Park’s brutal drop to get proper fence

A poorly fenced area that leads to a 20 metre drop off the edge of a ridge in Botany Hill Park was to be taken care of by the end of this week, said a city spokesman.

Bill Harding, the manager of parks for the East Scarborough district, said he only became aware of the problem when called by the Observer last week.

After visiting the area on Monday, he vowed to get a proper fence erected.

“This is the first I’ve heard about it,” he said. “I haven’t heard any complaints and I know [Nancy Lowes, the park supervisor for the area] said she hadn’t heard any complaints.”

People will no longer be able to get this close to a dangerous drop in Botany Hill Park now that the barrier has been extended, a Toronto Parks spokesman says.In April, the Observer noted gaps on either side of the fence made it easy to walk to the edge of the steep slope.

Officials at Toronto Parks could not be reached for comment at the time. Last week, the barrier, except for a thick growth of vines and shrubs, had not been changed in any way.

After going to the park, Harding agrees the barrier, just past the playground and tennis courts, poses a hazard to the park’s visitors.

“When I walked out, I could see where people walked through there, they could get too close to that cliff,” he said. “So I’ll have a fence put up sometime this week.”

But, Harding says if people really want to, they’ll find ways to get through.

“If kids or local residents want access they’ll just cut the fence down and go there anyways, so we’ll have to keep our eye on it and make sure that it doesn’t get cut.”

He says park visitors and locals should always feel welcome to report any problems with their parks.

“If people aren’t happy with our parks we like to hear about it so we can do something about it,” Harding said.

A new piece of fence was to be put up over the gap to the right of this barrier in Botany Hill Park at the end of this week, said the park manager.Though the bluff has eroded substantially, the new plants growing on the fence and eroded slope do indicate the bluff is becoming stronger due to a limestone “armour wall” built at its base, an official from Toronto Water says.

“Since we’ve built that wall, you can see there’s a lot of greenery growing on it [the slope] so that means that the bank is stabilized . . . enough for vegetation to grow on it,” said Don Sorel, manager of construction and maintenance services at Toronto Water.

Erosion has been a huge problem all along Highland Creek, which borders the east side of the park.

Since Aug. 22, 2005, Toronto Water, in partnership with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, has been working to fix the damages, most of which occurred in the flood of August 2005.

Repairs in the section near Botany Hill Park are still ongoing and Sorel expects them to finish in 2010 or 2011 at a cost of about $10 million.

Sorel says he’s pleased with the way the project has gone so far.

“We’ve had a lot of good input and I feel right now that the work we’ve done to date has been very successful.”