Sunday, November 22, 2009

Beechwood in the Fall

Beechwood Wetland. Marnie's Point is covered in brown headed goldenrod stalks.

I visited Beechwood Wetland a couple of days ago. It's mostly been put to bed for the winter but there are still a few signs of life. Here are a few pix.

A small tree which I think is a hawthorn is covered in red berries

A small moss still bright green on the muddy ground

A white fungus protrudes from the end of log

Monday, November 16, 2009

Celebrating a Dubious Anniversary

Poster announcing funeral for the Don River

40 years ago today a group of students from the University of Toronto held a mock funeral for the Don River. Organized by the then nascent Pollution Probe, between 100-200 people gathered underneath the Bloor Street viaduct on the east bank of the river to lament the state of the river.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to mourn the passing of our late dear friend, the Don River",
intoned organizer Martin Daly. A woman dressed up as Lady Elizabeth Simcoe read exerpts from her diary which extolled the virtues of the Don as Toronto's main salmon stream. At the end of the service a wreath was tossed into the muddy waters of the river.

Photo from Toronto Star, November 18, 1969

The next day another 100 or so people gathered on the steps of Queen's Park and sang a requiem mass for the "dead Don River".

Oh, but the 1960s were great for colourful protests. So here we are 40 years later and I am trying to think of what has been accomplished to improve the state of the river. The bad news is that the river is still polluted and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. In 2007, a provincial report listed the Don River as "Ontario's worst waterway". While the river's polluted state hasn't changed the nature of the pollution has. In 1969, eColi levels topped 61 million per 100 ml. These days those levels have been significantly reduced through a combination of sewage plant closures, a plan to capture sanitary sewer overflows, and a program to repair improper/illegal cross connections between sanitary and storm sewers.

In the late 19th century, the lower Don was heavily industrialized and effluent dumped into the river caused pollution in the Ashbridges Marsh which eventually resulted in the marsh being filled in to create the Portlands. Subsequent neglect of this area has resulted in most of it being turned into an indutrial wasteland of abandoned brownfields, but I digress. The industry is long gone and so has its pollution. Today's pollution is mainly due to runoff from roads, parking lots, and other hard surfaces. Whenever it rains the water quickly runs into the storm sewers and into the river. On its way the water picks up sand, grit, oil, salt, and whatever other urban residues are lying around. The river which often takes on a muddy hue after a rainstorm reflects this urban runoff. Annual dredging of the Keating Channel at the mouth of the river where all this runoff is deposited amounts to 35,000 m3 of material!

Solving this problem is no easy fix. The Don watershed is now over 80% urbanized and there's not much that can be done about that. The Don River flows through the world we live in. However the structure of our built environment can be modified. One such plan seeks to change how we design and build structures and also retrofit older buildings so that they have less of an impact on the watershed and the river. The TRCA has recently created the Don Watershed Plan which lays out planning and design methods that could lead to a better built city, one that has a lower impact on the environment. Implementing these methods requires changes in the way we think about development. While it may require more short term expenses, in the long term it will pay us back with a cleaner river.

On the face of it, this 40th anniversary isn't much to talk about. The river is still polluted but in the interim people who care about the Don have put in place a framework which could lead to an environment which will allow the river to flow a lot cleaner than it has for sometime. Who knows, maybe the Don will one day again be known as Toronto's best place to fish. I just hope I don't have to wait another 40 years to see it happen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why You Should Follow Me on Twitter

You may have noticed that my posting frequency is down this fall. This is a combination of work, school, renovations, but also Twitter. When I started blogging I did it mostly to publish pictures and stories about the Don. But I also made fair number of posts that just gave links to events, news stories, and public reports.

I now do these types of posts through my Twitter account. I've noticed some people cross posting on both their blog and on Twitter but I have stopped doing that. While there is a sidebar on this blog that lists the twitter posts, you can also sign up directly on Twitter to get these without having to use the blog.

So whatever works for you, I hope the combination of blogging and tweeting keeps you up to date on the Don.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Ghost Bike Visits the Don

A 'ghost bike' chained to the railing near the accident location

The hill where the accident occurred

Just south of Pottery Road on the Lower Don Trail, the path rises over a small hill and then descends down a fairly steep slope going underneath a disused railway bridge. It was here on October 20 that a man was killed in a head-on bicycle-bicycle crash.

You can get going pretty fast along this stretch and it can be difficult to pass someone at speed. This accident can be chalked up to carelessness. A memorial ghost bike has been chained to the railing to mark the spot of the accident.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Prince Charles Visits Brick Works

Prince Charles visits the Don

This picture is actually from 1991 when Prince Charles attended one of the earliest Task Force to Bring Back the Don events in Riverdale Park. I include it here because I wasn't able to see him when I went to the Don Valley Brick Works yesterday where he was attending an event. It turned out to be an invitation only event and members of the public weren't allowed in. This little piece of information wasn't well communicated which may tarnish Evergreen's public opinion somewhat on a day when it was the host to what was in all respects a successful day.

A few royal watchers wait in vain for a glimpse of royal couple from the Belt Line Trail.

The closest I could get was viewing the entrance from the Belt Line trail. Even from there I only caught a brief glance of the motorcade as it sped into Evergreen Brick Works compound. This disappointed the dozen or so people who came by foot to see the Prince. According to the cop at the front entrance many people who came by car were also turned away.

Oh well. At least I got to see the park which I haven't visited much this summer. Here are a few pics.

Muskrat Pond in fall

Buttonbush Pond at the Brick Works

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Public Meeting on Taylor Creek Park

Councillor Janet Davis speaks to the audience

I attended a meeting on Taylor Creek Park which is the lower reach of Taylor-Massey Creek. City Councillor Janet Davis hosted the meeting to let members of the public know what is happening with the park. Other speakers included Adele Freeman from the TRCA, Janette Harvey from the Parks & Forestry Department, Tracy Manolalakis and Joanne di Caro from Toronto Water.

Some updates were provided on current projects such as the Coxwell sewer diversion and the ongoing testing of sewer outfalls but there was nothing new to report. About 60 people attended so there appeared to be a lot of interest on what was a miserable drizzly night.

One good aspect of the meeting was that instead of a Q&A following the presentations, Davis said that participants could ask questions from staff who had setup information tables around the room. This prevented anyone from holding the meeting hostage while they ranted about a personal issue.

While nothing new was presented it's good to give the impression that the city at least cares about these places. Kudos to the Councillor Davis for making this special effort.

Aerial maps of the valley provided a good place to make comments of suggestions.

Booths setup at one side of the room allowed people to ask questions or pickup pamphlets.