The problems with eastern Toronto’s Taylor Massey Creek are clear, Janet Davis concedes, even if the water is not. What’s also murky are the solutions- especially a financial solution, says the city councillor for East York.
The creek runs from the southeast corner of East York in a northwesterly direction – heading toward the Don River. Government, environmentalists and other activists have been attempting to restore its surroundings and improve its water quality for years, mainly through the Taylor Massey Project.
Last week, Davis held a community consultation for the project at the Stan Wadlow Clubhouse. The meeting featured a panel of representatives who are working directly in and around the creek to improve the water and naturalize the area.
The project was founded in 2003 by a group of volunteers intent on protecting and restoring Taylor Massey Creek’s watershed. Its history and other information is at the website www.thetmp.org.
At the Nov. 2 meeting, East Yorkers were given the opportunity to address different problems affecting the creek and Taylor Creek Park, a recreation area off of Dawes Road.
Davis provided four enlarged maps that show the creek in detail, and distributed Post-it notes for residents to mark on the maps any problems they’re aware of, from broken benches to bad smells and washroom maintenance.
“The people who know best about what improvements are needed in our parks are the people who use it [daily],” Davis said. “So I want to hear from users in the park what kinds of things would make it better for them.”
She told those who attended the meeting that she would make note of the problems they brought to her attention, but that there were no easy solutions, because funding is required to correct a majority of them. But she did say it would be easier to budget funds to correct the problems once she knows what they are.
“What I want to do is make sure I understand from residents the kinds of things they would like to see to improve [Taylor Creek],” Davis said.
She added that she understands how important the park is to the community.
“Taylor Creek Park is the jewel of this ward. It’s the heart. It’s the largest green space and it’s the most utilized recreational venue [in East York],” she said.
Davis held a community meeting regarding the Taylor Massey Project three years ago – and took this opportunity to update residents on the different programs being run.
“The city is undertaking major work to improve water quality through the Wet Weather Flow project,” she said.
The Wet Weather Flow project is a long-term plan to find ways to prevent runoff water from rain and melting snow from entering sanitary sewers. The program has been in place since 2003, and details of the findings can be viewed at www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/cleanwaterways.
Another program being run by Toronto Water is the Environment Monitoring and Protection project administered by Toronto Water. It is an ongoing program designed to find and correct any “crossed connections” to ensure polluted water is not being flowed directly into the creek.
“Our staff sends out notices to homeowners that are affected so that we can do property dye tracing,” Joanne DiCaro, the manager for the program, said.
“[Workers] will put in a non-toxic dye, and wait to see which manhole the dye appears in. If the dye appears in the storm sewer system, then we know we have a cross connection.”
Residents aren’t in danger of getting water that is polluted coming out of their taps, but polluted water leaving their homes might end up going into one of the runoffs that are destined for the creek.
DiCaro said the project has been in place since 2005, when a large industrial spill caused Taylor Massey Creek to turn red.
Friends of the Don East (FODE) president Andrew Strachan agrees that cross connections are a huge problem for the creek.
“One of the bigger issues is the storm water and the sewage that gets into the creek,” Strachan said. While he credits FODE with getting the community involved in initiatives, he said they wouldn’t be nearly as successful without Davis’ help.
“We’re lucky to have Janet,” Strachan said. “She’s on our side. She’s environmentally conscious. She’s a good councillor to have on our side.”
East York resident Malcolm Geast is a regular runner and cyclist who uses the trails in Taylor Creek Park. His biggest complaint about the park is the amount of water pooling.
“Down by Dawes Road, there’s a puddle that goes right across the path,” Geast said. “It’s pretty deep. You can ride a bike through it but there’s no way you can run through it. So I don’t run up there anymore.”
Geast did his part by putting a Post-it up on the board to indicate the problem area. He said the meeting was helpful because it identified the different programs in place.