Five residents associations are going to ask the city next week to begin work on fixing a major ravine in midtown Toronto that is in rough shape due to years of erosion and neglect.

The Deer Park, Summerhill, Moore Park, North Rosedale and South Rosedale residents associations will ask the city's parks and environment committee at its Nov. 17 meeting to develop a master plan and a working group for the Vale of Avoca ravine near Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue. 

"The deplorable condition that you see here, the amount of work that has to be done, it will take a fair amount of money to fix," John Bossons, spokesperson for the five residents associations, told  CBC Toronto on a recent tour.

"Probably $10 million just to repair the stream," he said.

John Bossons

John Bossons, spokesperson for five residents associations, says: 'The deplorable condition that you see here, the amount of work that has to be done, it will take a fair amount of money to fix.' (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

The short but steep ravine, with Yellow Creek running through it, is located east of Yonge Street and runs south from Mount Pleasant Cemetery to the beginning of Park Drive Reservation at Roxborough Road and Mount Pleasant Road.

The name, Vale of Avoca, comes from the poem The Meeting of the Waters by Irish poet Thomas Moore.

In a submission to the city, the associations say the ravine is environmentally sensitive, important to thousands of residents who live nearby, and a component of a north-south bikeway that connects the Don Valley to Yonge Street. 

Inadequate maintenance and storm water erosion are responsible for its deterioration, they say. Growth of invasive species in the ravine threatens its ecological integrity and is contributing to erosion of its slopes.

"The ravine and Yellow Creek are in urgent need of improvements to enhance safety, control erosion, protect its natural environment and main access," the submission reads. 

Vale of Avoca

A slope in the ravine that has eroded with granite blocks from the stream wall having fallen into the water. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

The submission calls the stream "a degraded and rapidly eroding open storm sewer." 

The associations want the city to do the following:

  • Fix the stream and deal with bank erosion.
  • Deal with invasive species and try to return the forest in the ravine back into a condition where there is undergrowth that will keep banks from eroding so quickly.
  • Fix the network of trails on the east and west sides of the ravines and make them safe for people to walk on.

They also want the city to restore the entire trail network as the stream is fixed. And it wants reforestation done to substitute native species for non-native species. As much as possible, it wants the ecology of the ravine not to be affected. 

Vale of Avoca

Plastic mesh lines part of the path after the area was washed out. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

 
Vale of Avoca

A washed out area undercutting part of the path. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

"Our prime objectives are threefold: remediation of the stream to prevent further erosion, retention of the natural character of the ravine, and preservation of its ecological integrity," it reads. 

The work would include repairing collapsed steps, repairing washed out areas, upgrading and restoring footpaths, building stairs, cleaning up dead trees and reconstructing granite block walls. 

Bossons said the ravine is considered an important park resource. Even though it has deteriorated over the years, many people still use its trails every weekend, walking their dogs and breathing in the fresh air, he said.

"It's a mess. It needs to be cleaned up. It needs to be made safe," he said. 

The ravine looks haphazard in a quick walk through. There are concrete blocks in the water at one point, a path that goes nowhere at another is blocked off by a steel barrier, and there is twisted metal at still other points. 

Vale of Avoca

A fallen tree and a jumble of rocks in one area of the stream. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

 
Vale of Avoca

Roots of a fallen tree are visible from the path. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

Plastic mesh lines its banks in several places. Banks have eroded. A number of large dead trees have fallen across the stream. There are spots where storms have done clear damage to retaining walls. 

In at least one spot that has been washed out, the bank drops off sharply at the edge of the trail. A mix of trees and rocks in the stream, near the washed out area, looks like a jumble.

Farther north, under the St. Clair Bridge, two sections of a massive cement storm sewer pipe are upended, having been undercut by the stream. At least one of the sewer pipes was upended about 10 years ago.

Bossons said he isn't aware of anyone who has been injured in the ravine, but he showed CBC Toronto a few places where wooden railings have fallen down.

Jane Arbour, senior communications coordinator for the city, said the ravine strategy approved by city council in October will help the city determine where to start when it comes to fixing the Vale of Avoca.

Vale of Avoca

A broken railing makes a path into the ravine look dangerous. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

She said the strategy has a framework to help the city set priorities based on available evidence. The five key planks of the ravine strategy are: protect, invest, connect, partner and celebrate.

"The priority-setting tool will help us focus our investments in the areas of the ravines that most need our help," she said.

A report to be presented by staff at the Nov. 17 meeting will outline a process by which the city map out the work that needs to be done, she said.

Arbour was unable to say whether Toronto Water has a plan to fix the stream in the ravine.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam and Coun. Josh Matlow have asked the city's parks and environment committee to direct staff to look into the process of creating a master plan for the ravine, according to Wong-Tam's adviser Tristan Downe-Dewdney.

Vale of Avoca needs its own plan, city says

Because major work needs to be done, the Vale of Avoca would get its own plan, Downe-Dewdney said. 

Map of Vale of Avoca Ravine

The Vale of Avoca Ravine, with Yellow Creek running through it, is east of Yonge Street. It runs south from Mount Pleasant Cemetery to the beginning of Park Drive Reservation at Roxborough Road and Mount Pleasant Road. (NeighbourhoodGuide.com )

Vale of Avoca

John Bossons, spokesperson for five residents associations, says the Vale of Avoca ravine is an important park resource in Toronto. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

Bossons noted the ravine strategy has no funding attached to it yet. 

"The ravine strategy is great as a set of principles, but it is meaningless without money. The city has to find the money to put into making the ravine strategy effective," he said.