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E-BLAST: What's Going on in Our Ravines?

One of the things I love most about Don Valley North is our gorgeous ravine system. No matter what neighbourhood you live in, you’re never more than a couple of kilometres away from a beautiful trail that really makes you feel like you’re outside of the city. There are many things we need to preserve here in Toronto for our kids and grandkids, and our sensitive green spaces are high on the list. The City is hard at work taking proactive steps to protect our ravines for generations to come.

Some of that work is underway right here in Don Valley North. A few weeks back, I attended a walking community consultation in German Mills Creek just south of Steeles Avenue and Leslie Street. Next week, another walking consultation will take place in Newtonbrook Creek. These are just two of the five Geomorphic Systems Master Plans (GSMPs) taking place across Toronto’s ravine system. These plans are essential to the long-term health of our ravine system, and by extension the health of our whole city. 

To understand the full importance of this work, let’s take a look at German Mills Creek:

Many of us stroll through these ravine trails so often and are so used to seeing things a certain way we don’t even realize we’re looking at an infrastructure failure. Take another look at that picture. The cement structure in the foreground, to the right of the bridge, is actually a sanitary sewer maintenance hole, which is used to access the sewer system for maintenance. The creek has eroded so severely that the maintenance hole structure is totally exposed. Normally, only the top of the structure should be visible. If not protected, this could act as a weak point for the sewer system and cause it to break over time. Quite visibly, the banks have greatly eroded and widened the creek.

Our creeks and streams really are integral to the broader health of our city. On the environmental front, stream erosion affects natural habitats both in the stream and in the surrounding ravine. Erosion also affects the ability of our ravines to transport storm water and help us be resilient against severe weather events. Of course, our ravines are also so important to the health of our population, both because of the recreational benefits they provide and their ability to absorb heat. The City has a great presentation that shows just how essential streams are to our urban landscape and explains how the City goes about protecting them. You can check it out below:

Unfortunately, erosion has been on the rise recently. The higher frequency of storms and severe weather events has caused substantial erosion damage to sewers and watermains located in and near Toronto’s ravines and streams. This erosion damage can:

  • Destabilize the soil near sewers and watermains

  • Expose or break buried sewers and watermains

  • Damage storm outfalls, erosion control structures, the bottom or banks of the watercourse

This photo shows a clear example of erosion in a Toronto ravine.

We’re blessed to have three major watercourses here in Don Valley North: Duncan Creek, German Mills Creek, and Newtonbrook Creek. All three of them are threatened by erosion. I am so grateful not just for the work our city is doing but also the work of our local residents to protect these spaces. Each of these ravines is very well-monitored by the community. I want to give a special shout-out to the Newtonbrook Nature Stewards who are hard at work removing invasive plant species from Newtonbrook Creek and are always the first to report any other issues they see in the ravine. 

We've already seen a full restoration of our local Duncan Creek. Thanks to the hard work of City staff, the creek has been stabilized and there is a new, state-of-the-art trail for residents of all ages to enjoy. While that project was underway, my team made a helpful video that showed the scope of this work and just how important it is to our local ecosystem. You can check it out here:

A video explaining the Duncan Creek Restoration Project.

A photo of the completed Duncan Creek Restoration. As you can see, the river bed has been stabilized and a lovely new path has been installed right next to the stream.

In terms of the work ahead, the Geomorphic Systems Master Plans (GSMPs) for both German Mills Creek and Newtonbrook Creek are underway. Both studies will identify sewer and watermain infrastructure that is at risk of erosion and recommend solutions to protect the creeks and prevent future impact. The recommendations of the GSMPs will be implemented over several years. It’s important to note that at this time, the GSMPs will not examine trail conditions or recommend improvements to trails and other ravine amenities. The erosion and watercourse redirection work must come first. You can learn more about the projects here:

While the consultation for the German Mills Creek GSMP already took place, it's not too late to learn all about the Newtonbrook Creek GSMP. There is a site walk and public drop-in event happening next week (Wednesday, October 18) where you can learn more about the project, ask questions, and share your feedback with staff. I'll be there with my team and hope to see you there as well. Click the button below for the full details:

I also want to say a brief word about other ravine work going near Newtonbrook Creek at the north end of Blue Ridge Road. Neighbours and trail walkers will already be aware that there is a slope stabilization project underway at the ravine slope on the south side of Blue Ridge Creek. This is unrelated to the City of Toronto's geomorphic study. Slope stabilization work sometimes happens on an urgent basis. The Toronto Regional Conservation Authority (TRCA) constantly monitors this area of ravine management. When multi-government funding is available, they act as quickly as possible. 

This is just one example of how multiple authorities can work together to protect our ravines, watercourses, and our enjoyment of these natural amenities. The TRCA does urgent maintenance, Toronto Water and Engineering Services conduct the GSMPs mentioned above, Toronto Parks works to provide enjoyment features such as trails, paths, and bridges, and our own local residents animate the ravine spaces and let us know where and when work needs to be done.

Our local ravines are the perfect place to enjoy the fall colours.

My thanks go out again to folks across Don Valley North who keep in touch with my office to ensure that our natural spaces are taken care of. I look forward to continuing to work together to preserve these beautiful spaces and help make Don Valley North the best it can be, now and decades into the future.



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