Table of Contents
- Parks, Forestry & Recreation
- City-Operated Golf Course Review
- Stewardship in Public Ravines and Natural Areas
- Midtown Ravines Group
- Ravine Strategy Implementation
- Don Valley Layover Facility
- East Toronto Railpath
- Winter Access to Toronto’s Parks
Parks, Forestry & Recreation
The Parks, Forestry & Recreation Division ensures that people in the diverse communities of Toronto have full and equitable access to high-calibre, locally responsive recreation programs, efficiently operated facilities, and safe, clean and beautiful parks, open spaces, ravines and forests. The Division is organized into six branches:
- Community Recreation
- Urban Forestry
- Management Services
- Parks Development & Capital Projects
- Policy & Strategic Planning
For more information, please contact the Toronto Parks Department.
City-Operated Golf Course Review
In June, 2021, the City initiated an operational review of our five City-operated golf course locations to better understand how to maximize golf and non-golf experiences.
A City-wide online survey was available from June 14 to July 12, 2021 to collect thoughts, ideas and preferences on the future of Golf Courses in Toronto. One virtual community meeting was hosted for each of the five City-operated courses. Participant s learned more about the operational review, and shared their thoughts and perspectives on the future of specific golf courses in breakout discussions. The June 14 Presentation was reviewed at each of the five community meetings. A virtual public meeting also took place on June 14.
FoNTRA submitted a letter to the Coordinator of the Golf Course Review initiative on July 28, 2021 expressing the opinion that as several of the City’s courses are strategically located in Toronto’s ravine system that we should consider how they might dovetail with trail-based activities, and other recreational opportunities in places near to nodes of high population, with few other recreational opportunities. It was noted that in some cases, current gold courses cut off natural connections between trails. FoNTRA advocated making multi-use trail connections across the publicly owned courses to open them up to all users.
Since June, 2021 staff have been analyzing course data and reviewing feedback collected from thousands through the community engagement process to inform the development of the operational review report and recommendations to Council.
These will be presented to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on January 11, 2022 and City Council on February 2, 2022. The reports will be available in advance of the January 11, 2022 meeting of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee.
The General Manager of Parks Forestry and Recreation and the Chief Procurement Office of Purchasing and Materials Management presented the results of this review to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee (I&E) on January 11, 2022. The Report for Action detailed the review of seven golf courses – two are leased out and five are operated by the City under a mixed model (golf course assets and turf are maintained by the City, green fees are set by City Council, and golf pro shop management and food and beverage operations are contracted out under two separate agreements). The Report was supplemented by Appendix l Operational Review, Appendix 2 Alternative and Complimentary Use Analysis, and Appendix 3 Engagement Summary Report.
Nineteen Recommendations were presented, summarized as follows:
- Issue a request for proposals for the operation of 5 golf courses
- Apply the Welcome Policy towards Junior Memberships
- Negotiate arrangements with golf governing bodies and associations to deliver programming to expand access to the sport
- Maintain the Dentonia Park Golf Course, while exploring opportunities for further year-round recreation, multi-use arrangements, increased accessibility and affordability for golf use, and access to Taylor Massey Creek trail ravine
- Plan and design to create a safe access and entry way from Earl Bales Park to the Don Valley Golf Course for off-season access and use
- Collect data to obtain a general profile of golf course users; define how this data can be used to help shape future golf management policy
- Ensure maintenance practices and vendor operations incorporate best environmental practices
- Advance Parkland and Ravine Strategies on the golf courses, regarding ravine access and trail connections
- Prioritize tree planting and natural-area restoration with a focus on native species and reduce pesticide use
- Enhance support of off-season public access, and expand complementary in-season programming aligned with Indigenous communities’ and local communities’ priorities
- Integrate the City’s climate, sustainability, equity, social and partnership objectives
- Advance Indigenous placemaking opportunities with the Indigenous Affairs Office and Aboriginal Affairs Advisory Committee, and other Indigenous partners
- Align with the City’s recently adopted TransformTO Net Zero Strategy by first quarter 2023
- Develop opportunities to increase access to golf programs for underrepresented groups in the sport
- Explore opportunities to improve access to Taylor Massey trail ravine from Dentonia Park Golf Course
- To review establishing a City Golf Steering Committee
- Implement an on-line payment system for 2022
- Identify feasible golf course locations to install temporary natural skating rinks and trails
- Report on opportunities for trail connections between the Taylor Park ravine and Dentonia Park Golf Course by second quarter of 2023
The I&E Committee adopted the item with amendments on January 11, 2022.
A Supplementary Report was published on January 24, 2022 for the February 2 City Council Meeting on lease arrangements and financial information for the Royal Woodbine and Centennial Park golf courses.
This item was adopted by City Council on February 2, 2022 with an additional amendment requesting that: Further opportunities be explored for increased partnership and programming opportunities on the golf courses for the 2022 season, with emphasis on further achievement of objectives outlined in Recommendation 14 and to include local community groups, existing programs, and new additional opportunities as part of future operational Request for Proposals.
For more information, please contact the City of Toronto Golf Course Operations.
Stewardship in Public Ravines and Natural Areas
The City and the TRCA have a number of strategy documents that commit to addressing ravine health. Each of these strategies calls for Toronto’s citizens to have an expanded role in taking action to restore the health of our ravines and natural areas. The City, alone, is not equipped to handle the threats of invasive plants, improving biodiversity and litter. Councillor James Pasternak submitted a letter to the Executive Committee on Nov. 3, 2020 on a Manual for Stewardship in Public Ravines and Natural Area.
The Executive Committee adopted the item with amendments on Nov, 18, 2020 and it was adopted by City Council on Nov. 25, 2020.
A draft Stewardship Manual, prepared by students in the University of Toronto’s Forestry Program and the Toronto Ravines Revitalization Science consortium was presented for review. With the draft manual as a starting point, the City of Toronto proposed a pilot project in collaboration with Toronto Nature Stewards to develop an evolving set of best management practices and practices in stewarding a site, as well as a Curriculum, taught by by experts and professionals in ecological restoration, to train Lead Stewards who can then lead volunteers in stewardship programs.
A report on Ravine Strategy is to be made to the Executive Committee in early 2022.
Midtown Ravines Group
The Midtown Ravines Group is an incorporated non-profit organization formed by seven Residents’ Associations in Midtown Toronto, working for better ecological balance and improved park use in ravines in Midtown Toronto. The member associations are the ABC Residents Association, the Bloor East Neighbourhood Association, the Deer Park Residents Group, the Moore Park Residents Association, the North and South Rosedale Residents Associations, the Governors Bridge Ratepayers Association and the Summerhill Residents Association.
The Midtown Ravines Group’s advocacy resulted in our ravines becoming one of ten priority areas for the City’s 10 year $100 million investment in ravine remediation. This group also resulted in the development of the Seeds to Saplings program, which works with teachers with the objective of teaching students how to grow native trees from seeds to saplings and to identify invasive plants. Students then take action to increase the quality of local ecosystems by planting the native trees they grow.
As stated by the North Rosedale Residents Association “the natural beauty and inherent value of these green assets should not be taken for granted. All are under increasing pressure of various kinds. We are delighted to be able to work alongside our neighbours in continuing to preserve and enhance our outdoor spaces.”
Ravine Strategy Implementation
Toronto’s ravine system extends over 300 km and cover 11,000 hectares, or 17 percent of Toronto’s land area. Over half (5700 hectares) of ravine system land is publicly owned parkland. The remaining 40 percent is owned by a patchwork of landowners, including public institutions and private property owners, and includes approximately 30,000 private addresses.
In October 2017, City Council adopted the Toronto Ravine Strategy, and directed Parks Forestry and Recreation, City Planning, Toronto Water, Transportation Services and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to establish an interdivisional 10-year implementation strategy and capital plan for the Ravine Strategy.
The Executive Committee adopted Ravine Strategy Implementation with amendments on January 23, 2020; it was adopted with amendments by City Council on January 29, 2020.
The Report for Action stated “Of the twenty Ravine Strategy Actions to date, two have been completed, sixteen are in progress, and the remaining two are not yet started. The work of protecting, managing, and improving the ravine system will always be ongoing, and require leadership and careful attention to balancing the needs of supporting public access to ravine areas, while protecting and restoring ecological areas. This report outlines steps taken by multiple Divisions to engage in that work. In addition to reporting out on the eight council motions, this report responds to a renewed interest and commitment in ravine conservation and engagement both within the City and with stakeholders and the public. The Ravine Strategy Implementation report also outlines a balanced approach to funding the ravine system over the long term. This includes recommending some immediate investments to address urgent needs and to ensure the system does not fall farther behind, including a substantial increase in the service levels of invasive species management and increased ravine litter collection.”
The General Manager, Parks, Forestry and Recreation presented the “Toronto Ravine Study Implementation Report” to the Executive Committee on January 23, 2020.
The Midtown Ravine Group made a submission to support the staff recommendations; to support accelerating the increase in the Parks, Forestry and Recreation operating funds to 2020; to support an increased capital budget; and to recommend other initiatives that would speed up ravine remediation. Seventeen directives were adopted as the key next steps to implement the Ravine Strategy over the next ten years. Unsupervised stewardship led by trained Lead Stewards was one of the directives which has been acted upon by Toronto Nature Stewards’ member volunteers and local citizens.
Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation has been an invaluable partner to Toronto Nature Stewards throughout the Pilot Program. While staff was involved in the reviewing and approving the pilot sites, reviewing of Best Management Practices for invasive plant removal, as well as facilitating communications with other City divisions, these were mostly one-time “set up costs” and the program is not expected to consume significant staff resources going forward. The program is designed to make it safe, effective, and scalable while being affordable. Plans for 2022 include expanding the geographic scope of the program into more Wards in addition to developing more Best Management Practices for additional species and planting native species. Twenty-five new volunteers have stepped up to become Lead Stewards at new sites in 2022 and 23 new sites have been submitted to Parks, Forestry and Recreation for their consideration and approval.
TNS continues to meet with Indigenous leaders and get their perspectives on the stewardship program and help make additional connections in the community. Members have made multiple trips to the indigenous teaching lodge on the Humber, meeting with Doug Anderson and John La Rose who have shared some of their traditional knowledge on restoring the land and have been very supportive of the pilot program and stewarding land together.
Toronto Nature Stewards reflects the desire of many residents to look after parts of Toronto’s 11,000 ha of ravines; to turn the words of the Toronto Ravine Strategy, Biodiversity Strategy and Pollinator Strategy into action. The volunteer run, self-funded program compliments and enhances what the City is trying to do with its limited resources for such a large area. Activities include litter pickup, removal of garlic mustard, dog-strangling vine, Japanese knotweed, burdock, monitoring and more. The current draft of the public manual continues to be field-tested during the pilot program and feedback and learnings will be incorporated in an updated version.
Toronto Nature Stewards are also developing a Private Land Stewardship Manual, and are testing out manual content on private property. Private ravine land encompasses private homes, as well as corporations, schools, and apartments buildings. With private property covering over 40% of Toronto’s ravine land, stewardship from private property owners is more important than ever.
Don Valley Layover Facility
Metrolinx has proposed a major train layover and service facility in the Don Valley on the west side of the Don Valley Parkway, north of the Prince Edward Viaduct, as part of the GO expansion program. The facility will be used to park and service diesel trains from the Milton Line, serving areas west of Toronto. The parkland in this area has been designated as Natural Heritage in the Toronto Official Plan, with decades of restoration and revitalization effort from both the city and volunteers. The proposed facility will require a retaining wall up to 35′ high adjacent to the Don Valley floodplain, and two access roads to service the trains at track level and provide access to the parking for employees and service vehicles. While FoNTRA supports and encourages improvements to public transit, the location of this layover facility is cause for concern due to its impact on the parkland and watershed.
In 2020, City Council directed the City Manager and the Executive Director, Transit Expansion Office to advise Metrolinx that the City strongly recommends that Metrolinx undertake a study, in consultation with the City, General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, which considers the possible impacts of this proposed facility on the Don Valley Park, and the implications for the City’s Ravine Strategy, and a full range of alternative solutions and locations for the Don Valley Layover Facility Metrolinx is proposing as a part of its GO Expansion project. Metrolinx ignored this recommendation. In response, in June 2021, the City and FoNTRA requested that the federal government use their authority to conduct a Federal Impact Assessment Study. The federal government responded that the project does not fall under their regulations.
FoNTRA summarized their concerns about the project in their January 2021 letter, and has requested that Metrolinx make the effort to reach out to, and actively engage residents associations on both sides of the Don Valley.
For more information see:
- No Trains in Parks
- Metrolinx plan for new rail yards raise concerns in Thorncliffe Park, Don Valley – Don’t Mess with the Don
- Metrolinx – What’s Next? – North Rosedale News – December 3, 2021 (page 7)
- Metrolinx’ ill-considered Don Valley layover – Steve Munro, transit blog
East Toronto Railpath
Councillor M. Layton (Ward 11) and the residents in the Governors’ Bridge neighbourhood have been exploring how to complete ‘The Missing Link’ and build the East Toronto Railpath. The abandoned bridge is known as the “Half-Mile Bridge”. The bridge is just 350 metres long. It was built to connect CPR’s mainline through Midtown Toronto with Downtown and the waterfront, allowing passenger trains to access Union Station. It was last used by passenger trains in 1990, with only an occasional freight use since. Today it is disused. It is owned by Metrolinx – at a recent meeting, Metrolinx confirmed that they have no plans to use this property in the future.
This has become an informal walking and cycling trail. The Governor’s Bridge Lookout is also just steps away. Detail design is underway for a Revitalization of the Lookout which features breathtaking views of the City. Along with the realization of the East Toronto Railpath proposal, exciting new trail opportunities will exist in the Don Valley Park. A trail through this land can become an important part of an active transportation network of trails to connect to the Evergreen Brickworks, Waterfront Trail, and the West Toronto Railpath.
The Infrastructure and Environment Committee considered this Item IE25.17 on Creating the East Toronto Railpath on Oct 26, 2021 adopting the motions without amendment. FoNTRA submitted a supporting letter to recreate this hidden asset as a treasured active transportation gem.
Motions were adopted to request the City Manager (1) to evaluate the potential purchase of the rail path lands and ‘Half-Mile Bridge’ from Metrolinx along with the adjacent property above Nesbitt Drive to create the East Toronto Railpath and report back to City Council before June 2022; (2) should Metrolink be unwilling to sell the property, attempt to enter into a lease agreement and (3) then instruct the appropriate staff to strike a working group to help develop the East Toronto Railpath in consultation with the local Councillors.
City Council adopted the item without amendments and without debate on Nov. 9, 2021.
Winter Access to Toronto’s Parks
Since Oct. 2020, Parks, Forestry and Recreation has expanded snow clearing on park pathways and trails and made more washrooms operational in the 2020/21 winter season. The General Manager, Parks, Forestry and Recreation was asked to report to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee by the third quarter of 2021 on additional enhancements for the 2021/22 winter season.
A Report for Action was presented by the General Manager, Parks, Recreation and Forestry at the Oct. 26, 2021 meeting of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee. Further winter improvements for the 2021/2022 season through three initiatives were proposed:
- Alignment of winter maintenance services with Transportation Services which will clear pathways and trails in 40 new park locations and provide enhanced winter maintenance in 35 additional parks.
- A pilot for alternative winter maintenance that could be used in Environmentally Significant Areas, in ravines and on bridges.
- Interim enhancements of up to 5 additional washrooms to allow for their operation through the 2021/2022 winter season.
FoNTRA submitted a letter supporting the recommendations as increased access to parks and park facilities in winter will improve residents’ health and well-being, both physical and mental.
The Infrastructure and Environment Committee recommended that City Council request the General Manager, Parks, Recreation and Forestry (1) include a submission for consideration in the 2022 Budget process for funding to support expanded winter maintenance and winter washroom access, implement the pilot for alternative winter maintenance impacting Environmentally Significant Areas, ravines and bridges, and develop a new winter washroom enhancement program; and (2) implement the pilot for alternative winter maintenance impacting Environmentally Significant Areas, ravines and bridges for the 2021-2022 winter season, subject to availability of funding through the 2022 Budget process. The motions were adopted by City Council on Nov. 9, 2021 without amendment.