Friday, November 30, 2007

Updated Brick Works Design

Evergreen has released two new photo mockups of their vision for the Don Valley Brick Works. These are the culmination of two years of effort, public consultation, and fundraising.

Evergreen's plans are based on the concept of adaptive reuse. In other words, taking an existing building on a brownfield site that is no longer being used for its original purpose and reconfiguring it for a new use. This is environmentally preferable than razing the structure and starting from scratch or by developing some new greenfield site. It should be interesting to compare these design photos with the buildings when construction is completed in a couple of years. Mouse click on either photo for a more detailed view.

View of buildings looking southeast

View of site looking north east

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wetland Site Inspected

Sign posted for proposed wetland. Work is supposed to start in fall 2007 but nothing has been done yet.

I decided to investigate the proposed site of the new wetland that I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. It is located just west of Victoria Park Ave. in Taylor Park. The site is relatively flat except for some slightly raised mounds that are mostly planted with trees. The flat area is almost entirely covered with Cattails (Typha ssp.). Behind the mounds to the north is a shallow swale that is almost covered with grass. I dug a small test hole here and the earth is very muddy just below the surface.

I'm no expert on wet meadows but this doesn't look like a well functioning habitat. The Cattails form an almost complete monoculture. There is one native and one non-native variety which are hard to tell apart. Both of them are considered to be invasive in some habitats. My conclusion is that this is the case here. The proposed wetland will involve removing most of the Cattails and replacing them with a wetland habitat that will have considerably more diversity.

The unknown factor is whether the ground water source will be active enough to keep the pond feature wet. Once it is excavated water will flow in but evaporation will be increased. Whether the groundwater source can keep up with the loss is an unknown quantity. It may take a few years before a balance is reached. It will certainly be something to keep monitoring.

Nothing but Cattails are growing on this wet meadow

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Luminous Veil Promoter Honoured

Plaque in memory of Al Birney

A couple of months ago the city mounted a plaque on the Bloor Viaduct. The plaque is located on the north side of the bridge at the east end. The plaque is in honour of Al Birney who was in large part responsible for the Luminous Veil, the suicide barrier that now adorns both sides of the bridge.

The barrier became necessary as the bridge became notorious as a convenient place for people who wanted to end their lives. Between 1919 when the viaduct was opened until 2003 about 400 people jumped from the bridge. The placement of the barrier has effectively ended this practice.

Inside Toronto wrote an article on Al Birney and the plaque mounting.

View of the viaduct, looking west. The Luminous Veil is shown above the railing and the plaque can be seen in the lower right of the photograph.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Lost Rivers in the News

The Toronto Star has a good article about Toronto's Lost Rivers, you know the creeks that have been buried in storm sewers beneath our streets. The article also includes a video about Taddle Creek including on the street descriptions by local historian and naturalist Ed Freeman.

There is also another article in InsideToronto about Evergreen's plan for the Brick Works.

Dodgeville has made a post about what E.T. Seton Park looks like after the first snowfall of the year.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Brick Works Announcement

Evergreen has just announced final plans for the Don Valley Brick Works. These plans have been several years in the making and it is good to see that all their hard work is finally paying off. The plan has undergone many changes, in part due to listening to public input from groups and individuals concerned with the Don. Work is due to begin in next year. Don Watcher will keep you apprised of future developments.

Note: these plans only affect the building complex. The quarry park and ponds will remain under the control of the Parks department.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Public Meeting Summary

Concept Plan 1. This plan calls for a major repair job to the bridge and an expanded parking lot at the back including a bus drop off area. There is also an improvement network of paths connecting the historic buildings.

Concept Plan 2. This plan adds a front parking lot and a road connecting to the back parking lot. The bridge would be turned into a pedestrian only bridge.

I attended the public consultation meeting on future enhancements to Todmorden Mills. The meeting was attended by about 40 people. The original impetus for the work was the need to replace a bridge that connects to a parking lot at the back of the site. The bridge used to cross the Don River when it meandered through the site. The meander was straightened when the Don Valley Parkway was built. The bridge now only crosses a shallow gully. Part of the original casements are now buried in the ground.

The current project includes two replacement options for the bridge, It also includes an increase in the number of parking spots, improved site lighting, formalized trails to allow for wheelchair access to the historical buildings and some limited improvements to the nature preserve.

I thought that most of the ideas were good although I don't like the idea of increased parking (who needs more cars?). One thing that surprised me was that the Don Station building will be moved to the Roundhouse down by the Skydome, er... sorry the Roger's Centre. That makes sense since it is railway related (Maybe they can use it as part of the furniture outlet?)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Todmorden Mills Public Meeting

Poster for public meeting

The city is holding an information session on Monday November 19 starting at 7 PM. The meeting is being held to talk about proposed changes to Todmorden Mills. Anybody interested in this historic site should consider attending.

Seems Artless Don Pix

Seems Artless is a photo blog that I follow. This week it has a good picture of the Don shrouded in fog. If you click on his Wholemap link you'll get a location map of where past pictures have been taken.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Toronto Trees are in Trouble

I've blogged about this before but Todd Irvine's article in the Toronto Star is very insightful. Reading it is an eye-opener into the plight of our urban forest.

Friday, November 09, 2007

City Documents - October 2007

I found a couple of documents on the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee agenda for October 31, 2007 that might be of interest to anyone who follows policy issues that concern the Don watershed, directly or indirectly.

PW 10.5 Mandatory Downspout Disconnection

The city has been trying to get homeowners to voluntarily disconnect their downspouts from the sewer system for the past 10 years with mixed results. Now staff are recommending that this program be made mandatory. Relatively speaking this has got to be one of the easiest ways for reducing wet weather flow to our sewers. Channelling rain water to the ground and allowing it to filter naturally through the soil is much better in the long run then pumping it quickly away through a sewer. No doubt people are worried about basement flooding but properly implemented this shouldn't be an issue. Is this literally a NIMBY issue?

PW 10.8 Wet Weather Flow Master Plan (WWFMP) Implementation Update Report

This report contains quite a list of ongoing improvements and updates. There are links to a wide range of issues from basement flooding to shoreline management to end-of-pipe implementation.

New Park Entrance for Crothers' Woods

New park entrance includes a kiosk and a garbage can

It took four years to get this done, but it's finally completed. Crothers' Woods now has a formal entry point. It is located at the south end of the Loblaws parking lot. For several years it has just been a hole in the fence which both the city and Loblaws have politely ignored knowing that the location was too well used for it to be shut down.

The new entrance includes an information kiosk and a garbage can which hopefully will be emptied by the city. The project was sponsored in part by Loblaws who donated funds and land. Kudos go to NECP staff who diligently kept this going.

View of entrance from just within the forest

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Karen Valovich - In Memory

Karen at a spring planting in 2003

News about the Don is sometimes depressing but it is rarely sad. Unfortunately, this is case today. I just learned that Karen Valovich, a long time volunteer for Bring Back the Don has passed away this week. Karen was a dependable volunteer who I often saw at tree plantings in the Don. I remember her well because she often rode her bicycle to events. Later on she joined my stewardship team at the Brick Works and regularly came out to do weeding and watering activities. She also helped out at Sherwood Park doing stewardship tasks since she lived in that neighbourhood in North Toronto.

She was soft spoken and somewhat shy but always had a smile when I talked with her. Once I got to know her I found she had a dry sense of humour. A couple of years ago she got married and disappeared from the volunteer scene. I figured she was busy with her new life but then I found out that she wasn't well. I didn't hear anything until today when another of my volunteers from my old stewardship team called up and passed on the news.

There's an obituary in the Toronto Star. I don't have it in front of me but I was told that there is a viewing tomorrow at the Newbigging Funeral Home at 733 Mt. Pleasant Rd. just south of Eglinton.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Swan Boats on the Don

During one of my regular blog patrols, I came across a bit of whimsy about the Don. Steve Munro writes a very insightful blog on Toronto transit issues. One of the things he has done (and I need to do) is categorize his posts. As I browsed through the list of categories I could have chosen some meaty topics such as "Waterfront", "Subway Cars", and "GO Transit". Instead I immediately clicked on the one entitled "Fantasy".

In this list is an item entitled "A Bold Initiative for Don Valley Transport". In it he describes a novel and unique form of transportation - Swan Boats (aka a kiddy ride at Centre Island). I suggest you read the accompanying story, it is very funny, especially the description of using a catapult to get boats up the hill from the river to Castle Frank subway station.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bird Banding Demonstration

Bird Banding Demonstration

Two weeks ago I attended a bird banding demonstration in Milne Hollow, a park in the Don Valley just south of Lawrence Ave. East. It was given by Seabrooke Leckie, a volunteer with the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station. Bird banding is used to track birds on their migration paths. If the bird is recaptured then its band information can be used to identify the bird and find out where it was first banded. This information is logged in a North American database managed by the USGS and Canadian Wildlife Service.

It was a fascinating demonstration and was worth waking up at 6:30 AM. During the 90 minutes I was there, they captured 2 hermit thrushes (Catharus guttatus), 1 black capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), 1 song sparrow (Melospiza melodia), and 1 immature male cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) (see video). The birds had their wing length measured, were weighed, and were aged and sexed where possible. They also were examined for fat content which is an indicator of where they are in their migration. Apparently birds only store fat during migration periods. A tiny plastic band was placed around one leg and then they were released.

The birds were caught in mist nets which don't harm the birds. They were transported to the banding area in cloth bags. The entire banding process took less than 5 minutes per bird.The process is designed to cause a minimum of stress on the birds.

Anyone can get their own bird banding demonstration if they visit the TTBRS station on the Leslie Street Spit. Check the website for details.

Note about the video: there's a lot a background noise due to the proximity of the Don Valley Parkway. Also Seabrooke's voice is very soft so you have to listen carefully to hear her explanation. Enjoy!

Seabrooke handles a hermit thrush

Spreading the wing feathers. This checks for age, signs of moulting, and general health of the bird

Placing a band on the leg

Birds store fat for long migrations. The fat is stored in the chest area. By blowing gently on the chest feathers, the fatty tissue is exposed. The amount of fat is rated on a scale of 1-7.

A Black-capped Chickadee is held securely in the hand as it awaits its measurements

A very scruffy looking immature cardinal waits his turn