At the Forks
Farlinger and Eglinton Ravines
A young member of the Farlinger
stewardship group enjoying Taylor Massey Creek.
Photo by M. Dennison.
north from Foxridge Drive, the northern boundary of Pine Hills
Cemetery, the downhill stretch into the ravine just west of
the slow-moving river revealed very little at first. We were
headed upstream, walking through an area where a crew of 70
people had done a clean-up in May, leaving the area spotless
and natural-looking. The effort from the spring quickly hit
home, as a group of ducks went cruising by on the water. Purple
Chicory enlivened the thickening greenery, and I suddenly found
myself in yet another one of Toronto's hidden natural gems.
along the west bank, we came across something not seen too often:
peoples' homes along the trail, and we stopped to chat with
a resident working in his backyard. The area in which the trail
was located here has narrowed to ten feet in width, hinting
at possible problems that could be caused by future erosion
of the creek bank. But the banks were lined with trees including
many maples: trees that help prevent erosion; trees that provide
shade over the river; trees that make the place look beautiful.
a series of tiny rapids in the Creek can be seen or heard every
now and then. Here, scale is everything: the rapids, the trees,
the back yards, and the trail, each a fiber in a ribbon of the
community in harmony with nature.
we progressed, more miniature rapids appeared. There was a small
pool beneath a stormwater outfall, and there were signs of flooding
with grasses flattened by the water and bits of flotsam caught
in low-hanging tree branches.
passed the site where a FODE community planting will take place
in October, with the houses back a little further, the floodplain
a little wilder, and greenery speckled with white Queen Anne's
Lace and the yellow of Goldenrod all around us.
into the walk, we climbed an embankment, crossed the railway
tracks, and passed into Eglinton Ravine Park for the final stretch
of our journey. Much of the same scenery surrounded us, but
with one difference: here we were accompanied for several minutes
by a number of Monarch butterflies.
Seventy metres south of and within sight of Eglinton, the river
swerved in front of us, cutting off any further progress, right
where the ravine levels out into a regular park. While the Creek
could be forded here under normal flows, this is the location
of one of the two bridges being called for by FODE, so that
eventually people can walk all the way from Lawrence Avenue
to the Forks of the Don, and indeed on to Lake Ontario.
at our feet was a final note from nature taking charge: a disintegrating
gabion basket intended to reinforce the shoreline. The basket
had been destroyed, and a solitary tree had poked its way right
through it, demonstrating nature's effectiveness in shoring
up the creek banks, and doing it in a more attractive way than
with rocks and wire.
Braunohler has written regularly for At The Forks about his
explorations of the Don watershed. A compilation of some of
his best articles from past issues will be published soon.
Needs an Environmental Commissioner
by Andrew McCammon
we send this edition of At the Forks off to the printer,
two important issues head to Toronto City Council for its meeting
of September 22-24. The first is Wet Weather Flow; the second
a document entitled the Environmental Plan Status Report. Both
provide significant reasons why Toronto needs an Environmental
by A. Lynch.
Wet Weather Flow Master Plan (WWFMP) distills both a 100-year
$4 billion dollar framework and a 25-year $1 billion first phase
to address basement flooding, reduce the flow of sanitary sewage
to local receiving waters, and to reduce and in some cases treat
wet weather runoff, which is both the largest source of pollution
to local watercourses and which provides peak flows that harm
WWFMP takes a courageous if at times misguided approach to addressing
some of the major problems in our sanitary and stormwater sewer
systems and presents a reasoned financial framework, averaging
$40 million per year. Naturally, it is not perfect, and community
organizations have expressed many concerns: that the $500 million
plan for the downtown core is unnecessarily costly and somewhat
ineffective; that two proposed "deflector arms" to
be built into Lake Ontario have not received appropriate local
nor technical review; and that the Plan has not met a suggested
test for public consultation.
comments, submitted August 11 and available on our website under
Issues, stem from one central problem: that the Plan is too
focused on engineering instead of integrated watershed planning.
As a result, while we accept that much of the costly infrastructure
of new pipes and tunnels is required, we deplore the lack of
detail on green infrastructure. For example, while there are
maps and cost estimates developed by consultants to cover the
costs of pouring concrete, the details on green infrastructure-including
the locations of proposed ponds, areas where eroded stream channels
are to be naturalized, and areas targeted for increased streamside
planting-consist of coloured areas on maps that have not been
groundtruthed, lack technical standards, and have budgetary
figures that are not well-founded in reality. As a result, FODE's
submission of August 11 suggested an amendment to the Plan to
establish a guaranteed minimum expenditure on green infrastructure,
regardless of potential cost overruns on concrete.
are pleased to report, just as we head to press, that our suggested
amendment to the WWFMP was moved by Councillor Pitfield and
accepted by Council on September 22, 2003.
have also suggested that the City develop an integrated watershed
management approach to sewers, water quality, natural heritage
protection, and bylaw enforcement, as well as that the City
create an Environmental Commissioner to facilitate more pro-active
inter-departmental co-operation on environmental issues. We
believe that only an Environmental Commissioner would have the
clout to ensure the establishment of a level playing field in
Toronto to balance the demands for more concrete against the
imperative to protect the natural environment.
Also to be considered at the September meeting of Council was
a document entitled the Environmental Plan Status Report. The
Environmental Plan, entitled "Clean, Green and Healthy:
A Plan for an Environmentally Sustainable Toronto," was
accepted by Council in April 2000, and was designed to improve
the health of the environment as well as to support both economic
growth within and the social well being of the City.
Status Report provides an evaluation of progress to date on
the implementation of the 66 recommendations and over 300 actions
contained in the Plan, and is an important step in the establishment
of improved environmental accountability within the City. While
an interesting compilation of raw data, the Status Report brings
to light two serious issues about the Environmental Plan.
of all, it inappropriately combines two completely different
evaluation criteria, stating that projects and actions have
been developed or implemented with respect to 73 percent of
the Environmental Plan recommendations. This is both wildly
over-optimistic and self-serving, as actions that have barely
begun are not nearly equivalent to actions that have been completed.
Nor is a statement that an action that has been completed, or
if work on it is just starting, an indication that the action
has been or is appropriate, effective, or properly resourced.
in its own words, here is what FODE considers the most important
sentence in the Status Report: "City Council approved the
Environmental Plan in principle but did not deal with the specific
budget and resource implications of implementing the Plan."
The Status Report then avoids any suggestions about the development
of a proper implementation plan. Had the Status Report been
prepared by an independent Environmental Commissioner, the Report
would not contain the greenwash of the 73%, nor the continuing
absence of an Implementation Plan.
our part, FODE works with many professionals in the City, and
we see their dedication and the time it takes to develop solutions
to complex problems. Over the last few years, Toronto has benefited
from the development of the City's Sewer Use Bylaw, the Natural
Heritage Study in the new Official Plan, the Ravine Bylaw, and
the recent the Pesticide Bylaw.
understand that the City of Toronto is a complex entity with
a billion dollar budget, 39,000 employees, and a breadth of
environmental issues rivaled by few organizations in the world.
It is only reasonable, therefore, to accept that developing
an over-arching administrative framework and a responsible budget
for the Environmental Plan will take years, and that the WWFMP
is, as defined at the Works Committee meeting of September 4,
a work in progress.
the deficiencies revealed through both the WWFMP and the Environmental
Plan Status Report are strategic and systematic in nature, and
they demand redress. While there are several possible solutions,
FODE believes the City would be best served by the creation
of a senior, independent position in the City: that of an Environmental
Commissioner should be modeled after the Environmental Commissioner
of Ontario; report independently to Council; require that City
departments develop and report progress relating to Statements
of Environmental Values; co-ordinate environmental training
and auditing services for City staff; and provide annual and
other reports as needed to the City. We believe that only an
Environmental Commissioner can champion the environment as needed,
secure the necessary resources, develop the needed tools, command
the required inter-departmental cooperation, and report fairly
ask Council to create an Environmental Commissioner, and we
ask our members, as well as members of the public, to ask candidates
in the up-coming municipal election if they support the creation
of an Environmental Commissioner for the City and, if not, how
they intend to ensure that this City continues to manage the
environment in a responsible manner that will contribute to
a healthy and sustainable future for our City. This
City needs an Environmental Commissioner.
Distribution for At the Forks
edition of At the Forks inaugurates a new method of distribution.
In the past, we have provided copies of the newsletter to our
members, elected officials, and government agencies and staff.
We also dropped about 4,000 copies at local libraries, community
centres, and businesses. This represented a huge staff and volunteer
effort, as well as a lot of paper, without knowing its benefits.
with this issue, we begin dropping newsletters to what we call
Neighbourhood Nodes: areas in proximity to the Don River or
Taylor Massey Creek where residents have access to and enjoy
their local ravines. If you are receiving At the Forks
for the first time, we hope you enjoy it and will consider becoming
AGM Set for November 16