Thursday, June 28, 2007

Trail Maintenance Day

There is a trail maintenance work event scheduled for this Saturday, June 30 in Crothers' Woods. It starts at 10 AM and lasts until 4 PM. Wear work boots. Tools and gloves will be provided. Bring a lunch if you are staying for the day. Meet at the Loblaws parking lot trailhead just off of Millwood Road.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bike Race in Crothers' Woods

Race route, approximately 5 km S=Start, F=Finish

On Sunday July 1st, a mountain bike race will be held on the trails in Crothers' Woods. The race is being sponsored by Ziggy Martuzalski, a local bike shop owner and race promoter. The event is called ZM MTB Crank Cracker. There will be three distances of 10, 20, and 30 km which will consist of 2, 4, and 6 laps respectively. The race is sponsored by the Ontario Cycling Association.

I spoke with Ziggy last week and he informed me that he has a permit to use the trails from 8 AM to 1 PM (I confirmed this with the NECP folks). He will have race marshalls stationed at access points to keep hikers and other bikers off the trails for the race duration. Ziggy is an experienced race promoter and has held races in the Kitchener area where he comes from. He said it's hard to estimate numbers since he's never held a race in Toronto but he said he would be happy with 100 riders. Entry fees are $20-30 and there are $2000 of prizes to be won. He has promised to inject some money back into trail maintenance from race revenues.

Mountain bikers are enthusiastic about the event but the environmentalists are not as happy. The people I have talked to are wary about overuse of the trails and the impact that this will have on the natural areas. Personally, I am cautiously optimistic. While there are legitimate concerns about impacts on the trails, most of the course uses trails that are not very sensitive, especially where it skirts the snow dump and Sun Valley. Most of the rest of the course has been undergoing extensive maintenance to improve trail sustainability. The event should raise the profile of the Don Valley and at the minimum should serve to educate people about the Don.

I plan to do an informal study of the trails to monitor any impacts with before and after inspections. I also encourage other groups to attend the race as observers. If anything does go wrong, at least we can document it and take any appropriate action.

Don Attracts Little Media Attention

There seemed to be plenty of TV cameras and reporters at yesterday announcement about the Don River Park but that presence isn't apparent in today's print media. None of my news searchbots turned up any stories and I didn't see anything on the news last night. The only thing I saw was a op-ed in the Star by Christopher Hume. He mentioned the berm only as a reference in a story centred on City Hall inertia and ineptitude.

Granted, "Flood Protection Landforms" and "Low-level Sewer Interceptors" don't make great news. The media is more interested in end results when it comes to infrastructure. I'll be happy as long as it gets built.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Official Start to Don River Park

Media circus, er... tent

I went down to the official presentation for the construction of the start of the berm. I was not really sure why this is important but I guess it's good to inform the public as to what's going on (I should tell the waterfront guys to just read my blog!).

I listened to a half hour of prepared speeches given by the head honchos and then they each dug a ceremonial shovelful of dirt for the cameras.

The only thing I got out of it was some pictures and cup of free coffee. I'll be back for the official presentation of the opening of the Lower Don Trail. If there isn't one, I'll organize an unofficial one with BikeTO.

A very scruffy model of the park. From this perspective the picture is oriented looking north west.

Cindy Wilkey of the West Don Lands Committee addresses the crowd. In the background, Mark Wilson (WaterfrontTO), David Caplan (Province), and John Baird (Feds) stand askance.

An aerial photo of the site looking south. The Queen St. bridge is in the lower left.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Construction to Start on Berm and Park

View south from Eastern Ave/Front St bridge. Currently not much of anything is happening. Change coming soon?

A media advisory published yesterday says that the official launch of construction of the berm and the Don River Park will commence on Monday June 25. You can participate in the media circus if you get there bright and early at 8:30 AM.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Spring Animal Blogging

There is plenty of wildlife in the Don and I thought I'd pass on a few photos that I took as well as some sent to me by friends. Just from my own journeys this spring, I've seen quite a few rabbits and chipmunks, more so than in previous years. I don't know whether this is a trend or part of a cycle.

I had a brief glimpse of a fox in the Moore Park Ravine and there are at least two families of wood ducks that have taken up residence in the Don. I have also heard of numerous deer sightings.

Marnie over at Beechwood Wetland weblog also has several good pictures of ducks, raccoons, rabbits, chipmunks, and frogs.

An Eastern Cottontail Rabbit hides in the brush near Chester Springs Marsh

I photographed a mouse (not sure what species) beside the trail just north of the viaduct

I found this snake, unfortunately dead, on the pavement of the path. Snakes like to sun themselves on the hot asphalt which makes them targets for fast moving bicycles.

Snapping turtle seen at the dirt jump (DJs) area near Crothers' Woods

This insect landed on a Goldenrod plant and was nice enough to let me take some photos of it. I'm no insect expert so if anyone knows what it is, send me a note.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Route taken on hike (click to enlarge)

I led a hike through Crothers' Woods on Saturday. Starting at Broadview Subway Station, I led about 25 people through Todmorden Mills, and then through Crothers' Woods. The first leg was along a trail known as "The Flats" (the bikers came up with these monikers) which follows the river pretty closely up to the forks of the Don. Then I went on a loop along a trail known as "Party Atmosphere" and the looped back south along another trail known as "Catalyst".

After stopping for lunch in E.T. Seton Park, we went back south along the "Ridge" trail which hugs the slope just below the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood, around the North Toronto Sewage Treatment Plant and then by Loblaws. My original plan was to cross Bayview Avenue, go through the Brick Works, up the Moore Park Ravine, pass through the Mount Pleasant Cemetery and end at Davisville Subway Station. However it was so hot and sticky that I decided to end the hike early and head back up Pottery Road to Broadview. The remaining hikers (about half the crew dropped out at lunch) didn't complain.

Rather than ending at the Bow and Arrow for a pint, I stopped at Dairy Queen for strawberry sundae. The hike was about 12-13 km long. Not ideal conditions but it was a goodhike and I plan to do it again.

We encountered many bikers on the Flats and the Ridge but none on PA or Catalyst. Most were courteous, said hello, and stopped to let us by although one guy muttered "I thought this was a bike trail." So I think overall it was a good experience for the hikers (and bikers) to see that the trails are share-able.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Japanese Knotweed Sampling

The knotweed patch

Last week, with the help of my stewardship team, I participated in a scientific study that seeks to identify genetic variation in Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) that is growing in North America. I noticed a posting on the Invasive Species Weblog about a study being performed by Jonna Grimsby at the University of Massachusetts. The post says that they were looking for volunteers in the U.S. who could take samples of plants and send them to her. I sent her an email asking her if she wanted a knotweed sample from Canada since we have plenty here as well. She said yes and sent me a sampling kit.

The Beechwood Wetland site used to be covered with the stuff but most of it was removed in the initial restoration phase. However there is still a large patch on the other side of the road so we took a sample from there. I extracted a large leaf from one plant. The instructions said to cut a 4x4 cm patch from the leaf (you don't need much material to get a good DNA sample). I did that and placed it in the sampling tube. It took all of 10 minutes to do the sampling, but I used the time to educate my team about knotweed issues.

Sampled leaf (before)

Sampled leaf (after)

Sampled leaf and sampling tube

Although Jonna sent a return envelope, the pre-paid US postage wasn't very helpful so I went to the post office and paid for the mailing myself. I was somewhat chagrined to learn that my 250 g package was going to cost $6.20 (CAN) to send out! This was because the sampling tube bulged out too much to be sent as lettermail so it was classified as a package. The clerk asked me what the contents were. I didn't think the post office would be too enthused if I told them I was sending a biological sample so I told a little white lie and wrote down plastic pen (the tube is pen-shaped after all, and it is made of plastic; it just uses JK as an ink source).

I haven't heard anything back from Jonna yet but I presume it will take some time to get the results. I'll keep you posted if I hear anything.

P.S. I noticed Bootstrap Analysis also writing about the sampling study.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Spring Flower Blogging

A few miscellaneous shots from Spring rides in the Don.

White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum). From Sherwood Park forest.

Red Trillium (Trillium erectum). Also found in Sherwood Park.

Found in Sherwood Park forest. I am not sure what it is but it was spilling out of a nearby garden so it is likely a garden escapee, rather than a native variety.

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum). Glendon Forest

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), just about to flower, in Glendon Forest

Toothwort (Dentaria diphylla), beside Wilket Creek, just south of Edwards Gardens

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), also beside Wilket Creek

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Construction Proceeding Along Lower Don

Looking south through the new span. The new pathway is on the right, elevated above the spillway. On the far left you can see the river where the old path used to duck underneath the bridge.

I've received some new photos from the construction site. These were taken on Tuesday, June 5. Considerable progress has been made on the project since I last blogged about it in December, 2006. The new 4th span on the Kingston line (East-West) over the Don River and the DVP is now complete and the concrete forms are coming off the new pathway that passes underneath. Work is still proceeding on the tunnel underneath the Bala line (north-south) although this won't be opened until the berm has been built.

The path is slated to open sometime in July although final landscaping won't be complete until later this summer. It will certainly be a treat to begin cycling along this section again.

(click on any photo for a more detailed view)

Work on pedestrian and cycling underpass continues. This won't be ready for use until sometime in 2008 when the berm is completed and the new Don River Park is set to open.

Aerial view of the construction site. In the centre of the photo you can see the new span that was built for this project. The additional space underneath the bridge should allow it to cope with flooding on the scale of Hurricane Hazel.

Another aerial view looking north along the Don River. The vacant area in the left background will host a "flood protection landform" that will protect the soon-to-be-built West Don Lands community.

Cycling Crosspostings for the Don

I found a couple of postings on cycling blogs and websites that concern the Don.

1. The UofT Mountain Biking CLub has posted more pictures of the clean-up from last Saturday. I blogged about this on my adventure to remove an old safe from the Don.

One of the bikers composed a little ditty about the clean-up (gosh, we bikers are certainly a creative bunch!)

On the 2nd day of June,
The mountain bike team gave to me,
30 bags of garbage, 5 shopping carts, 3 pails of concrete,
1 steeeeel safe,
1 bicycle, 2 blue skids, 1 frying pan,
and a blanket in a don tree.

- courtesy of Eric.

2. Biking blog "I Bike TO ... So Can You" reported on a public meeting about repairs for the path along side Wilket Creek. It still hasn't been repaired in places since the August 2005 flood. The city is still dithering on how to cope with another such flood.

Cyclists use this path frequently and still have to get off their bikes and walk past a section of the path where the asphalt was ripped up by the flood waters. Even today all that remains of that section is sand. It's even hard to walk through. Bike Lane Diary posted some pictures about this last year.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

2007 Stewardship Season

Members of the Beechwood stewardship team remove Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Every year for the past eight years, the city has sponsored the Community Stewardship program. This program works with volunteers who manage a site that is undergoing environmental restoration. Activities include removing invasive plant species, watering planted trees and shrubs, and monitoring of plants, animals, and birds. There is also some monitoring performed of tiny aquatic creatures called benthic invertebrates.

The program started out in the Don Watershed but has since branched out to include two more sites, one at Eglinton Flats at Jane and Eglinton near the Humber River, and the other at the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat which is at the mouth of Mimico Creek. The Don watershed sites include:
Last year one of my volunteers started a weblog on the Beechwood Wetland site. This year another weblog has been started for the Riverdale Farm Ponds. Who knows maybe the rest of the teams will jump on the blog bandwagon too!

If you are interested in joining the program you can call the co-ordinator, Cheryl Post at 416-392-5323 or send her an email. Each team typically goes out once per week and works for about two hours. The work is fairly easy and it will get you outdoors. You may even learn something new about the natural environment.

Monday, June 04, 2007

BBQ at the Brick Works

Remnants of bonfire at the Brick Works

I was passing by the Don Valley Brick Works on Sunday when I came across this unpleasant sight on the brick patio in front of the quarry ponds. Apparently night time revellers decided to have an impromptu bonfire using one of the park benches as a fire log.

Just by coincidence the day before, I was talking to one of the employees of the Natural Environment and Community Programs section of Parks and Forestry who have offices at the Brick Works. Apparently a door to their building was inadvertently left open on Thursday or Friday night. Someone entered the building and vandalized all the storage compartments used by the community groups. Fortunately they did not get access to the NECP offices which stores their computers and files or the damage could have been much more serious.

The problem of nighttime activities at the Brick Works has been an ongoing issue for several years. People routinely break into the buildings for raves, parties, or just to take pictures. There is also a slew of graffitti covering both the inside and outside of the buildings. Add to that, broken windows, defaced interpretive signage, and now bonfires, it starts to addup to an expensive and embarrassing mess.

I believe that the presence of a security guard during the evenings at the Brick Works would severely curtail these activities. The cost can be justified by the reduction in expenses to repair vandalism as well as reduce unsightly graffitti.

One could also speculate that the buildings in their current unguarded state might be the target of a fire, intentional or otherwise. In the near future, Evergreen will take over responsibility for the buildings, but if in the interim, nothing is done, all we may be handing over to them is a smoking ruin.

While crossing our fingers and doing nothing may be a cheap solution, the cost of a couple of security guards may be a lot cheaper if it prevents anything untoward happening this summer. Let's do ourselves a big favour and buy a little insurance - not only for the security of the buildings and our city employees but also for some peace of mind.

The buildings are easily broken into when nobody is around to mind the store

Leftovers from a night time party

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Safe-ly Removed

I spent the morning at the Don Valley cleanup day sponsored by the mountain biking community. A considerable amount of garbage gets tossed down the ravine slopes behind the apartment buildings in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood. Much of it is visible from the mountain biking trails, thus the cleanup days which according to the UofT mountain biking club posters, it is their 8th Annual.

Rather than grab a bag and pick up garbage, I decided to concentrate my efforts on one particular item. Lying beside the "Party Atmosphere" trail, just north of the Overlea Bridge, there was a rusty safe with no door. I brought along a hand truck and figured it would be a cinch to just load it on and wheel out of the woods. Unfortunately it turned out to be heavier than I thought. Composed of solid steel, it must have weighed 100+ kg. Not only that but the day turned out to be hot and humid and the mosquitoes were out in full force.

The 'safe' lying in the woods

It fell off my hand truck a couple of times where the trail is a bit uneven

Tim from TORBG lent a helping hand

It took all the stamina I had (and the contents of two water bottles) to muscle that sucker out along the trail. Fortunately, one of the mountain bikers came along and helped me push it out along the last part.

About 25 people showed up for the day and their efforts were rewarded by a free BBQ and a prize giveaway (I scored a Kryptonite U-lock!). As you can see by the small mountain of garbage, the valley benefited as well.

Five shopping carts, three chairs, and assorted other junk collected in two hours - not a bad haul.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Don Progress Report Online

When I first blogged about this three weeks ago, the online version wasn't available. It's now available on the TRCA's website. Word of warning - the PDF file is 2,108 Kb in size so it may take a while to download. Anyone who wants a hard copy can call Michelle Vanderwel at (416) 661-6600, ext. 5280, or send her an email.