Imagine being underneath a row of power lines and instead of seeing a desolate sea of brown and green tall grass along a hydro corridor, the scene is full of wildflowers and the wings of hundreds of butterflies struggling against the breeze. That could all soon be a possibility.
A new city initiative — the Scarborough Centre Butterfly Meadow — is a pilot project put together by the City of Toronto, Hydro One and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) to make that vision a reality.
A new meadow spreads out from McCowan Road to Scarborough Golf Club Road along 88 hectares of Scarborough’s desolate hydro corridor, where the project overseers are looking to naturalize and beautify the area for public use.
This is the first year in the meadow’s life cycle and if all goes according to plan, both the City of Toronto and the TRCA will look at expanding the project.
Councilor Glenn De Baermaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre) has been a huge advocate in making use of the empty hydro corridor space.
“I proposed the meadow three years ago,” De Baermaeker said. “It’s my hope that this is a first step to the re-naturalization of the rest of the hydro corridor. If we can prove with this pilot project that we can take 100 acres and make it beautiful and workable then why not expand.”
The meadow will be cultivated over three years and while most of the planting and upkeep will be handled by the TRCA and City of Toronto, local schools like Bendale Junior Public will assist in stewardship of the meadow.
“I’m very pleased so far,” De Baermaeker said. “The first year we might not see a lot of colour, but so far there have been some nice blooms already. And next year is expected to be more active and colorful.”
Currently, plants are just starting to take root and spread.
“What the experts have told me is by Year 3, the meadow will be at its most colourful,” De Baermaeker said. “If people could see hundreds of butterflies filling this space, then we would have reached the ‘awestruck’ vision that we planned for.”
John Stille, a representative from the TRCA says the new butterfly meadow will set the bar for developing more of the cuty-wide hydro corridor.
“Establishing a meadow like this in an urban environment like Toronto is unprecedented,” Stille said. “A project like this is a great fit with hydro corridors because there are limitations to what you can plant there in terms of height so meadows are the perfect answer to using these types of spaces effectively.”
According to the TRCA the meadow, which sits southwest of Rouge Park, serves a multi-use purpose as a staging area for birds and small animals passing through.
“We have planted a variety of wildflowers, shrubs and grasses: swamp milkweed, dogwood and chokecherries to name a few,” Stille said. “We aren’t just interested in insects. We want to provide for local birds and animals as well that flock to Rouge Park.”
Stille also explained there is a small water feature planned for the meadow but needs to be approved by both Hydro One and the City of Toronto first.