Toronto

Mayor John Tory hopes funding to revive ravines will start flowing this year

It's been more than two years since Toronto city council approved a comprehensive strategy to revive the city's ravine system. Now, millions of dollars in new funding has been proposed to implement the plan to clean up, improve access and fight invasive species.

2 years after comprehensive plan, millions of dollars pledged for decade-long improvements

Places like the Evergreen Brickworks along the Don Valley are enjoyed by Torontonians all year round. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Two years after announcing a strategy to fix Toronto's long neglected ravine system, Mayor John Tory unveiled a multi-million-dollar proposal Thursday to implement the revival plan, which he says could start this year.

"We're going to fund it. We're going to do it. We're going to add to it," said Tory at an announcement at the Evergreen Brickworks in the Don River Valley.

Tory says that while ravines make up about 17 per cent of Toronto's land mass, they are in rough shape due to years of erosion and neglect.

"I think when things are under appreciated ... you just take them for granted," said Tory. "I mean, these are world respected natural assets that we have in the city of Toronto. It is a remarkable part of our city landscape."

Mayor John Tory, accompanied by Coun. Jennifer McKelvie and Coun. James Pasternak at Evergreen Brickworks, announced proposed funding to implement the city's first ever ravine strategy. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

In the fall of 2017, the city approved a strategic plan to map out a vision for green spaces and establish priorities for investments.

Tory says there's now a proposed funding plan to implement that vision.

It includes $2.7 million annually in new and enhanced services to increase ravine litter collection and invasive species control.

He says the city would spend an additional $10.1 million annually between 2021 and 2024 for forest and natural area management, such as tree planting, invasive plant and pest control, maintenance, ravine bylaw permit review and enforcement, and other restoration work.

Capital improvements of $104.9 million in addition to $460 million that staff have already recommended are to be spent over the next 10 years starting this year. 

The funding plan will be considered by the mayor's executive committee next week and if passed will go before the full city council for a vote.

Tory says one of the highlights is a "Loop Trail" that would join all the ravines across the city with pathways and bridges from Moore Park to the Lower Donlands and from Highland Creek in the east to Black Creek in the west.

"Pieces of the loop .. are already there," the mayor said. "It's that there are gaps though that need to be filled in... by just creating a new trail or building a bridge."

The funding priorities will go to protecting, connecting and promoting the city's ravines, said Tory.

"By giving greater access, but doing it in a careful planned way. We're going to end up protecting the ravines while making them more accessible at the same time."

John Bossons, a spokesperson for the Midtown Ravines Group — which is made up of seven residents' associations located near ravines — is happy that the city is ready to invest in ravines and green space.

John Bossons of the Midtown Ravines Group - made up of seven residents' groups near ravines - says the funding is a needed first step to save the city's ravine system. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

"There's a lot of ravines that are in deplorable shape with a lot of erosion problems and the city's recognized for some time that that has to be a priority," he said.

"The big problem we have is that we're developing at a huge rate building a lot of high-rise towers for families with kids and we don't have enough parks and green space."

There will be a ravine fundraising campaign and a Ravine Campaign Leadership Table that will include opportunities for public input. 

"I think this ravine implementation report sets out to set out a plan which I think is going to deliver real benefits to Toronto," said Bossons.

Tory says many of the ravine projects will employ youth from nearby priority communities.

"Worthwhile objectives like employing young people to help clean up the ravines... which will not only give them a summer job, but it will also increase their appreciation because they'll be in the ravines cleaning them up."

About the Author

Philip Lee-Shanok

Senior Reporter, CBC Toronto

From small town Ontario to Washington D.C., Philip has covered stories big and small. An award-winning reporter with more than two decades of experience in Ontario and Alberta, he's now a Senior Reporter for CBC Toronto on television, radio and online. He is also a National Reporter for The World This Weekend on Radio One. Follow him on Twitter @CBCPLS.

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