Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hockey Arena Proposed for Don Valley Site

Aerial Photo of site proposed for hockey arena (click to expand)

This past fall has seen some rumblings in North York about locating a new hockey arena on a site in the Don Valley right next to the East Don River. The site is partially wooded and has been an active location for a number of tree plantings. The proposal has been put forward by the Don Mills Civitan Community Service Club. From their website it appears their primary purpose is to run youth hockey leagues. They currently use the Don Mills Civitan Arena at Don Mills and Lawrence. The arena is 47 years old and is in poor shape. Rather than rebuild or renovate at the current location they are looking for a new location because the club maintains that there is very little parking available.

Several sites have been proposed but the Don Valley site is the largest contiguous space available. The land was formerly owned by the province but was transferred to the city when the 401 was constructed. One of the main stumbling blocks with development on this site is that the province placed a covenant on the land expressly forbidding any development.

This has not dissuaded local councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong from pushing this idea through North York Community Council. In a meeting on November 18, the council decided to get Parks, Forestry and Recreation to report on the feasibility of using the site. This report will be tabled in the spring of 2009.

Minnan-Wong thinks he can get the province to remove the covenant. Besides this little detail the location is not without some issues. It borders Don Mills Road on the east but this stretch just so happens to be at the top of a steep hill as Don Mills Road climbs over the 401. A steep embankment (see map) is the only egress to get into the site.

The Task Force to Bring Back the Don is studying the issue and will no doubt issue a position some time in the new year. There is also a local ratepayers group called Don Mills Friends fighting the closure of the arena. Their position is that the arena is an historical structure and deserves to be retained.

We'll have to wait for a few more months to see how this plays out.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in the Don Valley

Winter scene in Sun Valley, December, 2008

I was in Crothers' Woods a couple of weeks ago and took some photos of the track that circles the old landfill. In 2009, there will be some construction here as a new sewer line is built from Bennington Heights to the North Toronto Sewage Treatment Plant. I will be following this project as it gets underway.

In the mean time, have a Merry Christmas and I look forward to reporting on Don Valley issues in the new year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Graffiti Mars Evergreen Brick Works Kick-off

Graffiti in Brick Works Quarry Garden

I stopped by the Brick Works today. It was cold and sunny but the park is sheltered from the wind so it was quite bearable. Unfortunately not everyone is here to appreciate the scenery. A couple of days ago some yobbo spray painted all the signs and rocks in the quarry garden with the word "evergreed". Apparently his/her editorial opinion on Evergreen's project to renovate the Brick Works. It is ironic that the vandal targeted the park area which is still city owned and managed and not part of the renovations. Evergreen's lease extends only to the north edge of the buildings. However there is nothing to really say where their property ends and the city's starts.

This is an understandable confusion. It is not readily apparent that the property is in fact two distinctive sections. However neither the city nor Evergreen have made this clear. Evergreen's own conceptual drawings show a seamless connection, as if to say they have some control over the park as well as the buildings.

This may need to be clarified and I will certainly bring it up at the first meeting of the Brick Works Public Advisory Committee which will start to meet next year.

Interpretive signs cleaned off easy; evidence of paint remains in snow. The rocks are another matter. They will need to be treated with a high pressure spray to get cleaned up.

Is the Brick Works one place or two?

You can't visit the Brick Works without taking in the view

Monday, December 15, 2008

TRCA Revives "On the Don" Newsletter

TRCA's newsletter "On the Don"

After a five year hiatus, the Toronto Region Conservation Authority has revived its On the Don newsletter about the Don River watershed. This new version of the newsletter was created mostly at the instigation of the Don Watershed Regeneration Council which is a citizen's advisory committee sponsored by the TRCA.

The old newsletter was published on paper but the new one is meant to be distributed by email. As a PDF, it will be available for download from the TRCA's website. A limited number of printed copies will be made available at libraries and public kiosks and also at shows and exhibits where the TRCA has a booth.

In this issue are articles on the new Walk the Don program, a history of Pacific salmon in the Don, and an update on the Don Watershed Plan. Note the link listed for the watershed plan is incorrect. It is actually www.trca.on.ca/donwatershedplan.

If you want to be notified about the publication of the newsletter, you can send an email to donlist@trca.on.ca with a subject of 'Subscribe'.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

DVP Stormwater Meeting Low Key Affair

Small but congenial crowd turned out for this public meeting

I attended a public meeting on the city's Class EA launched to looked at alternatives for stormwater runoff from the Don Valley Parkway. About 30 people attended this meeting which is a marked contrast to the last EA meeting I attended. The last one was run by Toronto Hydro to look into building a platform off the Scarborough Bluffs to measure wind speeds. That one was attended by over 1,000 people and was a considerably more rambunctious crowd. Both evenings were cold and raining so that didn't seem to be a factor in deterring turnout, but I digress...

Where did they get this picture?

Back in June the project team came up with three sites for stormwater ponds including a major revision to the oxbow wetland at Todmorden Mills. It took considerable lobbying by concerned members of the Friends of the Don East and the Task Force to Bring Back the Don that this wasn't a very good idea.

Display board shows proposed new pond location

It seems they got the message. At this meeting, the new plan is to place the stormwater treatment pond in the middle of a cloverleaf on ramp to the DVP which is adjacent to Todmorden Mills. Treated water would be directed into the oxbow wetland where it would make its way into the Don River. The revised plan protects the existing wetland. The new treatment pond will need to be periodically dredged to remove accumulated sediment. This process would be very disruptive to a natural habitat.

They also corrected the omission from their original drawings by mapping the location of the Enbridge gas pipeline which limits minor improvements proposed for small runoff areas. All things considered it appears to be a thoughtfully run project and once implemented should make a modest improvement to the Lower Don valley environment.

Local activist Paula Davies was instrumental in getting the Todmorden Mills stormwater treatment pond moved completely into the cloverleaf location

As with all Class EAs, the city is looking for comments about the project. Comments for this phase of the project will be accepted up until December 23rd, 2008. You can download a copy of the comment sheet from the project website.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Don Station on the Move

Don Station being dismantled

I passed by Todmorden Mills this week and was surprised to see the Don Station in pieces, literally. It is being dismantled so that it can be relocated to a railway museum downtown at the Roundhouse. The station was relocated to this site about 40 years by Charles Sauriol when it was threatened with demolition. Originally located just south of the Queen Street bridge it was an active station for about 60 years.

Local legend has it that it was built to serve the Belt Line Railway but my railroad aficionado friends tell me that it was actually built in 1896 which was two years after the short lived Belt Line went bankrupt.

This relocation is part of a plan for Todmorden Mills first proposed about a year ago that also involves restoration of an old bridge and other site improvements.

Building sliced in two

Parts of roof ready for transport

Cupola on a separate trolley

The station building, spring of 2006. It's been boarded up for as long as I can remember. Once the move is complete, maybe it will get a much need renovation and be open for visitors

Monday, December 08, 2008

Evergreen Starts Brick Works Renovation

Yilin Zhao, a local schoolgirl praises Evergreen's initiative. Other speakers included Jim Flaherty (Feds), Aileen Carroll (Province), Mayor David Miller, and Geoff Cape

I attended Evergreen's official ground breaking ceremony this morning at the Brick Works. It was chilly and snowy but I still rode my bike. There were about 200 people in attendance but I saw only one other bicycle in the racks (hmmph!). It was nearly 2 years ago when Flaherty and co were last here to announce $20 million in funding for this project. Props to the feds for coming through on a project in the Don (the first of many?).

There was a lengthy series of speeches. Apart from bad Ottawa jokes they mostly thanked everyone under the sun who had anything to do with the project. The one bright spot was a group of schoolchildren recruited for the photo-op. One of them stood at the podium and made quite a good speech about why the environment is important to her (hope everyone on the podium was listening).

After the speeches there was a ceremonial tree planting followed by champers all around. Now that we've seen the project kickoff, expect to see some dust to fly in the near future as construction gets underway. You should be able to follow the project's progress on Evergreen's Brick Works journal blog.

Large crowd in attendance

Champagne anyone?

A trip to the Brick Works should always include a visit to the quarry ponds. Here's a shot of the southern pond looking north to Governor's Road.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Brick Works Ground Breaking Ceremony

Evergreen is finally getting their Brick Works project started, even if it's only a ceremonial thing. Mayor David Miller, Ontario's Minister of Culture Aileen Carroll and the fed's Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty will be present on Monday for the ceremony (Don Watcher will be there too).

You can read more about it in their press release.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

DVP Stormwater Project Meeting

Meeting Notice

The City of Toronto is hosting a meeting to talk about a Class EA that is dealing with stormwater runoff from the Don Valley Parkway. The meeting will be held on Tuesday December 9, 2008 in the auditorium at the S. Walter Stewart Library, 170 Memorial Park Avenue. A presentation at 7 PM will be followed by an open house. Details of the project can be viewed at project website.

Lower Don Lands EA Meeting #2

Meeting Notice

Waterfront Toronto is having a second public meeting in this Class EA process. The meeting will be held at St. Lawrence Hall, 157 King Street East in the Great Hall on Wednesday December 10, 2008. Open house begins at 6 PM. A presentation begins at 7 PM. If talk about transit, stormwater, sewage, and other public infrastructure fascinates you, then this meeting is a mandatory event. Visit the project website for more details.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Reach by Reach: TMP's Plans for the Creek

Taylor Massey Project has been quite active since their inception four years ago. Their mandate is to restore and protect Taylor-Massey Creek and its surrounding watershed. Recently the TRCA releases a draft plan for the entire Don River watershed and created plans for seven subwatersheds of which Taylor-Massey Creek is one of them. In response to that plan, TMP released its own version for subwatershed restoration. Called "Reach by Reach", it is a detailed 49 page document. It further divides the Taylor-Massey Creek watershed into 12 reaches. Each of these reaches has its own issues which are described in the document as well as a strategy for tackling them. There is also a 13th reach called the "Warden Hydro Corridor". This is not a reach of the creek but does form a major part of the strategy.

TMP calls this a 'draft' document. They invite the public to comment on the plan and a final plan will be released when the TRCA finishes its own plan next year. If you want to comment on the plan, send them to eco@theTMP.org. My own comments will be forthcoming.