At the Forks
It seems the world is turning ‘green’.
People are taking a greater interest in the natural world around them. Climate change and
global warming have become everyday phrases. It is becoming quite common for
people to talk about the steps they are taking to reduce their energy footprint.
Neighbours chat about switching their lightbulbs, installing programmable thermostats and
buying energy efficient appliances. Some are even going a step further and turning
to green electricity through providers such as Bullfrog. Trans fat will soon be
history, as more people demand healthier food choices – including pesticide-free
organic alternatives. It is no longer a handful of environmentalists talking about the heath
of our planet. It’s everybody. It has become the acceptable norm to think ‘green’.
beginning to understand their crucial role in fostering this societal
shift. Consumers want
more green products and services; they have to respond to stay in business. Sales of hybrid cars are
increasing at a phenomenal rate. Grocery store shelves are seeing an increasing number
of organic products. Even banks are taking steps by asking customers to ‘switch off
the paper’ and go to electronic statements. Governments are responding too with small
steps towards green economics such as eliminating sales taxes on green friendly
What does all
this mean to Friends of the Don East? It’s certainly had an impact on
our tree-planting program.
Not only are more members of the public looking for ways to help the environment, so too are groups
such as churches and schools. Read about our amazing success with area students in the
accompanying article, ‘Calling all Schools’.
If you’ve never
planted a tree before, there’s no better time than now to get started. We’ve got three events planned for
October. It’s not hard at all. And you’ll feel good about doing your part for the planet.
We’ve also scheduled some informative walks – see the event list near the end of this
It looks like the
green movement is here to stay. Get more involved by joining us at
Friends of the Don East.
It’s a great way to help at the local level. Let’s make the Don watershed a place we can all be proud of.
Calling all Schools
The challenge of restoring our local environment begins
with preventing further damage. There is no better way to do that, than
to reach the next generation of young people, in our schools, so they
don’t form the bad habits of previous generations.We need to educate,
and inspire our youth, to make them realize how important a clean
environment is, and what they can do to make it happen.
FODE is now building a strong relationship with area schools, involving
them with our planting program, and assisting in classroom and outdoor
educational opportunities. This past spring, over 450 students from
Rosedale Heights School for the Arts, D.A. Morrison Junior High, and
Samuel Hearne Public School participated in planting over 1,600 trees
and shrubs, and removing over 200 lbs. of invasive Garlic Mustard in
Toronto area ravines.
If your child’s school would like to be involved with tree planting,
invasive species removal, or other education about local natural areas,
water quality issues, or other ways their students can help their local
environment FODE would be happy to help. Please have a teacher or
principal phone us at 416-657-2800 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
inquire. In addition to formal work with schools, FODE as a local
charity is also happy to help Secondary school students obtain their
community service hours. By attending a planting, or a stewardship
event, your child can obtain necessary hours they need to graduate.
Visit our website to check for updates to the fall events list. And
don’t forget to mention to your teen that they can follow FODE events
through Facebook, by joining the group ‘Friends of the Don East’.
Everything we do
affects the environment. From the food we eat, to the car we drive (or
don’t), to the way we use energy around the home. But one way we affect
the environment that often gets overlooked is our clothing.
Take cotton. Cotton’s “natural” image goes right out the window when
you learn that more pesticides are used on cotton than on any other
crop worldwide. In fact, one quarter of the world’s pesticides are
applied to cotton, making it an enormous source of pollution around the
globe. Another choice are the synthetic fabrics, like polyester. But
synthetics are derived from the same source as most plastics – crude
What are the green options? Organic cotton, or clothing made from other
natural fibres, such as hemp, soy or bamboo. There is a greater range
of this type of clothing available than ever before. And the selection
is getting better all the time. Grassroots on the Danforth and Mountain
Equipment Co-op have been selling environmentally friendly clothing for
some time now. Online, check out Effort’s Hempwear (www.efforts.ca) for
their organic and natural fibre options. Even the major retailers
are catching on, and now you can find environmentally friendly clothing
at stores like The Bay.
Next time you need new clothes, look for organic cotton or other
natural fibres. They come in lots of colours while making our world a
Clean the Air, Fill Your Wallet
something in the air: smog. Toronto is experiencing an ever increasing
number of official Smog Alert Days every year. While a portion of that
pollution comes from coal-fired generation plants, both here in Ontario
and a number of States south of the border, the rest comes from how
many people choose to commute – the private automobile.
From an environmental perspective it would be wonderful if everyone
could just give up driving tomorrow. But that’s not really very
practical. We need other solutions. One is to encourage people who
drive a lot to drive less. This can be done when we get people to
consider commuting by TTC and doing more of their local errands by foot
or by bicycle.
These solutions are not as hard at they sound. For instance, driving
from Yonge & Sheppard to downtown Toronto will be about 28 minutes
in rush hour. The trip by subway is only 18 minutes – or almost 40%
faster! Plus you can read a book, magazine or newspaper while on the
subway …… which is rather more difficult when driving. There’s also a
significant cost savings. Even if you continue to own a car, not
commuting could save you $40.00 in gas per week – or $160 a month. A
Metropass costs about $100. That's an extra $60 a month in your wallet.
Plus, with a Metropass, you receive a partial tax rebate too.
But if you really want to save money, consider another option that is
gaining popularity here and in many other cities across the globe. Go
carless. Give up the idea of needing to own a car. Say goodbye to the
hundreds of dollars you spend every year on financing, maintenance and
insurance. Now before you say "I can't live without a car at least some
of the time", don't worry. Here in Toronto we have the perfect
alternative. It's called car sharing. It's available from two major
companies: Autoshare and Zipcar. It's an idea that is growing in
popularity. You may have seen these cars parked in various municipal
parking lots throughout the city. The idea is very simple. You pay a
fee to become a member. Then you are able to rent a car from them for
an affordable hourly/daily rate. There are different plans available
depending on your driving needs. Gas and insurance is included as well.
You can still have a car available to you when you need it like for
those trips to Ikea or Home Depot or simply your weekly trip to the
What you don't have are the enormous costs involved with personal car
ownership. You've probably never done the math before, but those costs
can really add up. So, transit to work, cycling and/or walking for
those small errands and a car sharing membership for those times you
need a car. If everyone gave it a try, the air would be a whole lot
cleaner. And we'd be a whole lot richer, in more ways than one. For
information about car sharing visit www.autoshare.ca
Wild Birds Over Beechwood
by Jurgen Braunohler
Sudden gusts of
wind ruined picnics in the Don Valley, as rising storm clouds revealed
themselves to families fleeing the downpour. Sluicing off the flat
parklands, the rains swelled the Don River into a raging flash flood. A
lone fish battled the current as its eggs were ripped from the river
bottom and chunks of embankment were torn away, in a typical storm of
the past that left
waterborne debris hanging from tree branches. Yet on a recent summer
day, two dozen of us hiked to the Beechwood Wetland and Education
Project in the valley off O’Connor Drive near Broadview. There, we were
to see the solution to such disasters and the wildfowl that inhabit it,
before exploring Crothers' Woods close by.
The adventure of another hike was at hand, led by Kevin Seymour of the
Toronto Field Naturalists and James McArthur of Friends of the Don
East. With our field kits packed: water and sunscreen in the age of
global warming, as well as binoculars, we were off.
Immediately a Red Tailed Hawk soared over us on the descent down
Beechwood Drive. Heading southwest we found much valley parkland
replaced by native vegetation, home to many birds: Robins; Swallows;
Grackles; a Kingfisher. Then a Warbling Vireo was heard. Cattails grew
from an old landfill while directly overhead, an Oriole nest hung from
a tree branch.
At length we reached the Beechwood Wetland viewing platform, where a
Great Blue Heron soared near the marsh built over fill covering a
sewer. The bushes and already existing pond would hold back rainwater
to minimize run-off, allowing the filtering out of pollutants and a
steady seepage of cold water into the Don. This is beneficial to fish
including the Pacific Salmon and Trout. Other goals of the wetland are
the restoration of habitats, reconnection of wildlife corridors and an
example of how wetlands improve water quality. It is also the beginning
of a wilderness linkage for birds and animals traveling between Lake
Ontario and the Oak Ridges Moraine north of Toronto.
Westwards across the Lower Don where a family of Mallard Ducks cruised
the waters, lay the forested slopes of Crothers' Woods, designated an
Environmentally Significant Area and enhanced by the Beechwood Wetland.
We entered the woods after seeing a Black-crowned Night Heron,
Redwing Blackbird, a Cooper's Hawk in flight and other birds enroute.
Here the land rose to meet the spectre of urban sprawl that is
responsible for the demise of 90% of Toronto’s original wetlands.
Non-native plants like Dog-strangling Vine and Japanese Knotweed
threaten what’s left. But we enjoyed the beauty as we circled back,
greeted at the end with a nest full of Baltimore Orioles.
Deer in the Don
not easy to see progress. In an era where urban sprawl still occurs at
an alarming rate, its easy to start feeling discouraged. But any of you
who have been out hiking or biking in areas around the Don this year
can see our impact. We have deer!
While deer have been seen, on occasion, for several years, it's only in
the last 18 months that larger populations have begun to make their
home in the Don watershed. At least a dozen White-tailed Deer now call
the lower Don watershed and Taylor Creek Park home. This can be partly
attributed to the hard work of the many organizations involved in the
restoration of the Don watershed. People in the community have devoted
many volunteer hours to help restore almost 25 acres of habitat in the
last 10 years.
It's not just deer that are making a comeback. Increasingly beaver,
muskrat, chipmunks and herons are calling the Don home again. This is
very encouraging. By continuing on this path to restoration, in the
next 10 years we could expect to see Atlantic salmon, brown trout and
very possibly, a Bald Eagle or two. And yes, a deer was recently
spotted one morning by a FODE member riding the subway on the Bloor
Lower Don Trail Reopened
The Lower Don flood protection project is slowly making progress. Work
has been completed on extending the railway that crosses the Don River
just north of Lakeshore Blvd East. By the time you read this the Lower
Don Trail should be open again. The trail was closed over a year ago so
that work on the bridge could commence. The extended bridge will allow
for increased flow of water underneath if the Don watershed is ever hit
with a Hurricane Hazel type storm. Work on a berm on the west side of
the river extending north from the railway bridge to Queen St East is
starting and will last until the end of 2008. When complete, the new
Don River Park will be opened on top of the berm. It will form a
gateway to the future
West Don Lands community.
New Don Watershed Progress
The Don Regeneration Council has released a new progress report for the
Don. Entitled “Forging a New Deal for the Don”, it discusses past
successes and the challenges facing restoration of the Don Watershed.
The report is available online on the TRCA website. www.trca.on.ca.
New plan for Lower Don
Waterfront Toronto (formerly the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization
Corporation) has announced the winner of a design competition for the
Portlands at the mouth of the Don. The winning entry was done by
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and features an expanded Don River
estuary, new parks and a new community at the mouth of the river. For
more details you can visit their website. www.waterfrontoronto.ca.
FODE is a
membership-based non-profit organization working to protect and enhance
the Don River and to encourage the establishment of healthy and
sustainable communities within the central and eastern portions of the
Don watershed, Toronto, Ontario. © 2004