Saturday, February 25, 2006

MNR Regulation 97/04

I found out about this through the agenda of the March meeting of the Planning and Transportation Committee. Item 7 is to receive a report from the TRCA concerning MNR Regulation 97/04. This is entitled "Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses". This legislation is an effort by the province to reduce red tape and create a generic rule for all provincial conservation authorities. I skimmed the document and I think it contains some sound planning practices. What I find disturbing is that the city is looking for a way out of a very important point in the regulation. To quote the recommendation on the PLT agenda:

the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority be requested to amend the proposed Regulation of Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses to eliminate the proposed 15 meter buffer in the City of Toronto, and if required, request the Province to amend the Generic Regulation to reflect the same;

I find it rather disturbing that the city would seek to get an exemption on this point. It seems rather shameless to seek a blanket exemption rather than try to work with it on a case by case basis. I will definitely bring this up through the Task Force and hope that they will bend the city's ear on this one.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Stirrings on the Lower Don

Homeless squat underneath Eastern Ave bridge, May 2005

Same encampment, Feb 2006.

I was down by the lower Don and decided to take a look at how construction is progressing. Not much is happening. I did notice a bunch of guys in construction hats wandering around the old McCord Ready Mix site pointing at stuff but other than that there wasn't much sign of activity.

I ventured down on to the trail and cycled south (hasn't this been a great winter for cycling?). I noticed that the garbage can at the bottom of the Queen St. stairs has been removed. That's OK because they never emptied it anyway (there's that word 'they' again - who are these guys?). Further south the usual rummies drinking malt ale beside the river. As I passed by the old Eastern Ave. bridge I did notice that the homeless squat underneath the bridge is now deserted although not cleaned up. This is likely due to the construction activity rather than any effort to move homeless people into homes (see the pictures above).

On another note, the TRCA has announced another small phase in the Don Mouth EA. They have released the notes from the January 10, 2006 meeting for a two week period of review. You can find out how to get a copy of these notes by visiting their project website. On this website I did notice that they have also nicely summarized everything in a newsletter, available in pdf format.

As I said the trail is still open but I suspect that the closure is imminent. I'll pass along more details after my next visit.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Who Exactly are "THEY"?


I attend a lot of events with the Don display. Earth Day events, environment shows, school events, etc. A good thing about these events is that people actually know what and where the Don River is. But it never ceases to amaze me that people insist on ranting about "they": "They should really clean the tires out of the river"; "They've got to do something about that smell"; "Why don't they clean up the Don?" I always wonder who exactly these phantom "theys" are. Actually, it's YOU that should help clean the tires out of the river, it's YOU that's causing the smell in the Don by having a manicured lawn and downspouts and super flush toilets and a concrete driveway and walkway, and it's YOU that can actually play a big part in cleaning up the river. Lot level solutions can go far but instead of actually putting words in to action, it's easier to place the blame firmly on THEM.
This isn't everyone of course, there are tons of people who come out for plantings and actually understand the connection between water in the home and water in the Don, so sorry if you're one of these people and I thank you most sincerely for all your efforts. You're helping more than you probably know. But if anyone runs across a roving pack of THEYs in the Don or perhaps THEY're busy cleaning another watershed somewhere, please let me know. I have another job for them.

Excuse me while I remove my little preachy hat, it's getting steamy under here.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Get the Jump on Spring

It seems that February is event month. Here's another event that you might be interested in. "Get the Jump on Spring" will be held at the Toronto Botanical Gardens at Leslie and Lawrence on Sat. Feb. 18 from 10AM-4PM. Mostly it's for gardeners but quite a few environmental groups will be there as well including the Task Force to Bring Back the Don.

February Road Salt Forum

Riversides Stewardship Alliance and the Sierra Legal Defence Fund are hosting a public forum on road salt use. Here are the details of the event:

A Low-Salt Diet for Ontario's Roads and Rivers


Road Salts: the Science and Policy

Thursday, February 23rd


Metro Hall – Room 303

55 John Street, Toronto

RiverSides Stewardship Alliance and Sierra Legal Defence Fund have released an investigative new report documenting the dramatic toll road salts are taking on Ontario's environment and built infrastructure, and are calling for major changes in the way these environmentally toxic substances are dealt with. To view the full report and media release visit

Despite the December 2001 classification by Environment Canada and Health Canada as an environmentally toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), there are currently no mandatory requirements for managing road salts for winter road maintenance in Ontario. Each winter we use 2 million tonnes in Ontario alone, with devastating impacts on roadside vegetation, surface and ground water quality, and aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.

RiverSides has compiled a panel of leading scientific, legal, policy and safety experts who will lead a public discussion of road salts impacts and help answer the timeless question – what can we do to reduce the worst excessive use of road salts, given the need to balance road safety with ecosystem protection?

This public forum will be moderated by John Wilson, noted Toronto environmentalist and Chair of the City of Toronto Task Force to Bring Back the Don.

Forum panelists include:

- Councillor Shelley Carroll, City of Toronto (to be confirmed) – City of Toronto’s Road Salts Policy
- Bill Snodgrass, Priority Substances List Road Salts Assessment Report Member – The CEPA Road Salts Assessment Process
- Dr. Anastasia Lintner, Sierra Legal Defence Fund – Road Salts Policy
- Paul Allen, inRoads – Road Safety and Road Salts
- Kevin Mercer, RiverSides Stewardship Alliance

Everyone is welcome!

Registration is free and refreshments will be served.

To pre-register or for more information contact:

Jennifer Hounsell

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Evergreen/Brick Works Events

Evergreen is hosting two events this week that you might be interested in. On Wednesday Feb 15, 6-9 PM, they are hosting a seminar called "Interpretive Strategy for Evergreen Commons" at Hart House at the University of Toronto. The evening will allow participants to discuss methods that Evergreen can use to interpret the cultural and environmental aspects of the Brick Works.

On Saturday Feb 18 at 1 PM they are hosting an interpretive walk around the quarry ponds. Visit their website for further details.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Worthington comments on Brick Works Plan

Peter Worthington, erstwhile columnist and former editor for the Toronto Sun has put in his two cents worth on Evergreen's plan for the Don Valley Brick Works. Dog owner Worthington recently wrote a column where he laments that Evergreen's plans may mean that his quiet dog run in the Brick Works quarry ponds is going to end. He does reluctantly point out that the pond area is NOT an off-leash area even though he would like it to be.

Interesting that Worthington quotes Toronto Humane Society's Tim Trow who claims to be a member of the Brick Works Public Advisory Committee. However I can state categorically that he is not a member of the BWPAC and never has been. How do I know? I sit on the advisory committee and Mr. Trow is not a member and has never even been appeared as a guest. So there.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Reduce Salt Use: It's Killing Our Rivers

Recently, Kevin Mercer, a member of Bring Back the Don and head of Riversides Stewardship Alliance, held a press conference with the Sierra Legal Defence Fund calling for the Ontario government and municipalities in southern Ontario to reduce salt use on our winter roads by a minimum of 50%. They believe that road safety standards can be maintained by mandatory use of snow tires and by using better salt spraying techniques such as the use of brine.

In the winter of 2000, in response to a request from RiverSides, Toronto city staff monitored the impact of road salt and snow dumps on its rivers. The Don River significantly exceeded the provincial water quality standard of 250 mg/l for chlorides with results ranging from 1,200 mg/l in the German Mills Creek to 850 mg/l in the river’s main branch. In short, we are practically pickling our rivers.

Environment Canada/Health Canada’s five-year Road Salt Assessment has found that chloride based road salts were so harmful to soil, water (rivers and groundwater), plant life and wildlife that they have classified road salt as an environmental toxic on Environment Canada’s Priority Substances List. Unfortunately the Ontario Ministry of Transport has a blanket exemption on the 2.7 million tonnes they use annually on Ontario roads.

So how is the City of Toronto doing? The City of Toronto Salt Management Plan (SMP) was approved by Council in spring 2002. The SMP proposes not a targeted reduction strategy for salt use but an approach to better manage salt use considered necessary for road safety. Through the purchase of improved spreading equipment, computerized weather sensing of road temperatures, spreader driver and loader training, use monitoring and reporting (but so far no replacement of salt with alternative substances), and public education, the Transportation department intends to but offers no target for reducing salt use in Toronto.

As advocates for the Don, it is our responsibility to educate the public about the impact of road salt use. The public needs to reduce its expectations for bare pavement. Homeowners and businesses must be encouraged to use alternatives such as Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) as a snow melter or sand if traction is required. CMA products can be purchased at eco-friendly stores such as Grassroots.

For more information on Salt Use and its reduction, you can visit Riversides "Low Salt Diet Campaign" website and the SLDF profiler on Road Salt.

Monday, February 06, 2006

How not to build in the Don

"Fix This!" Homeowner's plaint at top of retaining wall.

The picture shows a construction site on the west side of Bayview just north of Queen St. East. The site under construction is for a new car dealership. The townhouses shown are on a street called Old Primrose Lane. They were built a couple of years ago. Personally I think it is a dubious spot as the level at which they were built means that they needed a 10 metre high retaining wall at the eastern edge of the property. Still the residents do have an engineering report showing that the wall was stable. Furthermore I don't feel sorry for the residents because it wasn't as if they were buying these houses without knowing about the retaining wall.

What happened next was that when the construction started on the adjacent property, they started putting in the foundations. As they worked close to the base of the retaining wall they came across a large boulder that was impeding their work. When they removed it, this caused the retaining wall to buckle. The ground behind the wall started to shift and that's when the problems started. The city was called in and they ordered a large pile of fill to be placed against the retaining wall to prevent it from shifting further.

Since then both sides have dug their heels in blaming the other for the problem. Even local councillor Pam McConnell tried to reconcile the two sides but didn't get anywhere. I suppose now it's up to the courts.

My take on it is that this is or was part of the floodplain of the Don. The underground hydrology in this area is complex and may contain hidden water channels that aren't readily apparent from the surface. So when you build something on top of it you can't always be sure that these ancient pathways which are still active won't affect things down the road. So my caveat is - don't build on a floodplain. The river will always do its own thing regardless of what the works of man tries to do to change it.

All the gory details can be viewed in this local news article.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Pottery Road Trail Damage

This is a sad case of overuse. The mountain biker's use a small informal parking lot at Pottery Road and Bayview Ave. as a staging area to use the bike trails in Crothers' Woods. When they first started using this site they cut a trail straight up the side of a short steep hill to enter the trails. This trail entrance is now showing signs of erosion. There is also a lack of respect for the environment from pictures of garbage strewn through the trees, discarded tires and inner tubes and even somebody's discarded toilet.

The pictures shown on their discussion forum shows all this and can be displayed here. The positive side to this issue is that the biker community is now aware of the erosion issue and are taking steps to address it. The trail maintenance training provided by the city and IMBA has provided them with the knowledge to repair the damage and turn this into a trail that won't erode.

As for the garbage, at least some of the bikers lament the disrespect that some of the bikers show to the natural environment.