Friday, June 9, 2017

When the Path Becomes a Road

East Point Park Bird Sanctuary, Scarborough, ON

Bluffer's Beach, Scarborough, ON

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority has selected a number of alternatives for various segments of the Scarborough Waterfront Project that will destroy and diminish natural areas and convert them to paved asphalt roads. 

Their current plans include paving 1.7 km of the natural sand beach of Grey Abbey which will lead to paving a large segment of the natural trails that meander through the East Point Park Bird Sanctuary. And on the north east section of Bluffer's Beach they will be converting the natural sand trails into a road. 

The TRCA claims they are bound by policy direction. They claim that City of Toronto documents and trail guidelines are driving them to make these decisions but if you take a moment to go through the documents, you will learn otherwise. 

I went through the documents and there is no policy that even remotely suggests that our natural trails and shorelines be destroyed to this degree.  

After reviewing the documents, I put together a brief report entitled In Review to show that we have other options. The report is comprised of key points and highlights in hope that we can open the door to further public inquiry. 

What’s at risk is the loss of Toronto’s longest remaining natural sand beach and the destruction of many natural areas and unique communities along our shoreline. 

Please Attend This Public Meeting 
TRCA Public Information Centre #3
June 28, 2017
3:30-6:30 pm - Open House
7:00-9:00 pm - TRCA presentation and questions
Cardinal Newman High School  
100 Brimley Rd in Scarborough 

Attending this meeting will give you a chance to learn more about the future of Toronto's Waterfront and have your views included in the Environmental Assessment.

City of Toronto Official Plan

  • Toronto is connected by a wonderful system of green space - from beaches and bluffs, through deep ravines, to parks and cemeteries. This system is vital to both our quality of life and to the health of our natural ecosystem. They should be protected, improved and added to whenever feasible. (p. 2-24)

  • Protects, enhances and restores the region’s system of green spaces and natural heritage features, the natural ecosystem and the natural corridors that connect these features (p. 2-2)

  • The natural environment is complex. It does not recognize boundaries and there are limits to the stresses resulting from human activity that it can absorb. To be good stewards of the natural environment we must acknowledge that it has no boundaries and we must respect its limits. (p. 3-32)

  • Protecting Toronto’s natural environment and urban forest should not be compromised by growth, insensitivity to the needs of the environment, or neglect. (p. 3-33)

  • A key city-building principle is that public buildings, parks and open spaces should be open and accessible all members of the public, including people with disabilities. As with all general principles, there are important exceptions. (p. 2-26)

  • In some of our natural heritage areas, public access will damage natural features and functions. (p. 2-26)

  • In other areas severe topographical features such as ravines and bluffs are largely inaccessible today and in the absence of benign, non-intrusive technology, making them accessible would be impractical. (p. 2-26)

  • Protecting, restoring and enhancing the health and integrity of the natural ecosystem, supporting bio-diversity in the City and targeting ecological improvements, paying particular attention to: i)  habitat for native flora and fauna and aquatic species; ii)  water and sediment quality; iii)  landforms, ravines, watercourses, wetlands and the shoreline and associated biophysical processes; and iv)  natural linkages between the natural heritage system and other green spaces. (p. 3-34)

  • All proposed development in or near the natural heritage system will be evaluated to assess the development’s impacts on the natural heritage system and identify measures to mitigate negative impact on and/or improve natural heritage system, taking into account the consequences for:  a) terrestrial natural habitat features and functions including wetlands and wildlife habitat; b) known watercourses and hydrologic functions and features; c) significant physical features and land forms;  d) riparian zones or buffer areas and functions; e) vegetation communities and species of concern; and f) significant aquatic features and functions including the shoreline of Lake Ontario. (p. 3-36)

City of Toronto Multi-use Trail Guideline

  • Environmentally Significant Areas and Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest are specific demarcated areas that in most cases are not compatible with multi-use trails. (section 6.3.2, p. 66) 

  • Environmentally sensitive sites and habitat corridors are not compatible with lit facilities or with certain types of winter maintenance, and may be more heavily impacted by twinned trails or other larger configurations; therefore they may not be compatible with the more intensive trail classes. If a trail must be located in these areas, additional mitigation measures should be considered on a site specific basis. (section 3.5, p. 10) 

  • Trails should not be routed through wetlands or seepage zones, or areas that have persistent or seasonally wet soils. They may be planned near these areas or in already impacted parts of such areas. (section 6.2.2, p. 62) 

  • Reducing conflicts between wildlife and human activities includes a range of issues such as preventing disruptions to wildlife patterns, preventing risks to wildlife safety and preventing risks to human safety. These need to be assessed on a site-by-site basis, and may include choosing routes that avoid nesting areas, limiting artificial lights in habitat corridors, providing snake basking areas away from the trail, and a wide range of other possibilities. (section 6.3.2, p. 66)

  • Designers and decision-makers should exercise every effort to comply with these guidelines whenever possible.  Situations may arise where a designer’s judgment may be that the guideline should be exceeded, and in other situations, a designer’s judgment may determine that there are sound reasons that a design may be considered appropriate despite a certain guideline not being met. (section 1.3, p. 1)  

  • Throughout the City’s network of multi-use trails, examples can be found of facilities that in some substantial way do not conform to the recommendations of these guidelines. In some cases, the non-conforming qualities are a defining characteristic of those facilities. An example of this is the Kay Gardner Beltline Trail which is surfaced with “trap rock,” a sand material made from crushing and sieving granite. Although this material is not recommended in this guideline for use on any new multi-use trails, this guideline does not recommend that the Beltline be converted to some other surface. The trap rock surface is a defining characteristic of the trail. Any such changes should be reviewed through consultation with trail users and the local community. (section 4.8, p. 32) 

Grey Abbey Shoreline

Grey Abbey beach is a unique shoreline between the Guild service road and East Point Park that is mainly accessible through informal access. Water levels change through the season, though regardless the time of year, this is the longest Toronto natural shoreline and from Guildwood to Highland Creek the area is 4 km in length. 

When water levels are low, most often in the winter, this is a place where you can walk along the water’s edge, uninterrupted by development, and enjoy the sound of waves rolling along the beach beside you. Walking the shore has a coastal feel and is a rare experience in a large urban city. The sand shore has accumulated over time and works in harmony with the surrounding landscape, providing an essential aspect of the near and off-shore ecosystem. 

The land along the table of the bluffs links up with East Point and is a combined natural corridor of over 60 hectares of land. The area is designated an Environmentally Significant Area and an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest. 

Grey Abbey Beach and the natural paths along the Scarborough shoreline are places worth preserving. Email your councillor today and let them know how you feel! 

Grey Abbey Beach, Scarborough, ON

Scarborough Waterfront Project

The SWP is a proposed $80-100 million project that will permanently alter 11 km of natural shorelines and beaches in Scarborough. 

The project is laying the path for a road that will destroy existing natural habitats and end the wide diversification of currently enjoyed recreational activities.

In order for this project to go through, it needs to be approved by City Councillors, TRCA Boards Members, and the Ministry of the Environment. 

Your voice can make a difference. 

To learn more about the project and know what can be done, please stay in touch with Friends of the Bluffs and attend the upcoming meeting:

TRCA Public Information Centre #3 
Wednesday June 28  3:30-9:00 pm 
Cardinal Newman High School 
100 Brimley Road in Scarborough

Have a look at the documents that the TRCA claim to be guiding their policy direction and enjoy this review:

In Review