Saturday, September 24, 2005

Taylor Massey Creek: Tale of a Watershed, Part I

I have a story to tell. I started writing but it became so long I felt it would be better break it into three or four parts. Part I describes the geography of the creek and some of the urban issues that affect it.

Taylor Massey Creek is a small river that is part of the Don watershed. It exists entirely within the new city of Toronto. It begins in the city around Pharmacy Ave. and Hwy 401. It flows south and east towards St. Clair Ave. East before turning west to join the Don River, East Branch just north of the forks of the Don.

The northern portion is in the worst shape. For the most part it flows in a concrete lined ditch. In places it is buried in a tunnel and in other areas it flows unseen behind the backyards of a neighbourhood in the Warden and Lawrence area.

Between Lawrence and Eglinton it flows through an industrial area. Only south of Eglinton does it show signs of life. Here the banks are earthen yet somehow it looks as neglected as the ravine park surrounding it. Groves of junk trees such as Siberian Elm and Manitoba Maple shade a sombre looking, slow moving creek, occasionally tinged with the residue from its polluted sources farther north.

Eventually it enters the Pine Hills Cemetery where it is a little more protected. Still at the south edge of the cemetery it is bracketed by two banks lined with ominous looking gabion baskets.

Just west of Birchmount it enters a small park that includes one of the first naturalized areas and the creek begins to show hints of what it surely used to look like before Toronto started to strangle it with development.

South of St. Clair is where it looks it best. From here, back down to Pharmacy, it occupies a ravine park called Warden Woods. Here the creek is allowed to meander mostly unhindered. However there are signs of past abuse such as a pipe crossing the bed of the creek which has become unearthed due to erosion.

Between Pharmacy and Victoria Park the creek is again lost, this time occupied by a city owned golf course called Dentonia Park. The only way of viewing the creek is by playing a round of golf.

West of Victoria Park one can walk uninterrupted all the way to the Don. This section is called Taylor Creek Park and is well used (maybe too well) by dog-walkers, mountain bikers, joggers and family outings. The mouth of the creek empties into the Don, but it is unceremoniously shadowed by the Don Valley Parkway under which it flows.

Now for a few facts. Taylor Massey Creek (TMC) is seriously degraded by storm water outflows. The post war planners who hastily built the surrounding suburbs of North York and Scarborough didn't pay too much attention to where they directed the waste water. The thinking then was get it away fast, out of sight, out of mind. TMC was the unfortunate recipient. The result it that whenever there is a rainstorm TMC fills up and flows quickly. In some places it overflows its banks causing damage to the surrounding parkland. With the runoff flows the usual litany of pollutants such as oil, grease, salt, lawn pesticides and fertilizers, and of course, dog shit. One study estimated that TMC is responsible for 80% of the pollutants in the lower Don after a rainstorm.

The planners who put together the Wet Weather Flow Management Master Plan recognized this and have targeted TMC for major improvements in the 2008-12 time period. They would have started work earlier but Highland Creek just to east of TMC is in even worse shape. So Highland Creek is being worked on instead of TMC.

The upper reaches of the TMC watershed are in such bad shape that the Works department no longer recognizes it as a functioning watershed. The headwaters of TMC, just north of the 401 now flow into a storm sewer that empties into Highland Creek. The creek has frequently been manipulated in this way to its detriment.

Not everything looks so bleak. The new headwaters, just south of the 401, have been restored by the TRCA into a model series of naturalized ponds and islands with connecting swales that have been fully planted with native reeds and flowers. Visit Terraview Willowfield if you ever want to see what TMC could look like.

Next: the FODE story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy these posts, and look forward to learning more about Taylor Creek's tribulations!

I rode in the East Don Parklands north of Cummer last weekend. Signs of the big flood were still evident everywhere - banks caved in, trees down (including one that has hit and damaged a bridge), and grass fields a meter above the stream lying flat from floodwater. -JS