Dozens of trees have fallen over the edge of the crumbling bluffs in Botany Hill Park, off Ellesmere Road.
But if better barriers aren’t put up, it’s obvious human life could be at risk as well.
The drop-off, at least 20 metres at its summit and visible from the road, begins just past the tennis courts and is blocked off by a single fence with a couple of beat-up signs warning people to stay away.
A recent visit to the park shows that people have no trouble getting past the fence, as several sets of footprints lead around it, right to the edge of the dangerous drop to the valley below.
Despite repeated phone calls, officials from both Toronto Parks and Toronto Water could not be reached for comment.
But it’s clear the erosion near this park is being caused by the movement of Highland Creek below the bluffs, says Don Haley, a flood control engineer with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.
“What’s usually happening is the river is pulling away material at the bottom of the slope,” Haley says. “The slope continues to fall down towards the creek and then the river comes up and moves that material out of the way.”
“It [the river] sort of keeps eating away at the bottom of the slope.”
Construction work was seen being done in the valley and a wall is being built at the base of the bluffs.
Haley, though not absolutely sure what work the city is doing, says this is probably to keep the river from removing soil from the bottom of the bluffs. Once that is done, the slope will stabilize and trees will grow back, he says.
Erosion is also an issue in Morningside Park, just east of Botany Hill Park. Paths and bridges that were washed away in the storm of August 2005 have yet to be fixed there.
Haley says the city has just started construction works there as part of a project to repair erosion all along Highland Creek.
Studies are also being done which look at the repairs in a more environmentally friendly way than before.
“It’s basically a more adaptive approach,” Haley says. “Before we used to say, ‘Oh it washed out this area here . . . we’ll put in some stone here and stop the river from moving in this direction.’
“It wasn’t looking at . . . how the river is moving and how it’s going to move in the future.”
The studies will help the city figure out if it’s possible to move paths and bridges out of the river’s way and let it flow naturally, Haley says.
Milan Ninkovic, who visits Morningside often, hopes the city makes a decision about repairs soon so that the park can be fully enjoyed by everyone.
“I think that parks like this are very beneficial and very special for this city because not too many urban areas in the world have such wonderful spaces right in the middle of the city,” he says.