ESA Threatened in North Leaside
Article reprinted from Fall 2002 Issue of At the Forks

Picturesque Burke Brook ravine — an Environmentally Significant Area (ESA) running east off of Bayview just north of Eglinton — provides both a refuge for wildlife and a pleasant walking area for local residents. Featuring steep slopes, mature woods, and a narrow valley floor with a gently winding brook, the ravine is a rarity in Toronto: a remnant of the Carolinian forest.

It was originally part of the former Sunnybrook Farm donated to the City in 1928 to become a public park “for all time”. A mid-1970s inventory by the Toronto Field Naturalists found 95 species of birds including Barred Owl, Pileated Woodpecker and Northern Waterthrush. This level of biodiversity may be diminished today, but Burke Brook remains one of the treasures of wildlife habitat in Toronto.

FODE has discovered that Burke Brooke faces an uncertain future, as most of the existing health-care facilities on the south side of the ravine are apparently heading for residential re-development and/or expansion.

Early information suggests that the chiropractic college west of Bayview may be sold for residential development. On the east side of Bayview, Mattamy Homes is seeking to build a small subdivision on the CNIB lands and the Hugh MacMillan Centre is pursuing the construction of a new building. Change may also be in the wind for the Donwood Institute.

Local sewers south of Eglinton are at capacity and back-ups can send sewage into area homes. Rather than repairing these or reducing the sewage volumes by installing low-flow toilets and other water-saving devices, current plans call for expansion of the small sanitary sewer built through Burke Brooke ravine in 1963.

This expansion could seriously harm the ravine and require years of restoration work. FODE has learned that an environmental impact study being conducted for two of the developments indicates there is potential to both repair leaks in the existing sewer and introduce local storm water controls to an area where there currently are none.

However, we are concerned that inadequate local sanitary capacity will continue to put sewage into people's basements while natural areas are once again deemed appropriate for sanitary pipes which will inevitably leak into the Don watershed again in another 30, 40, or 50 years. This appears to be a lose-lose proposition.

FODE will continue to investigate this situation, sharing information with members and local residents. We are considering a Task Force to address both the impact of the proposed developments and to encourage local residents to visit, enjoy, and help protect this wonderful ravine.

We are also assisting local residents to monitor the wildlife, ecological features and stormpipes in the ravine as part of our Donwatchers program. If you would like more information or are interested in helping protect the area, please contact FODE at (416) 466- 9153 or at

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