Path plans near Bluffers Park raise ire of...
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Jan 26, 2012  |  Vote 0    0

Path plans near Bluffers Park raise ire of residents

Scarborough Mirror

They sang Joni Mitchell lyrics about paving paradise and shouted their opposition to a new path near their homes above Bluffers Park.

But people working on the proposal suggested environmental arguments employed by residents of Chine Drive - who say paving a trail through Chine Meadow would harm plants and local wildlife - were less than they seemed.

A City of Toronto plan to fill in three Scarborough gaps in the Waterfront Trail last year alarmed area homeowners, and more than 100 turned out to walk the park lands south of Saint Augustine Seminary between Chine and Brimley Road with Gary Crawford, the local councillor.

The opposition "caught us off guard" and convinced Crawford the three trail projects, including paths through Harrison Estates and Greyabbey Park, were happening "a little too quickly" the councillor said.

Last July, at his request, Toronto Council put all three on hold for what Crawford hoped would be a "proper process" of community consultation.

On Tuesday, Jan. 24, night at Blessed Cardinal Newman High School, the councillor was jeered when said he had no position yet on whether the project should go ahead.

One man asked Crawford how many signatures on a petition are needed "to simply stop this. We don't want it," he said.

The city is asking people to choose between three path designs, ranging from 916 to 1,302 metres and from $228,000 to $321,000 from shortest to longest.

Karen Hyponen, a 20-year Chine resident, received the loudest applause of the night by demanding the city include a fourth alternative, "just leave it as it is."

No paved path is needed for walking or cycling across the 29 acres of tableland above the Scarborough Bluffs, said Hyponen, who does both.

"If one trail is wet, I take the other trail. We've all created paths there for us to walk," she said.

The presentations Tuesday, however, implied the creation of informal paths over the years hasn't helped the ecology of the park, and that restoration work to accompany the pathway construction would.

Dale Leadbeater, an ecologist with SLR Consulting who has designed trails through sensitive areas including Lower Highland Creek, said while not all parts of what the city calls the upper west side of Bluffers Park are appropriate for trails, "there are many, many trails on this relatively small area."

A small forest pocket at the foot of Chine, part of the provincially-recognized area of natural and scientific interest, has badly eroded soil - "bad scars" from overuse - and lacks ground cover and spring wildflowers, Leadbetter said, while the thickets and meadows covering most of the land contain "really aggressive" Japanese knotweed and dog-strangling vine, non-native plants that will spread and crowd out other species.

People go around muddy gaps in trails so that they get wider, leading to more trampling and trails, she said, maintaining a single path, removal of invasive species and plantings of native species would sustain more species in the park.

Residents were also told the path (likely with a granular surface, not asphalt) would not harm Monarch butterflies or songbirds at the meadows for annual migrations, and that other wildlife disrupted by construction is "pretty much urban tolerant" and would return quickly.

Salt would not be used on the path.

Laura Stephenson of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority's project management office said nesting boxes for tree swallows and owls, and roosts for raptors would be added, and interested residents could run a stewardship group.

There were other objections, however, to a project which city officials say should increase the diversity of people using the "upper west" of the park, which until last year wasn't identified by signs.

A paved path, one man said, would be "drawing more elements we probably don't want."

Several others called it an unnecessary expense, or said cyclists able to speed along the city's waterfront route will pose a danger to strolling residents.

But Alan MacKenzie, who likes riding his bike across Toronto, said cycling on Kingston Road is dangerous. The park land is public property, he said, and not just for residents of the area, whose environmental stance did not impress him.

"You want to treat it like your private property," he said. "Buy the land and turn it into a gated community."

Michelle Convey, a dog owner who lives on the Bluffs, called for a compromise, saying there are "conservation problems" in the meadows and "having a designated path through the area is not a bad thing."

The city has asked for written feedback on the project by Feb. 7 (material on it is at www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/swtrails), after which a report on the Scarborough trail links will go to city's public works committee and council in March.

A meeting on the proposed Harrison Estates link from Springbank Avenue to Lakehurst Crescent - which Crawford said hasn't sparked nearly the same level of controversy - is next Wednesday, Feb. 1, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Birchmount Community Centre at Birchmount and Kingston roads.

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