Saturday, September 30, 2006

Wildflower Preserve In the News

Spring flowers grace the Wildflower Preserve

The Saturday Star features an article by Cameron Smith on the Todmorden Mills Wildfower Preserve. A typical article by an average Torontonian who is clueless about the Don but who stumbles across a hidden gem and has an epiphany.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Wonscotanach Watcher

Poster seen on Lower Don Trail

No, I don't plan to change the name of this blog but there is at least one person who laments for the earlier names. Underneath the Riverdale Park footbridge on an old concrete abutment, someone has placed this rather bedraggled poster describing how the river lost its original native name the "Woscotonach". At the bottom is a barely legible signature but it points to another blog called the "Missing Plaque Project".

Wonscotonach or maybe Wonscoteonoch was first mentioned in Elizabeth Simcoe's diary. She said that it meant "black burnt land". This is possibly an Anishnawbe word. In 1788, Alexander Aitkin a surveyor created a map of the area and named the river Necheng qua kekonk. Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe followed tradition and placed English names on everything of note. He named the Don River because the valley reminded him of a similar river in Yorkshire, England.

This blog is dedicated to producing historical plaques about forgotten events of Toronto history that the powers that be don't like to remember. Ever heard of the Christie Pits race riot? How about new city hall built on the razed rubble of Toronto's first Chinatown. You can view these posters in this archive.

It has been awhile since these names have been heard but I think the name Don is easy enough for most people so I think we are stuck with this name for awhile.

Don Stewardship Forum

The TRCA is hosting a forum for Don River groups to here about stewardship initiatives in the Don Watershed. This will also be a chance to network with other groups in the Don and to share ideas and thoughts.

It will be held on October 12th, 6-9PM at the St. John's Anglican Church near York Mills and Yonge. For directions you can visit the church website.

For further information I created a PDF of the invitation. If you plan to attend, you should RSVP to Amy Thurston of the TRCA.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Salmon in the Don (reprise)

I got a call this morning from CFRB, the talk radio station asking me if they could interview me about the salmon sightings. I said "Sure!". The interview took place at 12:45 PM today and boy was that tough! It was all OK up until the last moment and than she asked me all these questions!

Suddenly I was nervous and stumbling over my words, but eventually I got through it. It lasted less than five minutes. I didn't say all the right things but I got most of the message across. I am not sure what good it will do but you never know. Any publicity about the the river is a good thing.

Salmon in the Don

A reporter from the National Post called up yesterday and asked me a bunch of questions about salmon seeing swimming in the Don. I answered her questions but she didn't say anything about writing an article nor did she ask permission to quote me. Now I find that she published an article in the paper this morning and touted me as "John Routh, who heads the Bring Back the Don task force".

It's actually an easy mistake to make. The name of the chair is actually John Wilson, I'm just a lowly citizen member.

Anyways, the article goes on to describe this phenomenon and tries to answer the question, why are there salmon in the Don? You can read the article but briefly, the MNR stocks Lake Ontario with Chinook or Coho salmon for the sports fishing industry. They dump them in rivers including the Don and the fish swim away to live out their life in the lake. Any fish that aren't caught return a few years later hoping to spawn. Unfortunately a combination of stormwater runoff and manmade barriers conspire to make this a futile effort.

Still it's an inspiring sight to witness as these fish leap the rapids on the Don. The best place to see it happening is on the Lower Don Trail, just north of Pottery Road where there is a short series of rapids.

Update: Marnie at Beechwood Wetland Blog took a picture of a dead salmon. Visit her blog for a picture.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Taylor-Massey Creek Hike

Just by coincidence, I happen to be leading a hike along the length of Taylor-Massey Creek this Saturday, September 30. In partnership with Friends of the Don East and the Toronto Bruce Trail Club. This is your chance to see first hand the good and bad parts of the creek.

Taylor-Massey Creek In the News

One of the worst offending (and ugliest) outfalls on Taylor-Massey Creek

Tell me something I don't know. A headline in the Globe and Mail today says "Toronto toilets dumping sewage into creek". Really! As if we didn't already know. Here's how it goes. People like you and I realize there's a problem. We try to get the city to notice. "Yawn, we don't care." OK, so we talk to councillors until one of them gets angry enough to spur city staff to do something. OK, staff agrees to start a study. Lo and behold, look it's a BIG problem. They start writing all sorts of reports and action plans saying basically, "See, look at all the good things we are doing". Of course the media ignore these local issues until you start throwing around some big numbers such as "polluted to 20,000 times the legal limit". Now that's a headline!

Of course we've known about the problems with Taylor-Massey Creek for years. Homes and businesses have been flushing their toilets directly into the creek and its taken at least 40 years to get action. Since TMC flows through the former boroughs of Scarborough and East York, it's likely lax enforcement of building regulations than culpable negligence.

During a recent study, the city identified 252 outfalls flowing into the creek. This turned out to be a surprise for the city because many of them weren't even in their own records.

The upside of all this is that in the end we will end up with a cleaner river and lake. Which is the good news .

Friday, September 22, 2006

What the Bikers are Doing in the Don

I'm not the only one who likes to take pictures in the Don Valley. The biking community likes to post pictures of themselves. Follow this link for a good photo gallery of one of their stunt sessions. The place is locally known as DJ's or Dirt Jumps. As I said before this is in a degraded area of the valley near the sewage treatment plant. I suspect that if we tried to evict them they would just move somewhere else in the valley.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sept 2006 city reports

Some interesting city reports from Works and Parks this month:

Options for Implementing a Mandatory Downspout Disconnection Program
This report discusses various options for implementing a downspout disconnection program. This might seem like a pretty mundane topic, but collectively, rainwater that falls on Toronto roofs accounts for about 10-15% of all runoff. If we can divert the water to our lawns instead our sewers this would have a big impact on the river. Riversides has a great website on this and other low impact development options.

Potential Uses of Vacant Lands near the Intersection of Dundas Street and Carroll Street in Support of the Wet Weather Flow Master Plan Implementation
There is a vacant lot on the south side of Dundas just east of the river that has remained unused for 15 years. This report investigates possible uses for wet weather flow options. Basically it says that the land has little value for wet weather flow projects. The lot has remained undeveloped since the land is partially on the flood plain. Any new building would have to meet strict floodproofing guidelines set out by the TRCA. The city should write another report about the feasibility of turning this into a public park. The closest greenspace is Riverdale Park so the local area would certainly benefit as would the valley. Even a 'grass and swings' park would be better than what we have now.

Don and Waterfront Interceptor Trunk Capacity and CSO Control Project
While this report talks mainly about increasing the sewer capacity in the east end of the city it also proposes to piggyback it with some end-of-pipe stormwater containment proposals, specifically a 5 metre wide tunnel that would run underneath the DVP from Bloor to Lakeshore. When completed it would significantly reduce the storm water runoff that now flows directly into the river.

Tree Maintenance – Planting Programs
This report talks about the state of Toronto's urban forest and the effects of amalgamation on tree maintenance. It hasn't been good. According to the report, current maintenance is only about 33% of pre-amalgamation levels. The report recommends an increase in budget for pruning and watering of newly planted trees, something the Task Force has been pushing the city for years to do.

Storm Outfall Monitoring Program (including Taylor Massey Creek 2006 Update)
An update on the outfall testing on Taylor-Massey Creek started last year. They have nearly finished the mapping and have identified 252 outfalls into the creek. 141 have a dry weather flow (meaning that it is something other than storm water). They have designated 28 of these as priorities based on contamination levels and have so far fixed five of them. While this is a good start, the report doesn't discuss any future action plans, and doesn't talk about the 113 non-priority outfalls. The Task Force will likely recommend that Toronto Water produce an action plan.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Fall 2006 BBTD Newsletter

Bring Back the Don's Fall newsletter is now available online. In addition to fall events, other highlights include:
- Musing about Chester Springs Marsh
- Green development standards
- Environmental issues for the upcoming city election.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Fall Events

Some local groups are starting to post their fall events. Friends of the Don East has posted a series of tree plantings as well as a rather ambitious hike - to walk the entire length of Taylor-Massey Creek. They also have plans for a fundraising dinner in October.

Friends of Riverdale Farm have also posted some events, including a four day event called the Fall Harvest Festival. Should be fun.

If you're interested in a walking tour, Lost Rivers Walks has planned a hike of some sort for every weekend in September and October, many of them are in the Don Watershed.

As more events are posted, I'll let you know about them.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Beavering away on Wikipedia

I must admit that I have sadly neglected the blog over the summer. This is partly due to a summer course I was taking but also to the fact that I am spending a lot of time as a Wikipedia editor. It's sort of a healthy addiction, I sometimes refer to it as Crackpedia :).

Anyways, I hope my efforts have not been in vain. I have recently completed two articles, both more or less related to the Don. The first is on Todmorden Mills, a heritage museum and wildflower preserve on the east side of the valley off of Pottery Road. The second article is on True Davidson, a former mayor of East York who was instrumental in getting Todmorden Mills restored. I found two books written by local historian Eleanor Darke on these subjects which proved to be very interesting reading. If you're interested in East York history I recommend them. You can find them listed in the references section in the Wikipedia articles.

I am currently working on expanding the article on the Don Valley Brick Works, another fascinating topic.