Tag Archives: Toronto

September 2016 Construction Progress Report.

The finished product - at this end anyway.

The finished product – at this end anyway.

The finished appearance of the retaining wall is now evident at its southern end with a green vegetative planting just starting to sprout on the slope at the top of the wall. Regardless, there’s still a long way to go. It also looks as if the homeowner with riparian rights has now wisely decided to take advantage of the opportunity and so construction has begun further upstream. The original intent was to construct the wall along the full length and that now seems to be the plan.


A nice cross-section is visible from the northern end of the wall. (click to enlarge)

Astonishingly, even after all this effort, the work looks as if it’s only about 40% done and so there is a long, long way to go before this project can be signed off. The wall construction was originally scheduled for completion this past spring with brick removal from the access area and subsequent landscaping to take place this fall. Obviously, that ain’t gonna happen. My estimate at the current rate of construction is that they’ll be lucky to have the project completed and everything restored by the end of 2017. This seems to have been quite a miscalculation by the planners. The project was to cost a maximum of $250,000.

I’ll bet that marker was skated past months ago.


Signs of spring

Winter is finally over – the signs are everywhere but interestingly, native plants are some of the last to leaf and bloom, possibly as a protection from our continental climate’s treacherous ability to produce late snowfalls and frosts.

Imports feel no such constraint. Alongside the old path that follows the curve of the river, some old exotic plants remain from the days when people had homes by the water. Many of these remnants of domestication are unnoticed but somehow they have survived and stand as a mute testament to the victims of Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

An exotic tiny blossom.

An exotic tiny blossom.

Day lilies carpet this fertile flood-prone corner of the park.

Day lilies carpet this fertile flood-prone corner of the park.

A lilac bush has begun to leaf and flower buds are set to bloom in a couple of weeks.

A lilac bush has begun to leaf and flower buds are set to bloom in a couple of weeks.

This pond was eroded out of the ground a few years ago as a result of an ice-jam temporarily diverting the river. It was promptly occupied by eastern American toads. No sign of the eggs or tadpoles yet.

This pond was carved out of the ground a few years ago as a result of an ice-jam temporarily diverting the river. It was promptly occupied by eastern American toads. No sign of this year’s eggs or tadpoles yet.

A carpet of toad lilies has sprung up in the woods south of the weir.

A carpet of toad lilies has sprung up in the woods south of the weir.

Toad lilies up close.

Toad lilies up close.

Toad lilies.

Cut leaved toothwort in the woods.

Retaining Wall Update April 12

It’s truly astonishing seeing the scope of this work and the seemingly glacial pace at which it is trundling along. As of last weekend, not much has changed except that the new bridge has had its eastern abutment extended to the far bank.

The bridge with its extended abutment.

The bridge with its extended abutment.

The result of the new abutment is to constrict the river at this point and warnings have been placed south of the bridge about the dangerous flow.

A close-up of the abutment.

A close-up of the abutment.

The extended abutment from downstream.

The extended abutment from downstream.


The faster flowing water downstream.


Off-Leash Area Update


The proposed area may have grown (probably northwards) by a small amount because of the addition of a separate small dog section. There was some discussion as to the nature of the surface of the area which apparently will be 4-6″ of pea gravel on top of a mesh filter which will help with drainage. As mentioned, plans are to divide the area into two parts for small and large dogs so there will be two gates and two paved pathways from the Pan-Am Trail for access. The small dog area would be for dogs 20 lbs and under. Regardless, all dogs should be under the owner’s control at all times. Dangerous dogs should not use the area. See Code of Conduct below.*

Fencing will be post and paddle, 1.5 m tall and made of northern pine. It will be reinforced with wire mesh 4-6″ deep to deter dogs that dig. Benches will be installed for owners.

There will be a delay in the opening of the area because of work currently ongoing on the retaining wall. This is taking longer than expected. There is only one entrance to the park and so the retaining wall and another job – an upgrade to the path will be done first; after that, sewer work will be ongoing. The reckoning is that the area will take about a month to set up and will be open by ‘Thanksgiving at the latest’.

One piece of good news is that TRCA has plans to plant trees along the north end of the area and between the area and the ravine slope. This will provide storm runoff relief and shade for the area (and perhaps some sound mitigation for nearby homes).

Hours of operation: 7 am – 9 pm but locals will be able to access the area at any time. The parking lot will continue to be locked at 9:30pm daily and re-open at 8:00am and will be closed for the Winter between November 1st and April 30.

There was a reminder to residents that the area will be self-policing and that they should supervise and pick up after their pets. There was confusion as to where to put dog waste – in the garbage or the recycling. This will be cleared up later (the location not the waste).

Sadly there is still no link on the City website to the plans or even the current state of off-leash parks.

*Code of Conduct for Off Leash Area

Municipal Code Chapter #608

  1. Comply with all signs and boundaries.
  2. Dog(s) must be on leash at all times except when in the designated off-leash area.
  3. All dog(s) must have a visible municipal license affixed to the dog(s).
  4. Dog(s) must remain in off-leash area so as not to trample or endanger plant material and other park resources.
  5. Dog(s) excluded from off-leash areas include:
    1. Pit Bulls or other dangerous animal
    2. Female dogs in heat
    3. Any dog(s) that has been issued a muzzle order by the Medical Officer of Health.
  6. Dogs shall not chase wildlife.
  7. Pick up after your dog(s) and place waste in receptacle or take home for disposal.
  8. Keep dogs in sight and under control at all times.
  9. Do not leave dog(s) unattended while in off-leash area.
  10. Repair holes dug by the dog(s) under your control.

Violation of Bylaws are punishable by fines.

Retaining Wall Update: Blocks Arrive

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 9.48.53 AM

The official diagram showing the working area of the project.

Truck after truck of old brick rubble came trundling into the park last week to consolidate the staging / stockpiling area. All of this material will eventually have to be scraped up and carted off again; probably late next month. No doubt this will have added substantially to the cost. Meanwhile, big blocks that will form the new retaining wall have arrived.

Mild weather has brought new problems, this time for pedestrians and cyclists; mud. This mud is unavoidable for anyone wishing to travel past the construction. It might be helpful if the construction crew – ever vigilant for pedestrians (wishing to stay clean) straying through the paved area – could spread some wood chips to make life easier and cleaner for people.

Large machinery resting on the base.

Large machinery resting on the base.


A close-up of the base.

A close-up of the base.


Blocks for the retaining wall are waiting to be installed. The fence is about 6' high.

Blocks for the retaining wall are ready to be installed. The fence is about 6′ high.


The blocks are natural stone.

The blocks are natural stone and should last a few years!


This is the treacherous route for people moving past the construction.

This is the slippery quagmire for pedestrians and cyclists. Wood chips will help greatly here.


Cyclists have obviously made their mark.

Cyclists are making their mark.

Update: Wood chips were quickly applied to the quagmire making things easier for the pedestrians who must pass through.

Where’s Winter?

Warning: heavy geek content.

Meteorological winter is here as of December 1 and the sun has almost reached its lowest point in the sky. Even though we’re nearly 4 million km closer to the sun than we were in June, the low angle in the sky and short daylight hours ensure a limited amount of heat. There is an El Niño event occurring this year; rainfall amounts are down and temperatures have been considerably above average so far. Because the way the earth accelerates at this point on its way around the sun we have reached our earliest sunset time of 4:41pm while mornings will continue to darken until the end of the month.

The sun was 23.9° above the horizon at noon today.

Looking south towards the location of the proposed dog park. At celestial noon (12:09pm), the sun was 23.8° above the horizon. On December 22nd, it will appear to be only 23° above the horizon and then begin to recover until June 21 when it will peak at 69.8°.

Not a trace of ice by the river.

Not a trace of ice by the river.

As a result of the mild weather there are some plants that have not yet gone into dormancy and they are a probable indication of what global warming will bring to Toronto’s climate if temperatures continue to rise.

A dandelion in flower.

A dandelion in flower.

A wild rose has retained its leaves.

A wild rose has retained its leaves.

Moss feeds on an old tree stump.

Moss feeds on an old tree stump.

Garlic mustard lurks in the undergrowth.

Garlic mustard lurks in the undergrowth.

The downside of such mild weather is that in wooded areas, and especially if warming affects Canada’s boreal forest, leaves on the ground slowly decompose when in a normal winter they would be compressed by snow and their carbon content preserved. This decomposition releases carbon dioxide, reducing the natural carbon sink effect of the boreal forest.

On a lighter note, although it’s quite common in Toronto for winter to begin in earnest after Christmas, this winter there is a feeling that we may be getting off lightly.

After the last two winters, let’s hope so.

Tennis players enjoying a mild December in Lions Park.

Tennis players enjoying a mild December in neighbouring Lions Park.



A Sad Explanation

Faithful readers may have noticed an abrupt decline in output since December 2013. The problem started on July 8, of that year – a date that has etched itself onto my memory (believe me that’s hard at my age). On that fateful dark and stormy day, the rain came down for hours apparently creating a new one-day rainfall record. Comparisons to Hurricane Hazel were aired in the media but the difference between the two events is put into perspective here. Our latest big storm while significant for its intensity, was relatively tame when compared to Hazel in 1954.

July 9 2013 - water levels begin to subside.

July 9 2013 – water levels beginning to subside.

Anyway, I digress. At the height of the storm, our power went out and after a while, I trotted down to the basement to dig out a radio to find out what was happening. One’s subconscious is an amazing thing – it monitors thoughts and sensations without judgement and leaves it to the conscious brain to make sense of it. While descending the stairs and trying to remember where the radio was; gently nudging my brain were the following sensations: darkness, the sound of rain outside, running water inside(!), a musty smell(!) – none of which registered until I hit the bottom of the stairs and I stepped into several centimetres of flowing water and sewage. Gritting my teeth and squelching through the dark with a flashlight, several floor drains were found to be the source, gushing sewage with considerable force. Luckily, our basement is at ground level at the back so I was able to open a door and allow the smelly effluent an ungraceful exit.

Needless to say, the volume of rain had swamped the combined sanitary and storm sewer system resulting in several flooded basements in our neighbourhood and in neighbourhoods across the city. The sheer number of people affected overwhelmed insurance companies along with mitigation and construction contractors. It took us two days to get someone out to begin the clean-up process. Adjusters were brought in from Texas – they proved to be useless and eventually (after a great deal of arm-twisting) it took a Canadian adjuster to approve a fair settlement which we received in October. All the basement flooring had to be removed along with drywall to a height of about 3 feet. In addition, we decided to go the extra mile and renovate the rest of the house. We packed everything into boxes as if we were moving and stored the boxes in the garage and bathrooms. Work commenced in December and was completed by the end of February 2014. While the work was under way, we rented a cottage on Lake Erie near the charming town of Dunnville.

Our frail and elderly bulldog Mugsey managed to injure himself on the first day at the cottage and required nursing and emergency vet visits (think All Creatures Great and Small where they’re quite comfortable treating horses and cattle). He never really recovered and after an operation to remove some tumours in March, the vet discovered that he had spondylosis and a mass by his neck that seemed to be paralyzing him gradually. by June, he was unable to walk more than a few steps and his stomach had become bloated with gas. My wife and I made the horrible decision to put him down on June 16 as it became harder to blunt his pain and other than food and treats, he was unable to be Mugsey.

Mugsey on the day we brought him home April 2003

Mugsey on the day we brought him home in April 2003

We had lived with Mugsey for over 11 years. He was an incredible, intelligent and (usually) happy boy who lived for his daily hour-long walks in the park. He provided moral support and comfort to my wife through her prolonged illness and when word got out that his life was ending, some of his greatest fans came to bid him a fond farewell. Gorging himself on previously forbidden treats he was petted and caressed one last time before his final drive to the vet. Even though he was in terrible shape and in pain despite lots of Gabapentin, he knew by gestures (he had become totally deaf in the previous year) that it was time for one last car ride. He tottered unsteadily to his feet and waited for his lifejacket to be fastened. This device with its carrying handles at the top had helped us many times to get his 80lb bulk up and down steps and into the car.

There are moments of crystal clarity when events are seared into the memory. Walking from the car to the vet’s office that last time is one of those. The late afternoon sun shone brightly and people passed us, getting on with their lives, oblivious to the final minutes of Mugsey’s life. In my head was the unsettling thought, ‘I’m going to kill my pet’, yet the world didn’t know or seem to care. He sniffed the usual spots along the way and once inside, plonked himself on a blanket in the vet’s office (as he had done many times for laser treatments) and lay quietly on his side keeping an eye on me to make sure that I was still there with him. The act of betrayal pressed heavily on me as I lay beside him and second-guessed our decision. Bravely, he didn’t flinch as the vet needed a couple of tries to find a vein in his back leg that would carry the fatal injection. I kissed his head and gave him one last hug goodbye and he let out an enormous sigh as tranquillizer was released into his bloodstream. At that moment it seemed as if he could now stop holding it all together and drop the burden of pain and discomfort he had endured for so long. He became deeply unconscious and on the vet’s persistent advice, I left, as the final injection, while painless can produce a reaction in the form of movements that are distressing to owners. The walk back to the empty car without him was one of profound sadness, guilt and relief.

The house seemed empty for months afterwards. Even now, I catch myself thinking that he’s on the couch in the basement ready to snooze while we watch TV.

So anyway, this cathartic little posting is why it’s been quiet lately and I hope to begin walks in the park anew without our boy. We still miss him horribly. It won”t be the same without him.

Mugsey May 2013

Mugsey, May 2013