Monday, August 14, 2017

Sands of Time





















Now that the warm weather has finally decided to stay with us, I hope everyone has been having a relaxing summer. Hopefully you have found some time to be near water and enjoy some beautiful beaches this August. 

This is also a brief note to let you all know that we will continue to advocate for the preservation of Grey Abbey beach and will provide some updates at the end of the month. Thank you to the new contacts that have reached out to us - we look forward to touching base with you in September. 

As most people may know, one of Grey Abbey's greatest assets is its natural sand shoreline. As one of Toronto's longest remaining natural beaches, it is important to point out that the sand of the Scarborough Bluffs is on of the main sources of renewal for the Toronto Islands. This is one of the main reasons that we feel it is important to preserve Grey Abbey beach in its natural state. 

No one knows for certain what the long term impact will be if the sand beach of Grey Abbey is destroyed. Perhaps we should keep in mind that the sand shores of the Toronto Island are slowly diminishing. Lets leave nature alone, before its too late.  

Here are some lovely sand samples that I collected from Grey Abbey earlier this summer...































Sand Wars - A Global Crisis

If anyone is interested in the global perspective on sand, this documentary is a must-see:


This compelling documentary sheds light on the demands that the construction industry has placed on sand supplies around the world and it reveals the resulting environmental devastation. Sand smuggling is now a billion dollar industry and beaches and islands are disappearing. I find it remarkable that sand dredging in the ocean is not only unregulated but the sand is free. Well, free if you have a  $25 million dredging tanker that is. The actually sand itself is free for the taking.

After seeing this video you may feel that the situation here in Scarborough is very tame in comparison, but considering this larger context, it may be just as important. While it may be difficult to do something about sand being stolen from remote islands in the ocean, we can definitely do something about the sand along Grey Abbey shoreline, while there is still time. 

Enjoy the video and enjoy some sand beaches this summer!







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Monday, July 31, 2017

A Glimmer of Hope in a Day of Disappointment



























Delegations
Friday July 28th was a disappointing day for the east segment of the Scarborough Bluffs and Grey Abbey Beach, also known as Toronto longest natural shoreline, situated between Guildwood and Highland Creek. 

As concerned members of the community, a number of us took time from our busy schedules and dedicated the day to presenting our delegations to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority board members with the hope of shedding light on what's at stake if the Scarborough Waterfront Project goes through as planned.

We were allotted 5 minutes to present our views, not a second more. How can one possibly encapsulate such a complex project and dynamic natural environment into such a short segment of time. Consider that the TRCA has just spent the past 3 years and over $2 million presenting the project to the public and we were being given 5 minutes to present our views. It was an impossible challenge.

As a group, and individually, we have all been working tirelessly over the past year advocating for the preservation of the natural shoreline, so we were up for the challenge. In preparation and as a strategy, we decided that we would each tackle an aspect of the project in hope that our presentations, when seen one after another would present a strong case for reconsidering such unnecessary destruction to a beautiful heritage shoreline. It seemed so obvious to us. We felt hopeful.

Friday morning was a bright sunny day and knowing we put together a strong and clear case, a few of us shared our optimism as we started out. Once we began shuttling into our cars for the long drive across the top of the city, joining the endless stream of morning commuters along the 401, then making a series of lefts and rights to our final destination in Vaughan, my optimism had faded. 

Upon arriving and after an exchange of only a few words with the waterfront program manager Nancy Gaffney, I knew we were doomed. 

I asked Nancy why the meeting was being held so far from the city, noting the carbon footprint of over a hundred people driving to the meeting and she answered without hesitation, and in a very matter-of-fact tone "since most of our board members live in the 905 region, if the meeting were held south of the 401, then none of them would show up". 

This fact pretty much says it all and I probably don't need to say much more about how the board meeting went. 

After our presentations and during the question and answer period between the board members and Nancy Gaffney, it became evident that most board members knew very little about the project study area. They didn't even seem to know about the shoreline at stake or the areas of the bluffs that would be negatively impacted by the project. They had no sense of the context or the history. 

They also seemed to know very little about the importance of natural areas in dense urban environments and what a valuable asset a natural shoreline is. I would like to say that they know very little about the stresses of living in a continuously growing and expanding city like Toronto, but that would be false. They do know. And that is why they do not live there.

So unfortunately, the future of Toronto's longest natural shoreline has just been determined by a group of people that know little, and care even less, about it. 



Where There is Hope
There was a very surprising turn of events leading up to this board meeting. An ongoing part of our work has been meeting with councillors about the project and sharing the concerns of the public with them. 

A few days prior to this board meeting, a couple members of our group had a very successful meeting with Councillor Glenn DeBaeremaker and as a direct result of that meeting, he prepared an amendment to the Scarborough Waterfront Project, which he presented at the board meeting. 

His amendment was voted on and while it was not passed, it was hopeful to see that it was supported by other members of the board. To name a few of his supporters, we were pleased to hear the concerns of Jennifer McKelvie, Michael Ford, and Jack Ballinger and their show of support for the recommendations that Councillor Glenn DeBaeremaker put forward.



Next Steps
Now that this project has been approved by the TRCA Board Members, the next step will be a vote by all Toronto City Councillors. I would like to take this time to raise the point that it was suggested by some board members themselves, that this approval was really about them 'approving the process' and 'moving forward to the next step', that in fact, all board members did not support all the details of this project. 

In fact, local councillor Paul Ainslie even said himself that if the board draws too much attention to the details, that City Councillors will never approve the project. He expressed concern that it was difficult enough to get the $2 million for the Environmental Assessment, that the best approach is to approve the project now and worry about the details later. His sentiment was reflected in the actions of a number of other board members. There was a general atmosphere of impatience with the whole process. Board members wanted to get things over with, and move on, and not be held up by the finer details of the project. 

My understanding of the next step involved is that once a draft version of the Environmental Assessment is complete, it will be submitted to the City for review. I believe this will take place in the fall of 2017.



Clarification
Before going any further, I would like to clarify what our concerns have been. As respectable and active members of the community and the City of Toronto, our concerns have been valid, and reasonable and they are concerns that address the city of Toronto as a whole. 

Our concerns are the following:

- we object to a waterfront project that obliterates the natural sand beach and shoreline. 

- we object to a waterfront project that does not allow for access to the water, when it is currently already there. 

- we object to a project that is based on ten years of continuous construction debris being dumped into the lake.


To clarify any misconception, I say yes to a waterfront that is accessible and one that is accessible to all. I would love nothing more that to walk along this beautiful beach with others and see many people from all of Toronto enjoy access to the wonderful fresh water of Lake Ontario. Actually, many people currently do and each time I visit the beach to reflect on the area and the impact of this project I meet people from all over the city that have come here to stroll the beach and feel the waves and water around their feet!

We are asking the TRCA to find a way to link up their waterfront project but please do not destroy the natural features of this area in the process!

I would like to take this moment to acknowledge the names of the dedicated, caring and hard-working people that showed up on Friday to present their delegations to the TRCA Board Members:

Roy and Denise Wright, 
Sherri and Michael Lange, 
Jane Fairburn, 
Steve Smith, 
Nicole and Aidan Conboy, 
Nadia Baer, 
Jeff Green, 
Gerard T. Arbour, 
and Penn Penev 

Your delegations were intelligent, informative, and insightful and they were also very moving and passionate. I am grateful to have worked with you all on this project and even more grateful to now consider you as friends.



Closing
For my delegation, I chose to create a video to share an up-close visual experience of the Grey Abbey shoreline. The focus of the video is calling attention to sand as a natural resource. 

An unfortunate outcome of this project, if it goes through as planned will be that 1 km of a naturally occurring sand beach will be buried under thousands of truckloads of construction debris over the course of a ten year period. 


The shoreline will forever be altered, and the sand will be lost. The outcome will be a slick, armour-rock lined, paved asphalt road and there will be no access into the water.



Enjoy the video:


Grey Abbey Shoreline 













Final Call to Action

If you agree with our concerns and would like to see the natural shoreline of Grey Abbey preserved, then please speak to your local City Councillor. 

Direct them to the website for more information:


Let them know about the area and that they will have an opportunity to vote on it this fall. Encourage your councillor to be a leader in conservation and preserving what precious natural areas we have left. 











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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. 

DELEGATION REQUEST FORM:  
https://trca.ca/about/request-for-delegation/

DELEGATION INFO:   






A FEW FACTS ABOUT GREY ABBEY:


- 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




GREY ABBEY SHORE INCLUDES:


- Stratified buff fine sand

- Stratified gravelly sand

- Grey silty sand till, moderately stony

- Brown and buff peaty sand

- Brown silty sand

- Laminated peaty clay



GEOLOGICAL SURVEY:


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.



PETITION:




WEBSITE:





VIDEO:



































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Monday, June 19, 2017

Consider the Scarborough Waterfront on June 28









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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.


MEETING DETAILS
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

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






A LOOK AT THE EASTERN SEGMENT OF THIS PROJECT. 

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



























PAVED SURFACES ARE NOT THE BEST APPROACH.

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






HERE'S WHAT OTHER CITIES ARE DOING.

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





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NEW IDEAS WITH PONTOON FLOATING PATHS.

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 4 KM NATURAL SHORELINE OF THE EASTERN SEGMENT IS AN ASSET TO THE CITY OF TORONTO.

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. 



NOTICE
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.




QUOTES
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)





QUOTES
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) 






BEACH
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

























SWP
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







































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

In Review