Monday, May 29, 2017

A Place for Nature

This young deer looking at us from the fields along the shoreline in Scarborough, May 2017, Mike Melnechenko


The City of Toronto is a remarkable place for nature and wildlife. As a city, we truly are blessed. Not only are we on the shores of one of the most amazing fresh water resources in the world, but our city is situated within an intricate web of rivers and ravines that have remained undeveloped due to their unique topography. We have a wilderness around us.  And to realize this on a deeper level would make for a unique opportunity for change and a move towards a future that makes conservation a priority. 

One of Toronto's most natural areas is along the shore of the Scarborough Bluffs. It's a place of natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Though instead of preserving the natural features of this area, we are destroying them as our regional conservation authority (TRCA) is in the process of a very expensive ($3 million) Environmental Assessment to determine whether its a good idea (or not) to alter our longest remaining natural shoreline. 

'Altering' is an understatement. 

What the TRCA has in mind is a very extensive (and expensive) project at the cost of approximately $60 million. The project will involve thousands of truck loads of construction debris, over the course of the next 10 to 12 year. The construction waste will be driven from points across the city on a daily basis and dumped into the lake along the shore of a natural area for almost 2 km. Keep in mind that while this project is going on, most likely all public access to the shoreline will be denied. And it is pretty much guaranteed that the only sounds being heard will be that of heavy equipment, large trucks, and that dreaded beeping sound of trucks reversing.

If the project is approved by the Ministry of the Environment, we will end up with a hardened shoreline, lined with a massive armour rock barrier (similar to the Guild shoreline) that will cut off access to the lake for people, and for wildlife. 

We already have enough asphalt and paved surfaces. Why do we need more and why do we need a road along the shoreline to destroy the beauty of a natural area? The road will create a sweltering hot microclimate in summer, a barren windy place for fall, a more than likely ice-covered road in winter, and a flooded mess for spring.

This project is a bad idea on so many levels and an even worse one for wildlife. There have been many reports of injured wildlife on shores with armour rock. It is almost impossible for wildlife to access the lake in areas that have hardened shorelines. 

Here is an example from a recent article in the Scarborough Mirror with the image courtesy of The Toronto Wildlife Centre. In this picture (from 2011), staff from TWC are examining a deer that has been injured while being trapped within the armour rocks. This article can be found on page 8 of the May 18, 2017 online issue of the Scarborough Mirror. 

Staff from Toronto Wildlife Centre taking care of an injured deer on the shoreline

Before the TRCA wastes anymore time or money considering this project, lets remind them that our wildlife needs places to go. As a city, we have spread and sprawled into every last pocket of land. Lets leave a place for nature. 

Wildlife needs places to roam, trees for shelter and shorelines for water. 

The natural and undeveloped areas along the Scarborough Bluffs is an important area that gives wildlife access to the lake. The natural areas along the shore create a wildlife corridor that connects with much larger places like Highland Creek, Morningside Park and even Rouge National Conservation Park. 

Lets preserve our natural shorelines and keep this place for nature. Lets stop spending valuable resources, time, and money to destroy our natural environment.

Satellite map indicating the natural corridors of the shoreline

Please contact your city councillor today. Your actions will determine the fate of this project. 

Write to your city councillor if you want this natural shoreline preserved.

Upcoming Stakeholder Meeting

There is a stakeholder meeting coming up on June 14 which members of the public can attend, space provided. Generally stakeholder meetings are for the groups that the TRCA has been working with throughout the EA process though they have allowed guests to attend to observe the process. It is my understanding that there will be limited space available and I encourage people to contact the TRCA if they would like to attend: 

Wednesday June 14, 2017 at 5:30 pm
Scarborough Village Recreation Centre - Village Room
3600 Kingston Road 
Scarborough, ON M1M 1R9

Next Public Meeting

 The next Public Information Centre (PIC#3) will be held in the summer and details will be provided next month. Please stay in touch for details.  

Need More Info:

Visit the NEWS section of Toronto Natural Shorelines for background on this area and the project.

Nature will thank you!


Monday, May 15, 2017

A Walking Tour: Wildflowers and Trees of East Point


A Naturalist’s Perspective with Richard Aaron, presented by Friends of the Bluffs

Join us on Sunday, June 4 from 10:00 am to 12:30 pm as naturalist Richard Aaron takes us on a guided walk along the trails of East Point Park. 

Richard is a passionate naturalist who loves sharing his knowledge with others. Over the years, he has presented hundreds of nature walks, workshops and lectures for numerous naturalist and conservation groups across the province. He is widely regarded for his knowledge and understanding of nature. Please join us for this special opportunity to learn more about the natural environs of East Point.

East Point Park is known by many for its dynamic shoreline, beaches and bluffs. It has also been designated by the City of Toronto as a Bird Sanctuary and flyway for migrating birds. What makes East Point even more unique though is the high percentage of native plants (over 55%), and the extensive size of its meadow (50 acres). 

We hope you will join us on this guided walk as we identify the variety of plants and trees in the area. For wildflowers that are not yet in bloom, we will talk about what to look for. We will also keep an eye out for plants that are classified as rare or species of concern: Spiked Blazing Star (Liatris spicata), Oake’s Evening-primrose (Oenothera oakesiana), Ragged Fringed Orchis (Platanthera lacera), Pasture Thistle (Cirsium discolor), Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), and the white form of Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii). We will also talk about threats to the native plants and natural habitats of East Point. As well, we will be identifying non-native plants and trees, and pointing out some of the remnant fruit trees from the orchards that used to be in the area. The walk will conclude with a visit to one of the most picturesque oak trees on the edge of the bluffs.

Wildflowers and Trees of East Point Park will take place along the table of the bluffs through meadows and forest with some views of the lake. We will be walking on a mulched trail over even ground. Please note there are no washrooms available. Parking is available on the road. We will meet at the west entrance of East Point Park at 152 Copperfield Road in Scarborough. 


It was a pleasure to have Richard Aaron join us as a guest on our recent walking tour through the Guild Woods on May 7th. In addition to sharing his knowledge with us, Richard was engaging and entertaining, and we were captivated. It was a real treat to learn more about the species we encountered. How wonderful to leave the forest, knowing a little bit more, than when we entered.

Enjoy a few picture highlights. We look forward to seeing you on Sunday June 4, as we walk the trails of East Point together. Many thanks, see you soon!

Group Name: Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum ). Common names: Adder's Tongue, Dogtooth Violet

Carpinus caroliniana, one of the hardest wood trees. Also known as blue-beech, ironwood and musclewood 

A patch of flowering and nonflowering Mayapple plants (Podophyllum peltatum)

Black Knot is a fungus which is a plant pathogen that is parasitic on species in the genus Prunus.

Downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens

Hornet nest, high above in the trees - the nest is made of wood pulp, chewed from dead wood in the forest

Common Blue Violet (Viola papilionacea


Monday, May 8, 2017

Walking through the Guild Woods

Fallen Ash
Sunday May 7, 2017 was another successful and well-attended walk led by Steve Smith and Jen Falvy of Friends of the Bluffs with 52 guests attending! What a wonderful way to meet fellow nature enthusiasts from the local community and greater Toronto region. In addition to our regular community event listing in the Bluffs Monitor we listed our walk in the Jane's Walk network which drew guests from the west end, downtown, and as far as Thornhill, Ontario.

We'd like to thank our guests for their understanding in accepting the change of our walking route. Initially we planned to go along the Guild shoreline and talk about the history of the shoreline, and erosion measures with the service road though we received an email from the TRCA on Friday informing us that road access to the lake would be closed for the weekend due to high water levels. Rather than cancel, we chose to redirect our walk through the east segment of the Guild forest, an area that is not visited that often, not even by the local community. It turned out to be a wonderful walk and we welcomed the sun as it shone through the forest ahead of us. 

A special thank you to the many guests and community members that contributed to our talk. In addition to myself and Steve, we received great insight from naturalist Richard Aaron, Friends of the Bluffs member Gerard Arbour, community member Wendy Hooker and of course there were others sharing their perspective and knowledge of the area. 

It was also wonderful to see fellow Friends of the Bluffs members Nicole Conboy with her son Aidan, Leslie Arbour, Roy and Denise Wright, and new member Mari-Lynn Dell. What a pleasure to see so many familiar faces on this walk and meet some new ones including Alan Burt, Lucie Moreau, and photographer Barry Scheffer. I enjoyed speaking with one of our youngest guests, budding nature enthusiast (featured at the bottom) by the name of Graysen Hooker Burt. During the walk he was looking intently into some of the vernal pools of water and asked where the frogs are? He said he was supposed to be looking for amphibians. I promised him I would follow up with his parents so that I could show him the Guild Frog Pond. At the end of our walk, a few of us went over to the Guild Park and Gardens and caught the tail end of the walking tour being led by John Mason and his friends. What a great finale to our nature walk through the woods!  

If you enjoyed our walk, please consider joining us on the next walking tour. It will be led by naturalist Richard Aaron on Sunday June 4, 2017 from 10 am to 12:30 pm. 'Wildflowers and Trees of East Point Park' will take place along the trails of East Point. We will meet at 152 Copperfield Road in Scarborough.  

Enjoy the photo highlights and please subscribe to this blog for automatic updates. Simply add your email address in the box on the upper right side. Many thanks, see you again soon!

Guild Forest 

Guild Forest

Well worn trails

Vernal Pools

A Few Highlights of Guests

Steve leading the group

Entering the forest

Steve, Richard and Gerard talking about the fall of the Ash Trees

Friends of the Bluffs members on left Gerard, Jen and Roy

Community friends learning about nature

Richard sharing his knowledge of nature

Budding nature enthusiast Graysen

Monday, May 1, 2017

Why are plans that have already been rejected, surfacing again? ...could it be social amnesia?

Grey Abbey Beach and Shoreline January 2017

Social Amnesia is a very real phenomenon. Its defined by history professor, author and critic Russell Jacoby as the following:

"A collective forgetting by a group of people. It can also be the tendency to ignore history and precedent when responding the present or informing the future...discarded ideas are repackaged; meanwhile, the expectations for these practices remain the same."

The Scarborough Waterfront Project

If you have been following the Scarborough Waterfront Project and the Toronto Regional Conservation Authority's plan to essentially pave a series of roadways through Scarborough's designated Environmentally Significant Areas, geologically important bluffs and heritage shoreline, then wondering if the TRCA is suffering from Social Amnesia is very tempting.


The reason I'm asking this is because I recently came across an article from 2012 where the TRCA proposed a series of paved bike paths through the natural areas along the Scarborough Bluffs and the project was met with community opposition. The project was abandoned. 

Read the article HERE

Its 5 years later, and again they are pushing this project. Only this time it has been repackaged and wrapped up into a glossy multi-million dollar environmental assessment of around $3 million dollars. The TRCA is being met by opposition again though they are coming back with a laundry list of ideas why they want the project.

A lot of time and money is being spent on this project and the truth is no one wants it. People don't want the natural environment paved and they don't want the natural shoreline destroyed. Toronto, Scarborough and the Greater Toronto Region value the natural beauty of this landscape. Visitors travel to the area to experience it and the local community live here to be closer to it. 

What can be done?

1. Visit our website HERE 

2. Email the TRCA HERE

3. Sign our petition HERE

Here is the Article from 2012 when the project was dropped:

Bike trail plans for three Scarborough waterfront parks shelved
NEWS May 18, 2012 by Mike Adler  
Scarborough Mirror

Residents who objected and Scarborough councillors who agreed with them have won a fight to keep bike paths out of three waterfront parks.

The City of Toronto planned to build the paths last year to fill in gaps in its Waterfront Trail that forced cyclists to move along an often-busy Kingston Road.

Ratepayers near the upper section of Bluffers Park, however, said a hard-surface trail would damage the space they called Chine Meadow. Their resistance to the "bikeway implementation plan" prompted a motion by Scarborough Southwest Councillor Gary Crawford, passed in July, removing the Bluffers path from the plan until a "proper dialogue" with residents took place.

Gone for the same reason were proposed paths through Harrison Estates and Grey Abbey Park, other public green spaces on the waterfront.

City and conservation authority staff engaged residents on two of the pathways - the Grey Abbey link was never examined publicly - but after the proposals were dropped from a committee meeting at city hall this week, it was clear they had given up.

"We've done consultation with the community. Based on that, we've decided not to proceed with the projects at this time," Dan Egan, city manager of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, said Wednesday.

Egan said the decision was made "largely because of the community opposition to the projects," adding staff had tried to find common ground with residents around Bluffers but there didn't seem to be any.

Crawford, who was undecided on the proposals at a public meeting in January, later announced his own opposition to the Bluffers path and advised residents on how they should address members of the public works and infrastructure committee, who were expected to vote at Wednesday's meeting on staff recommendations for the trails. A strategy meeting Monday at Bluffer's Restaurant was canceled, he said, when the meeting agenda was released and the three South Scarborough links weren't on it.

Crawford said he didn't know staff would withdraw the proposals and stopped short of calling the decision a victory.

The consultations he wanted when Toronto Council removed the paths from the plan did happen, he said. "I needed to go to the community."

Crawford said the value of the upper section of Bluffers - identified by a sign as a city park only last year - was apparent during a difficult process, and that the space above the Scarborough Bluffs remains part of the city's waterfront trail.

"There's an opportunity for the greater community to realize this is there."

The Scarborough Southwest councillor said he would work with residents to address soil erosion and other issues created by the many informal paths through the park.

Residents were told in February that Harrison Estates from Springbank Avenue to Lakehurst Crescent has a mulch trail spreading to twice its width because it can't handle its volume of bicycle and foot traffic.

Egan acknowledged there was no public meeting on the Grey Abbey proposal to connect Grey Abbey Drive and Guildwood Parkway to Copperfield Road. The city will inform residents, though, about alternatives "that may be better in the long run," including one allowing cyclists to reach Morningside Avenue along a rail corridor, he said.

Asked last month why no meeting had been held, Scarborough East Councillor Paul Ainslie, who opposes paving a dirt path through Grey Abbey Park, said he told staff he wanted a public meeting in the park itself, but they wanted the meeting to be indoors.

The committee did examine plans to expand Toronto's network of bikeway trails this week, but heard from Willowdale homeowners who didn't want bike paths through the Finch Avenue Hydro Corridor in their neighbourhood.