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

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Saving our Shorelines

Two beautiful beaches in Scarborough are at threat of being permanently destroyed!

East Point Beach is a natural sandy beach of about 4 km with a true coastal feel between the Grey Abbey Ravine and Highland Creek.

Bluffer's Beach is a sandy beach with dune grass and diverse plants in a tranquil bay with a remarkable view from the base of the historic Cathedral Bluffs.

Both of these beaches, their natural habitat and all of the remaining natural shoreline in Scarborough are about to be destroyed with 'concrete paths'. 

It's hard to believe in this day and age that we are having a conversation of whether a beach should be kept natural or 'paved with concrete'. I believe we should be supporting low-impact access to the water which allows people to enjoy the benefits of being at the water's edge. We all know from first-hand experience, the joy of being near water and how rejuvenating it is to the mind and spirit to walk along a sandy shore, where all you can hear are the sounds of waves rolling into the shore and the call of songbirds and seagulls. Does it make any sense at all, to destroy such beauty?

So who would consider paving these beautiful natural spaces do you ask? 

Well believe it or not, it's the very organization that has been put in place to preserve them - our very own Toronto and Region Conservation Authority but thankfully, it's not too late.... 

The TRCA would like to hear from the public - they want to know how you feel! But the pressure is on - they want to hear from you by February 11, 2016. 

If you care about preserving our natural beaches, animal habitat and the diversity of our shorelines, then contact the TRCA. Let them know that we all have a right to enjoy nature in it's natural form and we need to envision a future that respects nature. Our priority should be to preserve and protect the natural beauty of our last remaining sandy beaches and that conservation should be a priority for these ecologically sensitive areas.

It's important to point out that hardening the shoreline of these beaches is not for concern of erosion control nor is it a situation of protecting the residences. Both of these beaches are set well away from the foot of the bluffs and they are not densely residential. At the shore of both East Point and Bluffer's Beach, there is a lot of natural growth and these are highly productive habitats for wildlife and birds. Interestingly enough, at East Point, there already exists a designated bird sanctuary created by the TRCA, so to destroy the natural habitat of the shore makes no sense at all.

Please email Lindsay Clapp, TRCA Project Coordinator at and 

  1. Remind them that their mandate is supposed to be making nature a priority. 
  2. Ask them why are they concerning themselves with lining our last remaining shorelines with concrete paths.
  3. Suggest to them that perhaps they can find less destructive projects to keep their engineers busy.
  4. Point out to them that the longterm health of our great lakes depends on the connection that we have with the lake. 
  5. Explain to them that if people do not have access to the water, then how will they develop a connection to it? 
  6. Tell them that creating hardened shorelines with large armour rocks and layers of concrete is not natural and not necessary. 
  7. Let them know that keeping our shorelines natural is something you value.

How to Save our Shoreline:

These beaches are a treasure - lets be proud of protecting them! 
Lets speak up for nature and be the voice of our future. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Call to Action - Preserving our Natural Heritage

Here is a direct link to the TRCA - please let them know that you believe in the value of a natural shoreline and include your comments in their workbook. Page 9 offers the very best alternative for the East Segment: Grey Abbey to East Point Park. The TRCA should keep the trail at the top of the bluffs, where it currently is and choose the 'Do Nothing Alternative'.

They need to hear from you before February 11, 2016 - here is the workbook for you to submit your comments:

Which Beach Would You Rather Walk Along?

The image below is the Rouge Waterfront Trail from a picture online. This treatment of rocks is one of the various ways that a shoreline is altered by development. A rock-lined and hardened shoreline does not invite you into the water, in fact it does the opposite. It cuts you off from the lake and it reduces the experience to a purely visual one.
A natural sandy shoreline, as shown below in my picture from East Point this past December offers quite a different experience - it actually connects you to the healing benefits of water. A natural sandy shoreline is nature's way of inviting you into the water.... perhaps nature is saying, 'walk along this beautiful shoreline, connect with this body of water'. 
The natural beauty of the East Point Shoreline is a rare gem and it's currently at risk of being developed for recreational purposes. 

We need to let the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority know that we value the shoreline just as it is. Let's preserve the natural beauty of East Point Shoreline - please follow the FB page for updates on how to give your feedback to the TRCA. 

You are invited by the TRCA to respond with your view and submit it into their online workbook which offers various approaches to the shoreline project. Here's a link from the TRCA website 

Please act now - the deadline is Feb 11, 2016.

Monday, February 1, 2016

East Point Shoreline - Toronto's Hidden Gem

Blue of Blues - East Point Shoreline from top of the bluffs
Living Lake - East Point waves on a windy evening

Expansive Summer - East Point Shoreline on a summer day

Sand, Water, Sky - East Point Shoreline is a sanctuary for the soul and spirit

East Point Evening - the last rays of the setting sun
Ancient Bluffs - East Point Shoreline connects us to our geological heritage