Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Postcard Destination - Grey Abbey in Toronto

This is Grey Abbey Beach. This hidden gem, along the eastern segment of the Scarborough Bluffs looks postcard perfect though its future is uncertain.  The recently proposed alternative for the Scarborough Waterfront Project (SWP) as set out by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) will virtually destroy this beach without your help.

There are two important opportunities to have your comments and feedback included in the environmental assessment. It's the many voices of the community that can help shape the future of this shoreline. A few minutes of you time can make all the difference in preserving the natural beauty of this area. Your involvement can make a difference. 

1. WRITE A LETTER - before July 12, 2017

Please send an email to the TRCA before July 12 with your feedback on the revised preferred alternatives for the shoreline. Your email doesn't have to be long or complicated. Keep it simple. Point form is fine. It's important that the TRCA receives your email before July 12 so your comments can be included in the public feedback segment of the assessment.

2. DELEGATION - on July 28, 2017 

Members of the public are allowed to make a presentation to the TRCA board members regarding the project. The person to contact is Kathy Stranks (Senior Manager, TRCA Corporate Secretariat) at 416-661-6600 x5264. This is an opportunity to have your voice heard by TRCA Board of Directors with a limit of 5 minutes per person. The formal delegation request must be sent before July 19. 




- Situated on the shore of Toronto's longest naturally occurring sand beach

- Over 4 km from Guild to Highland

- A geological treasure with a major gulley over 700 ft long exposing open clay

- Home of 'species at risk' bank swallow nesting colonies 

- Habitat of coyote dens

- Important natural water access for wildlife in the area

- In very close proximity to our eastern water filtration drinking facility

- Excellent location for water recreational activities

- Popular winter hiking area due to wide winter beaches over 20 ft


- Stratified buff fine sand

- Stratified gravelly sand

- Grey silty sand till, moderately stony

- Brown and buff peaty sand

- Brown silty sand

- Laminated peaty clay


Pleistocene Geology of the Scarborough Bluffs

Many thanks for all your support and for caring about this area. With your help, we can preserve the natural features of Grey Abbey for the benefit of all.





Monday, June 19, 2017

Consider the Scarborough Waterfront on June 28


On Wednesday June 28, 2017, there will be a public presentation of the proposed alternatives for the Scarborough Waterfront Project. 

If you love Toronto's waterfront and enjoy the outdoors, then this meeting is for you! 

Come celebrate your connection to the beaches, bluffs and natural areas along the Scarborough shoreline and provide your feedback at this meeting.

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority Public Information Centre #3 (PIC #3)
6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Cardinal Newman High School
100 Brimley Road Scarborough

6:30 Open House
7:00 Presentation
7:30 Panel discussion
8:30 Q&A
If you can not make this meeting, please email your comments before July 12, 2017.


The eastern segment of this shoreline is a 4 km natural area with wildlife, beaches, bluffs and places of beauty. This area is well utilized by many people that would like to see the natural features of this open coast preserved. 

Beaches east of Guild, along the shoreline at Morningside

East Point and Grey Abbey, looking west from East Point

Quiet beaches of East Point Park


Fluctuating water levels and eroding bluffs occur often in this area. Why are we even considering paving a dynamic open coast. These images are from the new bike path along eastern sections of the waterfront and they show how the paths have not held up against the test of time. Some of these paths are only a couple of years old. 

Ajax bike path, image May 2017

Highland Creek path, image June 2017

Rouge Waterfront path, image June 2017


Can the Scarborough Waterfront Project consider designs that work in harmony with the natural landscape, rather than destroy it? 

Seoul Busan raised bike path, image Nicolas Marino

Fort Siloso skywalk in Singapore, image Wayne Hopkins

Bicycle Snake Trail in Coppenhagen


Let's celebrate our connection to the waterfront. Can we look at some new and exciting ways to link people along the waterfront without compromising the beauty of the area?

Floating bike paths in South Africa

The Floating Piers, Christo and Jeanne Claude,  Lake Iseo, Italy


The estimated cost of the Scarborough Waterfront Project is over $80 million. If this project is going to happen, then let's be sure it is done right. We would like a waterfront that can be celebrated by everyone. We would also like a waterfront than respects the natural features of this shoreline and allows for a place that wildlife can continue to have as their home. 

Come to the public meeting (PIC#3) on Wednesday June 28 at 6:30 pm and have your voice included in this project. This is your opportunity to help shape the outcome of this remarkable natural area. 

Walking the trails along the Guild shoreline

Thank you from Friends of the Bluffs!

Friday, June 9, 2017

When the Path Becomes a Road

East Point Park Bird Sanctuary, Scarborough, ON

Bluffer's Beach, Scarborough, ON

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority has selected a number of alternatives for various segments of the Scarborough Waterfront Project that will destroy and diminish natural areas and convert them to paved asphalt roads. 

Their current plans include paving 1.7 km of the natural sand beach of Grey Abbey which will lead to paving a large segment of the natural trails that meander through the East Point Park Bird Sanctuary. And on the north east section of Bluffer's Beach they will be converting the natural sand trails into a road. 

The TRCA claims they are bound by policy direction. They claim that City of Toronto documents and trail guidelines are driving them to make these decisions but if you take a moment to go through the documents, you will learn otherwise. 

I went through the documents and there is no policy that even remotely suggests that our natural trails and shorelines be destroyed to this degree.  

After reviewing the documents, I put together a brief report entitled In Review to show that we have other options. The report is comprised of key points and highlights in hope that we can open the door to further public inquiry. 

What’s at risk is the loss of Toronto’s longest remaining natural sand beach and the destruction of many natural areas and unique communities along our shoreline. 

Please Attend This Public Meeting 
TRCA Public Information Centre #3
June 28, 2017
3:30-6:30 pm - Open House
7:00-9:00 pm - TRCA presentation and questions
Cardinal Newman High School  
100 Brimley Rd in Scarborough 

Attending this meeting will give you a chance to learn more about the future of Toronto's Waterfront and have your views included in the Environmental Assessment.

City of Toronto Official Plan

  • Toronto is connected by a wonderful system of green space - from beaches and bluffs, through deep ravines, to parks and cemeteries. This system is vital to both our quality of life and to the health of our natural ecosystem. They should be protected, improved and added to whenever feasible. (p. 2-24)

  • Protects, enhances and restores the region’s system of green spaces and natural heritage features, the natural ecosystem and the natural corridors that connect these features (p. 2-2)

  • The natural environment is complex. It does not recognize boundaries and there are limits to the stresses resulting from human activity that it can absorb. To be good stewards of the natural environment we must acknowledge that it has no boundaries and we must respect its limits. (p. 3-32)

  • Protecting Toronto’s natural environment and urban forest should not be compromised by growth, insensitivity to the needs of the environment, or neglect. (p. 3-33)

  • A key city-building principle is that public buildings, parks and open spaces should be open and accessible all members of the public, including people with disabilities. As with all general principles, there are important exceptions. (p. 2-26)

  • In some of our natural heritage areas, public access will damage natural features and functions. (p. 2-26)

  • In other areas severe topographical features such as ravines and bluffs are largely inaccessible today and in the absence of benign, non-intrusive technology, making them accessible would be impractical. (p. 2-26)

  • Protecting, restoring and enhancing the health and integrity of the natural ecosystem, supporting bio-diversity in the City and targeting ecological improvements, paying particular attention to: i)  habitat for native flora and fauna and aquatic species; ii)  water and sediment quality; iii)  landforms, ravines, watercourses, wetlands and the shoreline and associated biophysical processes; and iv)  natural linkages between the natural heritage system and other green spaces. (p. 3-34)

  • All proposed development in or near the natural heritage system will be evaluated to assess the development’s impacts on the natural heritage system and identify measures to mitigate negative impact on and/or improve natural heritage system, taking into account the consequences for:  a) terrestrial natural habitat features and functions including wetlands and wildlife habitat; b) known watercourses and hydrologic functions and features; c) significant physical features and land forms;  d) riparian zones or buffer areas and functions; e) vegetation communities and species of concern; and f) significant aquatic features and functions including the shoreline of Lake Ontario. (p. 3-36)

City of Toronto Multi-use Trail Guideline

  • Environmentally Significant Areas and Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest are specific demarcated areas that in most cases are not compatible with multi-use trails. (section 6.3.2, p. 66) 

  • Environmentally sensitive sites and habitat corridors are not compatible with lit facilities or with certain types of winter maintenance, and may be more heavily impacted by twinned trails or other larger configurations; therefore they may not be compatible with the more intensive trail classes. If a trail must be located in these areas, additional mitigation measures should be considered on a site specific basis. (section 3.5, p. 10) 

  • Trails should not be routed through wetlands or seepage zones, or areas that have persistent or seasonally wet soils. They may be planned near these areas or in already impacted parts of such areas. (section 6.2.2, p. 62) 

  • Reducing conflicts between wildlife and human activities includes a range of issues such as preventing disruptions to wildlife patterns, preventing risks to wildlife safety and preventing risks to human safety. These need to be assessed on a site-by-site basis, and may include choosing routes that avoid nesting areas, limiting artificial lights in habitat corridors, providing snake basking areas away from the trail, and a wide range of other possibilities. (section 6.3.2, p. 66)

  • Designers and decision-makers should exercise every effort to comply with these guidelines whenever possible.  Situations may arise where a designer’s judgment may be that the guideline should be exceeded, and in other situations, a designer’s judgment may determine that there are sound reasons that a design may be considered appropriate despite a certain guideline not being met. (section 1.3, p. 1)  

  • Throughout the City’s network of multi-use trails, examples can be found of facilities that in some substantial way do not conform to the recommendations of these guidelines. In some cases, the non-conforming qualities are a defining characteristic of those facilities. An example of this is the Kay Gardner Beltline Trail which is surfaced with “trap rock,” a sand material made from crushing and sieving granite. Although this material is not recommended in this guideline for use on any new multi-use trails, this guideline does not recommend that the Beltline be converted to some other surface. The trap rock surface is a defining characteristic of the trail. Any such changes should be reviewed through consultation with trail users and the local community. (section 4.8, p. 32) 

Grey Abbey Shoreline

Grey Abbey beach is a unique shoreline between the Guild service road and East Point Park that is mainly accessible through informal access. Water levels change through the season, though regardless the time of year, this is the longest Toronto natural shoreline and from Guildwood to Highland Creek the area is 4 km in length. 

When water levels are low, most often in the winter, this is a place where you can walk along the water’s edge, uninterrupted by development, and enjoy the sound of waves rolling along the beach beside you. Walking the shore has a coastal feel and is a rare experience in a large urban city. The sand shore has accumulated over time and works in harmony with the surrounding landscape, providing an essential aspect of the near and off-shore ecosystem. 

The land along the table of the bluffs links up with East Point and is a combined natural corridor of over 60 hectares of land. The area is designated an Environmentally Significant Area and an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest. 

Grey Abbey Beach and the natural paths along the Scarborough shoreline are places worth preserving. Email your councillor today and let them know how you feel! 

Grey Abbey Beach, Scarborough, ON

Scarborough Waterfront Project

The SWP is a proposed $80-100 million project that will permanently alter 11 km of natural shorelines and beaches in Scarborough. 

The project is laying the path for a road that will destroy existing natural habitats and end the wide diversification of currently enjoyed recreational activities.

In order for this project to go through, it needs to be approved by City Councillors, TRCA Boards Members, and the Ministry of the Environment. 

Your voice can make a difference. 

To learn more about the project and know what can be done, please stay in touch with Friends of the Bluffs and attend the upcoming meeting:

TRCA Public Information Centre #3 
Wednesday June 28  3:30-9:00 pm 
Cardinal Newman High School 
100 Brimley Road in Scarborough

Have a look at the documents that the TRCA claim to be guiding their policy direction and enjoy this review:

In Review 

Public Meeting June 28 - Scarborough Waterfront

Wednesday June 28, 2017 
Open house begins at 3:30 pm
7:00-9:00 pm - TRCA presentation and questions
Public Information Centre #3
Cardinal Newman High School  
100 Brimley Rd in Scarborough 

This public meeting is an update on the Scarborough Waterfront Project. This is your opportunity to have your comments included in the Environmental Assessment and to let the TRCA hear your voice and concerns about our beautiful beaches and shoreline 

We hope you can attend!

This is the beach we would like to preserve - 1.7 km of nature: 
Grey Abbey Beach, Scarborough, ON

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Place for Nature

This young deer looking at us from the fields along the shoreline in Scarborough, May 2017, Mike Melnechenko


The City of Toronto is a remarkable place for nature and wildlife. As a city, we truly are blessed. Not only are we on the shores of one of the most amazing fresh water resources in the world, but our city is situated within an intricate web of rivers and ravines that have remained undeveloped due to their unique topography. We have a wilderness around us.  And to realize this on a deeper level would make for a unique opportunity for change and a move towards a future that makes conservation a priority. 

One of Toronto's most natural areas is along the shore of the Scarborough Bluffs. It's a place of natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Though instead of preserving the natural features of this area, we are destroying them as our regional conservation authority (TRCA) is in the process of a very expensive ($3 million) Environmental Assessment to determine whether its a good idea (or not) to alter our longest remaining natural shoreline. 

'Altering' is an understatement. 

What the TRCA has in mind is a very extensive (and expensive) project at the cost of approximately $60 million. The project will involve thousands of truck loads of construction debris, over the course of the next 10 to 12 year. The construction waste will be driven from points across the city on a daily basis and dumped into the lake along the shore of a natural area for almost 2 km. Keep in mind that while this project is going on, most likely all public access to the shoreline will be denied. And it is pretty much guaranteed that the only sounds being heard will be that of heavy equipment, large trucks, and that dreaded beeping sound of trucks reversing.

If the project is approved by the Ministry of the Environment, we will end up with a hardened shoreline, lined with a massive armour rock barrier (similar to the Guild shoreline) that will cut off access to the lake for people, and for wildlife. 

We already have enough asphalt and paved surfaces. Why do we need more and why do we need a road along the shoreline to destroy the beauty of a natural area? The road will create a sweltering hot microclimate in summer, a barren windy place for fall, a more than likely ice-covered road in winter, and a flooded mess for spring.

This project is a bad idea on so many levels and an even worse one for wildlife. There have been many reports of injured wildlife on shores with armour rock. It is almost impossible for wildlife to access the lake in areas that have hardened shorelines. 

Here is an example from a recent article in the Scarborough Mirror with the image courtesy of The Toronto Wildlife Centre. In this picture (from 2011), staff from TWC are examining a deer that has been injured while being trapped within the armour rocks. This article can be found on page 8 of the May 18, 2017 online issue of the Scarborough Mirror. 

Staff from Toronto Wildlife Centre taking care of an injured deer on the shoreline

Before the TRCA wastes anymore time or money considering this project, lets remind them that our wildlife needs places to go. As a city, we have spread and sprawled into every last pocket of land. Lets leave a place for nature. 

Wildlife needs places to roam, trees for shelter and shorelines for water. 

The natural and undeveloped areas along the Scarborough Bluffs is an important area that gives wildlife access to the lake. The natural areas along the shore create a wildlife corridor that connects with much larger places like Highland Creek, Morningside Park and even Rouge National Conservation Park. 

Lets preserve our natural shorelines and keep this place for nature. Lets stop spending valuable resources, time, and money to destroy our natural environment.

Satellite map indicating the natural corridors of the shoreline

Please contact your city councillor today. Your actions will determine the fate of this project. 

Write to your city councillor if you want this natural shoreline preserved.

Upcoming Stakeholder Meeting

There is a stakeholder meeting coming up on June 14 which members of the public can attend, space provided. Generally stakeholder meetings are for the groups that the TRCA has been working with throughout the EA process though they have allowed guests to attend to observe the process. It is my understanding that there will be limited space available and I encourage people to contact the TRCA if they would like to attend: 

Wednesday June 14, 2017 at 5:30 pm
Scarborough Village Recreation Centre - Village Room
3600 Kingston Road 
Scarborough, ON M1M 1R9

Next Public Meeting

 The next Public Information Centre (PIC#3) will be held in the summer and details will be provided next month. Please stay in touch for details.  

Need More Info:

Visit the NEWS section of Toronto Natural Shorelines for background on this area and the project.

Nature will thank you!


Monday, May 15, 2017

A Walking Tour: Wildflowers and Trees of East Point


A Naturalist’s Perspective with Richard Aaron, presented by Friends of the Bluffs

Join us on Sunday, June 4 from 10:00 am to 12:30 pm as naturalist Richard Aaron takes us on a guided walk along the trails of East Point Park. 

Richard is a passionate naturalist who loves sharing his knowledge with others. Over the years, he has presented hundreds of nature walks, workshops and lectures for numerous naturalist and conservation groups across the province. He is widely regarded for his knowledge and understanding of nature. Please join us for this special opportunity to learn more about the natural environs of East Point.

East Point Park is known by many for its dynamic shoreline, beaches and bluffs. It has also been designated by the City of Toronto as a Bird Sanctuary and flyway for migrating birds. What makes East Point even more unique though is the high percentage of native plants (over 55%), and the extensive size of its meadow (50 acres). 

We hope you will join us on this guided walk as we identify the variety of plants and trees in the area. For wildflowers that are not yet in bloom, we will talk about what to look for. We will also keep an eye out for plants that are classified as rare or species of concern: Spiked Blazing Star (Liatris spicata), Oake’s Evening-primrose (Oenothera oakesiana), Ragged Fringed Orchis (Platanthera lacera), Pasture Thistle (Cirsium discolor), Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), and the white form of Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii). We will also talk about threats to the native plants and natural habitats of East Point. As well, we will be identifying non-native plants and trees, and pointing out some of the remnant fruit trees from the orchards that used to be in the area. The walk will conclude with a visit to one of the most picturesque oak trees on the edge of the bluffs.

Wildflowers and Trees of East Point Park will take place along the table of the bluffs through meadows and forest with some views of the lake. We will be walking on a mulched trail over even ground. Please note there are no washrooms available. Parking is available on the road. We will meet at the west entrance of East Point Park at 152 Copperfield Road in Scarborough. 


It was a pleasure to have Richard Aaron join us as a guest on our recent walking tour through the Guild Woods on May 7th. In addition to sharing his knowledge with us, Richard was engaging and entertaining, and we were captivated. It was a real treat to learn more about the species we encountered. How wonderful to leave the forest, knowing a little bit more, than when we entered.

Enjoy a few picture highlights. We look forward to seeing you on Sunday June 4, as we walk the trails of East Point together. Many thanks, see you soon!

Group Name: Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum ). Common names: Adder's Tongue, Dogtooth Violet

Carpinus caroliniana, one of the hardest wood trees. Also known as blue-beech, ironwood and musclewood 

A patch of flowering and nonflowering Mayapple plants (Podophyllum peltatum)

Black Knot is a fungus which is a plant pathogen that is parasitic on species in the genus Prunus.

Downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens

Hornet nest, high above in the trees - the nest is made of wood pulp, chewed from dead wood in the forest

Common Blue Violet (Viola papilionacea