5 December 2007

Toronto’s Lake Ontario waterfront naturalization projects

Want to know about any of the many naturalization plans currently floating around Toronto's waterfront?

1. Go to this Toronto Region Conservation Authority's site and click through the waterfront area you're interested in: East, Central or West Toronto - there are plans along the length of GTA lake front.

2. Often the Waterfront Toronto corporation (formerly the Toronto Waterfront Redevelopment Corporation) involved in the same projects, so you want to look for their communication pieces and designs for the same areas, on the left sidebar of this Waterfront Toronto page.

3. If you're interested in eco-restoration and naturalization -- spend some time exploring the links above, google or wiki some of the keywords (wikipedia is good for really localized community info) and then go out and see the designs, listen and talk to the presenters /representatives / local citizen action groups, ask questions, speak-your-mind, and observe the practical problems, ingenuity and innovation in post-industrial urban eco-restoration. The presentations often offer an interesting quick-study in the natural history of the areas too.

4. If you want to keep up with the revised plans and upcoming public consultation meetings one way to start is by subscribing to the Waterfront Toronto newsletter. If you make it out to one of the public consultations / meetings/ open houses/ presentations, you'll likely also be informed of public citizen groups involved in the same area and their websites or email lists too.

You’ll notice plans for the Don Mouth there too. If you’re interested in any development and restoration going on along the Lower Don River, you'll also want to be following the Don Watcher blog. [UPDATE: March 2008: for current plans pls see Don Mouth Naturalization and Port Lands Flood Protection Project]

Close to my heart and home are the Port Lands and Leslie Spit. If they’re close to yours too, see the:

  • Master Plan for Lake Ontario Park, from Cherry Street Beach east to the RC Harris Filtration plant in the Beaches. It's a sexy design, involving capping contaminated post-industrial brownfield with sweeping sand dunes, and a lot of native plantings.
  • TRCA Terrestrial & Aquatic Natural Area Enhancement Plans for the Leslie Spit (aka Tommy Thompson Park). About the provenance of the native plantings there: Ralph Toninger, a Supervisor of Environmental Projects, Restoration and Environmental Monitoring Projects with the Restoration Section with the TRCA, informed me that the trees and shrubs they plant on the Spit are grown in the TRCA's own nursery near Woodbridge, and their stock is indigenous, in fact "we were the first nursery certified by the FGCA" he said. They've also started to grow their own aquatic species too.
  • For an intro to the ecology and history of the Spit I still like this TRCA report from 2000 and the "Friends of the Spit" site.
On the sentimental side, I know this is a minor issue, but... at the recent “Tommy Thompson Open House” at City Hall, the TRCA mentioned "a need to replace the pontoon bridge." If you know it, it's an icon, a present you get for getting your ass outside & on your bike, a secret you let speak for itself when you take your out-of-town friends down there ... and I'll miss it.

Of course nothing is perfect. Hot issues include: the canal planned to cut across the base of the Spit; missing opportunities to create a real terrestrial wildlife corridor between the Spit and the Don; how the existing private boat clubs AND the public will both have water access in a continuous water front park. Also, you'll notice that despite progress in the plans or on the sites, some of the last updates are already a year old. As the Port Lands Action Committee (PLAC) has asked Waterfront Toronto's Lake Ontario Park designers in so many words: keep us informed and involved in the process -- we're not just an audience for sexy 'ta-da! we're finished!' perfect presentation -- we want to be informed, consulted participants on the bumpy real road (re-considerations, ruminations, practical design problems) along the way.

Nevertheless, for now, honestly, I'm heartened I'm not looking at plans for yacht clubs and condo's instead, and that in the process I've met good people with good hearts, minds and talent who really are trying to do the right thing.

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