb Meadow and Exotic Cool-season Grass Graminoid Meadow
  • Ravine area is vegetated
  • Forest habitat is predominantly deciduous

East Point Shoreline:

The shoreline is a coastal community classified as "dynamic" because of the active wind and wave energy.

East Point shoreline is 3 km in length (from Highland Creek in the East to Guildwood Park in the west.

The natural sand beach is one of the last remaining natural shorelines in the Toronto area.

Plans are being proposed to alter the shore for recreational purposes by hardening it with paved access roads and armour rocks.

Essentially, large sections of the beach will be paved.

What can be done:

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) is welcoming input from the public on the planned alternatives

If you would like to see this shoreline remain natural please email the TRCA  today:

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources states:

Threatened species and their general habitat are automatically protected.

If you would like to see the Endangered Species Act applied to this natural habitat and have the Bank Swallows protected, please email the ministry at

Thank you for watching Nature Studio by Jen Falvy

Feel free to share this video

Monday, April 25, 2016

Concrete and Clay

I'm presenting this exhibit of photographs in May 2016 as part of the 20th Anniversary Contact Photography Festival. The work will be on exhibit at Art Works Art Gallery at 238 Jane Street from Thursday May 12 to Saturday June 11, 2016. Opening Reception is Thursday May 12 from 6-8 pm - all are welcome. 

The photographs I'm exhibiting are a documentation drawing attention to the irreversible practice of shoreline hardening. Under the pretence of erosion protection; revetments, armour rocks and paved roads are taking over our natural shorelines. In an attempt to alter the malleable, shifting and changing clay shores of the Scarborough Bluffs, developers are not only destroying an ecosystem and animal habitat but they are severing our connection to the lake. 

The shoreline at risk begins near Grey Abbey Ravine and continues east along the shore for about 4 km to East Point Park and Bird Sanctuary. In addition to this area being an important flyway for migratory birds, it has been recognized as an Environmentally Significant Area (ESA) and an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI).

The good news is there's still time to preserve this last natural shoreline of Toronto. The TRCA (Toronto and Region Conservation Authority) is interested in hearing from the public about this area. The plans that are currently being proposed present a number of options and alternatives and in addition to hardening the shoreline in varying degrees, one of their options include the 'Do Nothing Alternative'. This would be the best option for preserving the area in it's natural state. Allowing this shoreline to remain natural will help maintain the natural habitat for many years to come. This area is a treasure of flora and fauna and the shore is a beautiful stretch of sand beach that deserves our protection. 

In addition to seeing the photographs on display, I invite you to contact the TRCA and let them know how you feel about shoreline hardening and if this is how you envision the future of our shores. 

Email: Lindsay Clapp (project coordinator)

For those of you not familiar with the TRCA, I've included some info from their website about when they formed and their mandate: 

About TRCA

Formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel, TRCA has a strong history in watershed management and leadership in applying sustainability practices.  Today, we own more than 40,000 acres of land in the Toronto region, employ more than 475 full time employees and coordinate more than 3,000 volunteers each year. 
With decades of practical experience in protecting our environment, educating young people, and engaging communities, TRCA works with governments, businesses, and individuals to build a greener, cleaner healthier place to live.

Our Vision

The quality of life on Earth is being determined in the rapidly expanding city regions.  Our vision is for a new kind of community, The Living City, where human settlement can flourish forever as part of nature's beauty and diversity.

Our Mission

To work with our partners to ensure that The Living City is built on a natural foundation of healthy rivers and shorelines, greenspace and biodiversity, and sustainable communities. 

Our Expertise

TRCA offers knowledge and experience to help our partners contribute to a healthy city region.  This includes ecology and the study of water quality, natural habitats, plants, animals and more to help us identify environmental needs, set targets, and restore natural areas; sustainable community development to advise partners about land use, development proposals and construction, and environmental education to help students and community members appreciate their local environment and learn to look after it.

Local Action

"Think globally, act locally" applies well to TRCA and its partners.  While we recognize our participation in the global environment, our work is focused squarely on the environment here in the Toronto region.  We work to protect and restore the health of the nine watersheds that form the Toronto region, and the Lake Ontario waterfront along its southern boundary.

Working Together

Communities across our watersheds are meeting the challenge of protecting and restoring the health of our environment.  TRCA works alongside its municipal partners, other environmental departments and organizations, educational organizations, corporations and grass roots community groups to help them, as well as ourselves, achieve our goals in support of a greener, cleaner, healthier place to live.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Reflecting on the Wisdom of Aldo Leopold

Wetland, East Point Bird Sanctuary, Scarborough Photo credit: Jen Falvy

April 21st marks the anniversary of the loss of a great conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast; Aldo Leopold (January 11, 1887 – April 21, 1948). 

Leopold was influential in the development of modern environmental ethics and in the movement for wilderness conservation. His ethics of nature and wildlife preservation had a profound impact on the environmental movement, with his ecocentric or holistic ethics regarding land. He emphasized biodiversity and ecology and was a founder of the science of wildlife management. (from Wikipedia)

Born in 1887 and raised in Burlington, Iowa, Aldo Leopold developed an interest in the natural world at an early age, spending hours observing, journaling, and sketching his surroundings. Graduating from the Yale Forest School in 1909, he eagerly pursued a career with the newly established U.S. Forest Service in Arizona and New Mexico. By the age of 24, he had been promoted to the post of Supervisor for the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. In 1922, he was instrumental in developing the proposal to manage the Gila National Forest as a wilderness area, which became the first such official designation in 1924.

Following a transfer to Madison, Wisconsin in 1924, Leopold continued his investigations into ecology and the philosophy of conservation, and in 1933 published the first textbook in the field of wildlife management. Later that year he accepted a new chair in game management – a first for the University of Wisconsin and the nation.

In 1935, he and his family initiated their own ecological restoration experiment on a worn-out farm along the Wisconsin River outside of Baraboo, Wisconsin. Planting thousands of pine trees, restoring prairies, and documenting the ensuing changes in the flora and fauna further informed and inspired Leopold.

A prolific writer, authoring articles for professional journals and popular magazines, Leopold conceived of a book geared for general audiences examining humanity’s relationship to the natural world. Unfortunately, just one week after receiving word that his manuscript would be published, Leopold experienced a heart attack and died on April 21, 1948 while fighting a neighbours’ grass fire that escaped and threatened the Leopold farm and surrounding properties. A little more than a year after his death Leopold’s collection of essays A Sand County Almanac was published. With over two million copies sold, it is one of the most respected books about the environment ever published, and Leopold has come to be regarded by many as the most influential conservation thinker of the twentieth century.

Leopold’s legacy continues to inform and inspire us to see the natural world “as a community to which we belong.”
(from the Aldo Leopold Foundation website:

Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

“Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” 

“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.” 

The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Saving A Shoreline

I'm very pleased to announce that I will have a table at the Water Docs International Film Festival being presented by Ecologos. I'll be there on Thursday March 24th and Saturday March 26th, both days from 2-4 pm. I'm sending a special thank you to all the organizers of the festival for giving me this opportunity to share my concerns about the shorelines of Lake Ontario.

Like most people, I am drawn to water. It’s a connection we all share. I believe that it’s because of this connection, that we also all have an equal responsibility to take care of our water and to be mindful and respectful of this great gift of life.

The shoreline I am concerned with is in the far east of Scarborough where there is a remarkable stretch of sandy shore that relatively few people know about. The shore is, in many ways in its natural state, as it may have been found hundreds of years ago. It’s about 4 km in length, from Highland Creek on the east, to Grey Abbey Ravine in the west. The beach is rugged; it’s sandy, with driftwood, debris and rocks and when you walk along this shore, you’re given the sense that you are on a far and forgotten coast. It truly is a hidden gem in the city. This is part of its beauty, though unfortunately it may be part of its demise.  Because so few people know about the area, very few also know about the plans that are in store for its future. 

I learned earlier this year of plans that are underway to alter this shoreline …or more appropriately, to destroy it.  Plans are being proposed to harden most of the shore with armour rocks, revetments and pavement… but not for erosion control for property investments, but for recreational purposes.  

Shoreline hardening includes parallel concrete structures like seawalls, and unfortunately it seems to be an epidemic that has taken over our Great Lakes.  

I’m hoping to open up the conversation to the negative impacts of this practice and to ask, is it really necessary? And must we always destroy nature for our purposes?

A shoreline is an ecosystem and when you pave, alter, destroy, and change it, you are basically destroying life.  Hardening a shoreline has negative impacts on the flora and fauna of the area, it has long-term negative impacts on the water and it blocks our connection to the lake.  

As a voice for nature and for water, I'm encouraging you to join me in the conversation around this practice, before it’s too late. This is an opportunity for us to really examine our relationship with nature, our connection to water and to consider our impacts on future generations. 

Come visit me at the film festival at 585 Dundas Street East - at the Daniel Spectrum Hall and enjoy the beautiful films being shown!

Thanks - see you soon!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Quick Facts on Shoreline Hardening

Shoreline Hardening of the Great Lakes is one of the many stressors created by urban development. The shocking thing about shoreline hardening is that it is not always necessary and more often than not, it causes more damage than good.

Here are some quick facts on shoreline hardening from the Great Lakes Environmental Assessments and Mapping Project. If you want more in-depth info, please visit their website GLEAM.

The shoreline hardening stressor considers the shoreline structures built parallel to shore, such as seawalls. These structures are constructed to protect and maintain human investments along the coast,  but they can have a number of adverse impacts on nearshore ecosystems. In particular, artificial shoreline protective structures can:

  • destroy local vegetation, often replacing it with impervious surface and impacting storm water flow
  • cause local increases in water turbidity 
  • alter nearshore sediment dynamics and accelerate lake bed erosion
  • facilitate the establishment of nuisance species like zebra and quagga mussels

There is extensive knowledge and research available online about the negative impacts of shoreline hardening. Lake St. Clair in southern Ontario is another lake in complete ruin with almost all of the U.S. shore hardened with armour rocks. 

From their website Great Lakes Tributary Modelling Program, here are some quick facts on the environmental damage and biological processes linked to shoreline hardening:

  • burial or removal of habitat for bottom dwelling species due to shifts in beach material
  • alterations in or complete loss of vegetative cover resulting in temperature fluctuations in shallow water
  • loss of spawning, foraging and nursery habitat for fish due to alteration in the substrate
  • loss of migratory corridor for fish caused by shifts in water elevation from existence of armoring
  • decreased organic inputs due to loss of vegetation adjacent to the shoreline
  • interruption of beach access to foraging wildlife

This image below is from along the shore of Lake Ontario near the Guildwood area and it demonstrates the complete destruction of the natural shoreline. It is hardened with armour rocks. This shoreline at one time was most likely a sandy beach with a diverse habitat of plant and wildlife though unfortunately all of that has now been lost forever.

Photo credit: Jane Fairburn

This shoreline hardening was done by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, an organization that is operated by the city, and for the public. 

Why is this happening to our shorelines? 

Unfortunately there seems to be a global epidemic of this destructive and irreversible practice. I think it's time that it stops. The Scarborough Bluffs is an area in the east of Toronto with approximately 5 km of natural shoreline remaining. The clock is ticking. Currently the TRCA has plans to harden the majority of this area although they may leave a section or two of token beaches for the public. For those of you that don't know the area, it's a long stretch of shoreline with sandy beaches and diverse habitat along the toe of the bluffs. At the table of the bluffs there is a designated Flyway and Bird Sanctuary that is a well travelled path for many migratory species as well as diverse flora and fauna that are either threatened or at risk. It's a true wilderness that is worth protecting. 

This photograph is the view looking down at the shore about 150 ft below from a lookout point at the edge of Greyabbey Ravine, an area that is at the midpoint between East Point and Bluffer's Beach. This is one of the areas that will be destroyed with armour rock. The sandy shore below is a beautiful beach that resulted overtime due to the natural erosion process of the bluffs. If you feel this area is worth preserving, now is the time to act!

Photo credit: Jen Falvy

We need to let the TRCA know that hardening the shore of this last  stretch of beach is not acceptable. It is nothing short of environmentally irresponsible and it's also a public embarrassment for this to be done by a conservation authority.

Please email the TRCA today and let them know you want this area protected!

You may also join the Facebook Page East Point Shoreline - Keep it Natural to be kept up to date on efforts to protect this area. I would like to point out that this initiative extends beyond East Point and its shoreline; it's about protecting the diverse habitat in the various forests and wetlands that line the shore from East Point to Bluffer's Beach, it's about preserving the geological and environmental wonder of the Scarborough Bluffs and it's about allowing access to the abundant fresh water of Lake Ontario to remain intact. 

A petition has been started - please sign and circulate.

Let's protect the last remaining wild spaces along our shore!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Our Environment, Our Rights

East Point Park Photo credit: Jen Falvy

Your Environmental Rights at a Glance - Good to Know!

This information is from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario website.

If you live in Ontario, you’re really lucky. Why? Because you have environmental rights! For example, under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR), for instance, you have:

  • a right to know about – and have a say in – government decisions that affect the environment;
  • a right to ask the government to change or create environmental laws or policies; and
  • a right to ask the government to investigate if you think someone is breaking an environmental law.
Read the Environmental Bill of Rights itself, and its regulations, which describe how it applies to different ministries and laws, and approvals and permits.
The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is charged with monitoring and reporting on how well the government complies with the Environmental Bill of Rights.
What does the Environmental Bill of Rights mean for me?
Under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR), you have rights to participate in ministry decisions about the environment and hold the government accountable for those decisions. (The EBR applies to environmentally significant decisions and proposals made by certain Ontario ministries or under certain Acts.)
You have the right to:
The Environmental Registry
The Environmental Registry is a key tool of the Environmental Bill of Rights. The Registry is a website that lets you keep informed about, and comment on, environmentally significant decisions in Ontario. Thanks to the EBR, the government is obliged to consider your comments. You can sign up to get email alerts about notices on the Environmental Registry that may interest you — as they are posted. Sign up now!
Statements of Environmental Values
Each of the ministries subject to the EBR has a Statement of Environmental Values (SEV). This statement guides the minister and ministry staff when they make decisions that might affect the environment. Statements of Environmental Values are available on the EBRwebsite.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dear Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

I would like to express my strong opposition to any plan of waterfront development that involves destroying the last remaining shorelines in Scarborough with armour rocks, revetments and roads. If the TRCA continues with the planned development, the last two remaining beaches will be permanently destroyed. 

East Point Beach is a natural shore of about 4 km with a true coastal feel between Grey Abbey Ravine and Highland Creek, and Bluffer's Beach is a sandy beach with dune grass and diverse plants in a tranquil bay at the foot of the historic Cathedral Bluffs. Both of these beaches and their natural habitat will be lost forever if they are altered with your planned development. It is absolutely unacceptable in this day and age for this to be happening, especially when the trend is to be moving towards respect for nature. 

We are living in a large metropolis that is becoming increasingly busy and if we pave over and alter these beautiful natural spaces then we are destroying the only sanctuary that we have left. As a city, we should be supporting low-impact access to the water which allows and encourages people to enjoy the benefits of being at the water's edge with minimal disruption to the natural environment. We all know from first-hand experience, the joy of being near water. It is  rejuvenating to both the mind and the spirit to walk along a sandy shore, where all you hear are the sounds of waves rolling, water splashing and the call of songbirds and seagulls. It makes no sense to destroy this and replace it with concrete.

I understand and appreciate that the work of the TRCA is about development and about integrating people with nature, but perhaps now is the time to consider a different approach. Why can't the TRCA become the true 'conservation authority' that you were elected to be? 

Is it possible that you might consider being a voice of the future and perhaps show the public new ways to connect with the natural world. This may involve going against the grain and 'paving' a new road for a deeper and more meaningful connection to the natural environment.  Why can't we keep the natural world 'natural' and let us be the ones to develop! Let's stop altering, destroying, rearranging, and packaging up nature so that we can experience is in our limited and convenient ways. 

If we allow these shorelines to remain natural, we are honouring our connection to our rich environmental heritage and we are demonstrating respect and commitment to the expansive body of freshwater that we are supposed to be guardians of. 

These last remaining natural shorelines of Scarborough and all of their habitat, wildlife and birds are worth protecting. They are worth preserving. Let's envision a future that respects nature and makes conservation a priority for these ecologically sensitive areas.

These beaches are a treasure - lets take pride in protecting them! 

Jen Falvy

Concerned Community Member, Visual Artist and Nature Enthusiast