Fall 2007
At the Forks

Vol. 14, Issue 2  


President's Message

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’.

Businesses are 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 products.

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 newsletter.

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.
Andrew Strachan, President


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 eco@fode.ca to 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’.


Shop Green

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 oil.

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 little greener.


Clean the Air, Fill Your Wallet

There's 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 grocery store.

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 or www.zipcar.com.

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

Sometimes, its 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 Viaduct.


Other Updates

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 Report

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 Portlands

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