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East York people, places, events & insights

Understanding Taylor Creek Park’s master plan

By Melanie Milanich

The full length of Taylor/Massey Creek runs from highway 401 and Victoria Park area down through Pine Hills Cemetery, Warden Woods and Taylor Creek Park to the forks of the Don River.  This sub-watershed of the Don contains 128 hectares of land and flows through five City wards.

Taylor Creek Park map (click to enlarge) -GOOGLE

Taylor Creek Park map (click to enlarge) -GOOGLE

The creek, as we all know, has suffered over the years with some of the most polluted water, former landfills, severe problems with erosion, failing gabion baskets, flooding, washed-out bridges, sewage spills, invasive plants, loss of fish, biodiversity depletion and inappropriate uses of mountain bikes, dumping, vandalism, off-leash dogs and compacted soil.

Since European settlement our anguished, long-suffering creek has been assaulted, humiliated and abused by stretches buried under construction soil, landfills and garbage dumps and built upon with roads, housing, a golf course and industrial plants.

First came a loss of most of its forests, along with the sawmills, dams and diversions of tributary streams.  Then our creek had to grieve the overharvesting of wildlife, as well as the loss of habitat for insects, pollinators and songbirds.  To add insult to injury, industrial pollution and sewage overflow have poisoned its water and golf course pesticides have killed scores of birds.  Through the years of colonization, invasive species have choked the beauty of its native plants. In the 1950s and 1960s the creek was heavily modified with the channels straightened and hardened with urban development.

Recently, a number of ad hoc remedies have been attempted as stormwater ponds were built and controls over toxins entering the creek were imposed.

Taylor Creek Park ravine seen from O'Connor bridge. -GARY W-P

Taylor Creek Park ravine seen from O’Connor bridge. -GARY W-P

Some damaged paths and bridges have been rebuilt.  But with climate change comes more intense storms.  We know we can’t keep mopping up the debris, flood waters, toxins and broken bridges.  It’s far too costly and doesn’t work.  We have to turn off the spigot —we have to restore green, living systems and reduce stormwater runoff from impervious hard surfaces such as pavements, roofs and concrete of urban development.

The Don, with its greater visibility to the world under the Bloor Viaduct, had its supporters from the 1980s and even a special city task force.  It now has regained some of its dignity with the resurrection of its mouth through funding from all levels of government.

Taylor/Massey Creek started seeing friends in the mid 90s with Friends of the Don East (FODE) and the Taylor Massey Project (TMP) and later the Terra View project.  The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority‘s “Don Watershed Plan” of 2009 brought attention to the creek.  And the City in the early 2010s pitched in to show some love with stewardship programs at the Goulding Estate and Warden Woods.  Last year a Friends of Taylor Creek Park organization emerged to protect and befriend it, and Taylor Creek Park saw its Environmentally Significant Areas officially approved by the city.  And the City’s new “Ravine Strategy” was adopted this year.

The City’s “Wet Weather Flow Master Plan” in 2003 identified Taylor/Massey Creek as a priority site in need of repair.  This was reinforced by the extreme storm of August 2005 that damaged sanitary sewers and stormwater outfalls.  But erosion and infrastructure damage continued, with three bridges washed out in July, 2012.

In 2013 the city began a study for a plan, “The Taylor-Massey Creek Geomorphic Systems Master Plan,” with a Municipal Class Environmental Assessment, to find solutions to reduce erosion and degradation of the stream and improve aquatic and riparian habitat.  Maybe some of you went to one of the public meetings or walks that were involved from the beginning that Councillor Janet Davis arranged.

The plan looked at the full length of the Creek divided into “reaches” or sections of the creek with alternatives offered for each.  The recommended solution for Taylor Creek Park was for more naturalized banks with terraced floodplain areas for heavy storms.  Implementation of preferred alternatives and costs are to be phased in over a 20-year period.  While not available online due to technical issues, city staff advises, a copy of the full plan is available for perusal at the Dawes Road Library.

This past year an enlargement of the scope of the study has been underway.  While the EA and Geomorphic Study focused on stream stability alternatives, the “Taylor Massey Creek Sub-Watershed Master Plan Update” has expanded its focus to the character and uses of the parkland on the full length of the creek.  It is “a sub-watershed scale plan for the preservation, improvement, on-going and future management, maintenance and public use of the parkland” that will include natural areas, infrastructure such as washrooms, recreational features, trails, stormwater and utility facilities.

A public community consultation was held in June that brought out 33 people to express their views; the summary and the exhibits of it are available online.

In November an online survey was distributed to get further input on the recommendations, both on the overall approach and for specific areas of the creek.  These included plans for stabilizing slopes, protecting biodiversity, dealing with invasive plants, trail access, fish restoration and cultural and heritage interpretation and recreational uses.

The third and last phase of the planning process will culminate in the “Taylor Creek Park Management Plan,” a plan addressing our Taylor Creek Park itself.  The East York section of the creek is the most urbanized.  It will be a holistic pilot project to deal with biodiversity, environmentally significant areas, old landfills, trail connections and water quality, as well as identify relationships and responsibilities among the various agencies involved in planned improvements.

Councillor Janet Davis has been instrumental in the process at all the steps along the way and continues to seek input from the public.  We can all look forward to making this a project that will provide an example of what can be achieved at restoring our Taylor Creek Park to an ecologically healthy and sustainable natural area for generations into the future, and make it much more enjoyable for all of us.

But a plan depends on the cooperation and support of the public.  This is where we all come in.  The oaks, walnut trees, hillsides of bloodroot, fall asters and goldenrod, families of mallards, the goldfinch and woodpeckers are only here because the park land provides them with their needs.  And they in turn provide us with our needs for air, water, pollination, carbon sequestration, urban cooling and solace from the noise and bustle of the city.  We need to be proactive and working with the city for a better green world.

For now, as the winter closes in, may our groundhogs slumber well.  May we tread lightly and find peace in the beauty of the snow-covered trees along Taylor Creek Park.

CAPTIONS:

Map of Taylor/Massey Creek Park system -GOOGLE.COM

 

 

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