Fix midtown ravine suffering from years of erosion, neglect, residents tell city
5 residents associations in the Yonge and St. Clair area want city to focus on the Vale of Avoca
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.
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 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.
"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.
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.
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
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.