Sunday, October 26, 2008

More on Signs

Graffiti stained sign shortly after installation

Sign after city crew 'cleaned up' graffiti

Sign after 20 minutes of work by yours truly

Last week I reported on the state of a new sign on the Lower Don Trail. Shortly after installation it was vandalized with purple spray paint. I noticed this on Friday October 10. I was informed that the city would clean this up if notified so I contacted the local parks supervisor who told me that it would be looked after.

Much to my surprise... it was, so to speak. Someone came by on Friday, October 17 and attempted to remove the graffiti. Instead of returning the sign to its original clean white finish they somehow managed to turn it pink instead.

Seeing how I have had previous sign experience, I decided to visit the sign and have a go at it myself. I used a common non-abrasive household cleaner, a sponge, some water and a little elbow grease and I managed to return the sign to its original state. There is still a couple of places where you can still see a faint pinkish tinge but it is pretty close to clean.

Hopefully the city crew will take note and apply themselves a little better to keeping the sign clean. We'll see.

Monday, October 13, 2008

St. Clair Planting - One Year Later

Planting site, Fall 2007

Planting site, Fall 2008

I participated in a new planting site last year in the St. Clair Ravine Park. The planting, hosted by Friends of the Don East, replaced a mowed grass hill with about 150 trees and shrubs. I was somewhat concerned that the local residents might not take too kindly to the intrusion, but the planting seems to have taken hold. All the rain we received allowed this planting to survive with almost 100% success rate. Some of the trees are about 2m tall. Another five or so years and it will look like part of the forest. Then we can move on to the next section of hillside.

FODE is hosting two more plantings this fall on Oct. 18 and 25. Check out their calendar for details.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lower Don Sign

Lower Don Sign, May 2005

July 2005

October 2008

One of the first interpretive signs in the Don was placed beside the Lower Don Trail at one end of the footbridge that crosses the river near Riverdale Park. Unfortunately, for as long as I can remember, it has collected a variety of unsightly graffiti tags. As you can see from the first two pictures it became progressively worse. Earlier this year it was almost completely covered with paint.

I complained several times about this to the city but couldn't get anyone to take responsibility. Recently though the city replaced the sign with a new one, but as you can see from the latest picture it's been tagged again. I took this picture on Friday and the paint was fresh. This time around I have been assured (by reliable sources) that city staff will keep on top of it. I sent this picture to the parks supervisor so I hope they can get to it next week. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Chester Springs Marsh - Then and Now

Chester Springs Marsh as viewed looking south from the Bloor Viaduct, about 1996

Chester Springs Marsh, 2008

Picture comparison: the mowed grass is completely replaced by trees and shrubs with some bits of meadow in between. A path circling the wetland is now totally obscured. The only indication of it now is a garbage can placed at the northern entrance point (top end of the graffiti). The red tinged sumac grove in the lower right of the picture is still there although there is a patch missing from the middle. This was created by a homeless encampment which was recently abandoned.

It's been 12 years since the Task Force to Bring Back the Don created a new wetland in the Lower Don. Chester Springs Marsh was the first major project of the Task Force and it has influenced restoration efforts in the Don Valley ever since. As you can see from the original photo, it was built in a former grassy meadow with just a few large trees and some shrubs along the river bank. The photo also shows a few saplings new planted.

Today those saplings have grown to heights of 10m and have turned the grassy meadow into a forest. The marsh is now totally obscured by these trees as the new photo shows. The reality is that the marsh now contains very little water and the area is now more of a wet meadow. Shrubs are starting to encroach on this space and the wetland that it started out to be is fast disappearing.

How did this happen? There are a number of reasons for this some of which were not foreseen in the original design. The marsh was meant to have continual water which would be topped up periodically by high water from river floods. However the channel that connected the marsh to the river quickly silted up so that the refresh now only occurs during extreme high water events. This means that any water that gets in likely dries up before the next refresh.

Another problem was what was underneath. The marsh was built on a former landfill and its excavation exposed some of the rubbish buried there. Some it was stuff like old pieces of pottery and other turn of the century knickknacks. When people discovered this, a flock of scavengers descended on the site digging pits looking for buried treasures. This activity inadvertently created wells which drained the marsh.

So rather than a marsh we have more a meadow that gets occasionally inundated. This is not necessarily a bad thing but there are other issues with the marsh. One of them is the problem of non-native species that have invaded the site. These include garlic mustard, dog-strangling vine, Japanese knotweed, creeping thistle, and teasel to name a few. These plants are starting to dominate the understorey and are crowding out native plants. There are some non-native trees including Siberian elm, black locust and Manitoba maple but they are not yet crowding out the native trees. The native trees are doing quite well and they include a couple of uncommon species such as hackberry and red mulberry.

CSM as viewed from the side. The wetland is no longer visible. Small trees such as willows and shrubs such as dogwood are no encroaching on the area formerly occupied by the pond.

What is the future for the marsh? That is still up in the air. The Task Force has requested a study be performed on the marsh but they are taking their time. The results of the study could recommend that nothing be done or that some level of management or remediation be performed. Whenever that study is completed, I'll let you know the results.

Friday, October 03, 2008

New Wetland Under Construction

View of the wetland. Compare this view to a picture I took last November. You can use the two spruce in the middle of the picture as a reference.

About a year ago I reported on a new wetland proposal in Taylor Creek Park between Victoria Park Avenue and Dawes Road. Not much happened until about a month ago when they brought in construction equipment to start excavating.

The difference between now and year ago is striking. Before, this used to be a soggy meadow choked with cattails. Now it is a pond up to 1m deep. I expect the cattails to regrow in places but the potential for better quality habitat is enormous. Most of the water comes from ground water which is very close to the surface in this area. The hillslope behind is wet in places and there might be some runoff contained here. It should be interesting to see how much the water level fluctuates now that it is exposed to evaporation.

A lookout on the marsh will give visitors a bird's eye view of the site.

Wetland Design Plan

The design is pretty close to the proposal (see above) . There is a winding path and viewing stand in the front with most of the wetland at the base of the slope. The ground is still very wet when not on the path so this should deter most people from nosing around. There is still some planting to be done but I expect that the marsh should be officially opened in the Spring of 2009.

Bundled maple trees waiting to be planted