Citizens Concerned About the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront

Updated: Nov. 22, 2015

Proposed Skating Trail at Sam Smith Park

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On this page:

The Proposed Skating Trail (June 2008)

The Consultants’ Report (August 2008)

CCFEW’s EA Submission (September 2008)

MOE Response to our EA Application (December 2008)

Status of Marked Trees (February 2009)

Seeking Compromise Location (April 2009)

Progress toward a compromise location (May 2009)

Compromise Design Plan (June 2009)

Final Design (October 2009)

October 2009

Construction began on the trail in early October. The footprint of the trail remains as presented in June. Our suggestions were rejected, but the landscaping has been enhanced a bit. Plans are already being made for naturalization plantings in the remaining portion of the meadow. Below is an artist’s rendering of the completed trail. Click on the image to open it as a full sized pdf (908KB).


The final plan view is shown below. You can zoom and pan to see all the details.

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June 18, 2009

On June 5th, we received a revised drawing for the skating trail in a new location south-west of the Power House. While it is by no means ideal, it goes a long way toward the recommendations we made at the April meeting with City staff. This plan includes the removal of the south portion of the parking lot to allow the trail to be pushed further west

The revised plan is shown below. The red line is CCFEW’s suggested rerouting of the lower loop. To zoom in, click on the image or use the slider at the bottom.

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The plan clearly attempts to avoid a large tree labeled “373”, which is commendable, but a site visit reveals that this tree appears to be in very poor health. The tree is a large poplar. It is the last of a line of poplars that lined the east side of the parking lot until a few years ago. 

The image on the right was taken on our June 13th Bird Walk. There are virtually no leaves on the east side of the tree. If you zoom in, you can see many bare branches in the rest of the tree as well.

In our view, making long-term planning decisions based on this tree is not a good idea. It doesn’t look like it will last more than another year or so anyway. We would rather sacrifice a dying tree to increase the size of the meadow buffer.

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This is the text of the response we sent to Councillor Grimes:

    Thank you for directing staff to prepare the, ”Trail Alternative #4” dated April 30, 2009. This design reflects many of the recommendations from our April 29th meeting with City staff.

    Our first preference is still that the trail not be located in Colonel Samuel Smith Park, but if it has to go there, in the immediate vicinity of the Power House, Trail Alternative #4 the best design option the City has presented yet. While we appreciate the effort to save the large poplar, ”Tree 373”, we question the assertion that this tree is healthy, and believe that the design would be improved considerably by moving the trail as shown in red on the attached file ”Trail Plan 4b”. This alignment would significantly enhance the meadow buffer between the trail and the willow lowland community to the south, while maintaining the same number and radius of curves as well as a straight section. The attached image ”Tree 373” shows the state of the tree on June 13, 2009. This clearly shows the lack of leaves on the east side of the tree and also the numerous bare twigs through the rest of the tree. If the tree is deemed worth saving, the trail could still be realigned north and west of tree 373.

    An additional benefit of the suggested realignment is that in summer, the trail could join the existing north-south walkway, creating a path to the Power House. We would support the creation of a berm in the narrowed area between the two sections of the trail to help define the separation.

    We would expect there to be a public consultation meeting to present the final project plan to the community before it is put out to tender. We also expect some of the money budgeted for the project to be set aside for plantings next year in the meadow and woodlot north of the Power House to reestablish lost under-story habitat. We also expect that a citizens’ advisory board would be set up as soon as possible to work together with biologists from TRCA and Parks on that goal as their first project. CCFEW is willing to partner with the City and the TRCA to acquire grant money to augment those plantings.

May 5, 2009

On April 27th, there was a follow-up meeting toward finding an alternative to the plan to build the skating trail in the woodlot. As expressed in this letter to Councillor Grimes, we believe progress is being made on finding a better solution.

    Thank you for directing staff to explore the options discussed at our April 14th meeting about the proposed design for the ice skating trail in Col. Sam Smith Park. From the discussion at the April 29th meeting, it appears that it may be possible to locate the trail to the southwest of the Power House in such a way that it would be less environmentally damaging than north of the Power House, in the woodlot.

    Our first preference is that the trail not be located in Colonel Samuel Smith Park, but if it has to go there, in the immediate vicinity of the Power House, Trail Alternative 1 could be the basis for the best option. As drawn, we believe it still intrudes too far east into the meadow, but by pursuing some of the alternative suggestions raised at the meeting, we believe it could be made more acceptable. The meadow is an essential part of the wetland complex and needs to be protected so that it can continue, with future plantings and restoration, to act as a buffer to the wildlife corridor to the east and the willow lowland community to the south. The meadow will become even more important when North Creek is enhanced with increased water flow and riparian habitat.

    We welcome the idea of using currently paved areas such as the south end of the parking lot. We further suggest that in addition to the parking removed in Trail Alternative 1, the south entrance to the parking lot could be removed as well.

    We encourage you to consider moving the practice area further west, closer to the parking lot. This would help constrain the trail in the west of the meadow and may also be more workable with the existing grade.

    As shown in the sketches drawn at the meeting, there is no need for the two sides of the trail to be widely separated as long as a sufficient turning radius is maintained at the north end. This will help reduce intrusion into the meadow.

    We encourage the designers to make use of downward facing lighting for the trail to reduce detrimental effects on wildlife.

    We understand that later on this week the Project Manager will put together a composite drawing that represents the suggestions put forward by the community groups last Wednesday and that this will sent out to us for review and comments. If that drawing represents an acceptable compromise that offers the least impact on the meadow as possible, we understand that the engineers will go on to test the ground and prepare finished drawings by June at which time we would expect there to be a public consultation meeting to present the project to the community before it is put out to tender.

    We expect some of the money budgeted for the project to be set aside for plantings next year in the meadow and woodlot north of the Power House to reestablish lost under-story habitat. We also expect that a citizens’ advisory board would be set up as soon as possible to work together with biologists from TRCA and Parks on that goal as their first project. CCFEW is willing to partner with the City and the TRCA to acquire grant money to augment those plantings.

April 28, 2009

On April 14, representatives of CCFEW and Friends of Sam Smith (FOSS) met with City staff and consultants to review plans for the skating trail. The City is committed to putting the trail in Sam Smith Park, so our goal is now to try to minimize its environmental impact. The plan we saw at that meeting showed a larger trail than was in the plans presented last year. The trail was shifted further to the east, closer to the creek and further from the park road on the west side. Portions of the trail would be elevated up to 1 metre above grade to ensure that the entire trail was level.

We expressed numerous concerns with this plan and made suggestions including relocating the trail to the west, utilizing some of what is the currently the parking lot. We believe the meeting was constructive and our comments were taken seriously. A follow-up meeting is planned to explore an alternative design.

The following letter was sent to Councillor Grimes following the meeting:

    Thank you for providing CCFEW with the opportunity to review the proposed design for the ice skating trail in Col. Sam Smith at the meeting held April 14 2009. While we continue to oppose the construction of such a facility in the park, we are very grateful for the opportunity to participate in the planning should it be built there. As you know the preservation of the naturalized areas and the cultural history of the Lakeshore Grounds is an important issue for many in our community. CCFEW has been involved in the creation and planning of Col. Sam Smith Park from the very beginning and is currently a member of the Lakeshore Grounds Coordinating Committee. CCFEW has raised funds for projects to enhance the park and provided programs to increase public awareness of the birds and plants in the park as well as participating in numerous clean-up, planting and weed pulling events.

    CCFEW is pleased that at our recent meeting it was generally agreed by everyone at the meeting that restoration and enhancement of the naturalized areas of the park, particularly those adjacent to the Power House was important. We fully support that initiative regardless of where the proposed skating trail is eventually located. Planting in the wood lot of underbrush and native plant species will help to maintain and improve the habitat for migrating birds.

    We appreciate the time the staff took to listen to our concerns regarding the need for a buffer area between the creek and the proposed trail, the relocating of trees, plants etc. as well as reviewing our suggestions regarding the location of the trail.

    We understand that the design for the trail has already entailed a considerable amount of investment in both time and money, but we hope that as a result of our discussions you will seriously consider our suggestions regarding the location of the trail. The most recent design places the trail even further east into the wood lot than in the February 2008 proposal, which was strongly opposed to at the public meeting, which was held at that time. We suggest that it be moved to the northwest of the Power House or be located primarily in the south end of the parking lot.

    We are aware that there is a parking agreement between the TCDSB and the City, however, the city has been generous with the school board in the past in providing use of it’s land for the school and track. We do not propose a reduction in parking spaces but rather a relocation of some parking areas.

    CCFEW, has as you know, been a strong voice that promotes a healthy waterfront environment through preservation and rehabilitation. Many of our concerns regarding Col. Sam Smith Park, center around this issue. In addition we have been strong advocates for increased park and open space along the waterfront and our members come from all across the Lakeshore. We were strong advocates for the Mimico Linear Park, the Humber Bay Shores Park and currently participate in the Etobicoke and Mimico Creeks Watershed Coalition. We would like to work with the City of Toronto staff, the TRCA and your office towards many of these goals. In particular we are hoping to move forward with the restoration of both the North Creek and Jackson Creek as part of the storm water management proposals for the grounds. The rehabilitation of the meadow to the south of the Power House, the establishment of an education program with the schools in the park as well as other aspects of environmental protection and rehabilitation are among the other initiatives we would like to see move forward.

    We know that the achievement of these goals is possible with meaningful citizen involvement in decisions affecting the environment and the park systems. We would like to work with you to establish a citizen’s advisory group for Colonel Sam Smith Park to enable us to have an association such as exists for the management of High Park. If such an association is established, it could work with the T.R.C.A. and the City to locate grants and funding that would assist the community to continue its restoration of the park.

    Again, we thank you for the opportunity to review our concerns and recommendations and look forward to working with you to improve and enhance Col. Sam Smith Park.

February 21, 2009

Many people have expressed concern lately about the marked trees north of the Power House at Sam Smith Park. Many trees have been marked with orange spray paint near the ground. Orange paint is often used to mark trees for removal, Tree-Tagbut not in this case. City officials have assured us that the route of the trail has not yet been established, and no trees are in imminent danger of removal for that reason. The trees appear to have been marked as part of the tree inventory conducted on the site. (You may have noticed all trees in the area now have small, numbered metal tags.)

The tree inventory is part of the arborist’s report being prepared for the City. Although we were told at a public meeting last June that such a report had been conducted, it later became clear that it had never been done. The completion of the report is one small victory from our EA application.

If you are concerned about what is happening there, it’s never too late to call or e-mail your Councillor and the Mayor. to express your concerns. In the current municipal and global financial situation, the skating trail looks even more ill-advised. (Those questions about operating costs have still never been answered.)

December 5, 2008

We received official word today that the Minister of the Environment has turned down our request to have the skating trail designated under the provincial Environmental Assessment Act. While we clearly don’t agree with this conclusion, the one positive piece we can see from his response, is the implicit acknowledgment that there never was an arborist’s report. Page three of the letter states, “The City has further advised that an arborist’s analysis of the proposal will be undertaken and a formal report completed and brought forward for Etobicoke York Community Council’s consideration.” That explains why no one who asked for it was ever provided the arborist’s report discussed at the June public meeting.

While this isn’t over, the options open to oppose this project are now very limited.

You can read the full letter here (pdf).

September 2008

It is clear form the covering letter that accompanied the Lura report, that the City of Toronto plans to proceed with construction of the skating trail despite the many objections and unanswered questions detailed in that report.

On September 16th, CCFEW delivered a request to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to designate this project under the province’s Environmental Assessment Act. The text of our covering letter is reproduced below:

    Citizens Concerned About the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront (CCFEW) was formed in 1989 when it spearheaded the fight to secure public access to a section of Lake Ontario waterfront immediately west of the Humber River.  The area was being redeveloped for condominiums.  CCFEW’s efforts and the support of the provincial government contributed to the reduction of development density and the creation of Humber Bay Shores Park.  For nearly twenty years we have worked constructively with the municipality and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to ensure responsible development and to promote a healthy, green, accessible waterfront environment through preservation and rehabilitation.

    Recently the City of Toronto has decided to build a $2 million ice skating track in Colonel Sam Smith Park on the Etobicoke waterfront.  The creation of this park was approved under the Environmental Assessment Act in 1980.  In 1993 modifications to the original plan were required to take the Act into consideration.  The site of the ice skating track is a woodlot part of which is designated for “landscape regeneration” in the Master Plan of the park.  It borders a treed corridor that is used by migratory birds and contains a remnant creek which flows through nearby wetlands into Lake Ontario.

    We are writing to ask that as Environment Minister you pass a project-specific regulation designating this project as an undertaking to which the Environmental Assessment Act applies. The project and our concerns are outlined in detail in the attached submission.

    The reasons for our request to you are

    • The environmental impact of the City’s proposal has not been evaluated within the context of current natural heritage policies.
    • There has been no evaluation of the environmental impact of this proposal on the woodlot where the artificial rink is to be located or on the park in general.
    • There has been a lack of genuine and open consultation in the decision making process.
    • The Province has both an historic and ongoing connection and involvement in The Lakeshore Grounds.

    Citizens Concerned About the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront contends that the City has not provided a justification for the need to build this facility in an environmentally sensitive area.   After a decade of work and investment by the City and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Colonel Sam Smith Park has evolved into a unique naturalized waterfront park.   The introduction of active recreational facilities such as an ice skating track is not in keeping with the original vision of the park nor the spirit of the Master Plan.

    A designation under the Environmental Assessment Act is the only way in which significant unresolved concerns regarding rationale, environmental impacts and land use compatibility can be addressed.

    We appreciate your consideration of our request and would be happy to provide further information at any time.

Click here to view the covering letter.

Click here to view the Environmental Assessment Application.

Letter of Support from Friends of Sam Smith

You Can Help!

Letters of support for our Environmental Assessment submission would be very helpful to our cause. Letters from individuals are good, but letters from community organizations are even better. Letters should be addressed to:

    The Honourable John Gerretsen
    Minister of the Environment
    12th Floor, 135 St. Clair Avenue West
    Toronto, Ontario
    M4V 1P5

Letters should reference File Number ENV1283MC-2008-3481 and then give all your own reasons.  It is important that CCFEW be sent a copy (so that we know what is being said and can keep track) and a copy to your City Councillor, the Mayor and Guardian wouldn't hurt.

June 2008

The City of Toronto is actively considering locating an ice skating trail in Colonel Samuel Smith Park, near the Power House. The idea of such a trail first appeared as a possibility in the 1996 Master Design & Implementation Plan. It disappeared again until 2006 when it was proposed circling the (then) proposed Skateboard facility. Click here for a more complete history.

The latest version of the plan was unveiled at a public meeting on June5, 2008. The illustration below is a photo of the handout provided at that meeting. The Power Plant is in the lower right, and the TTC bus loop is in the upper left.

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Click here to view the plan as a pdf.

We outlined our opposition last week on our What’s Up page, and most of those same objections were raised at the June 5th meeting. There were more questions than answers, which is a bit surprising for a project which has already received budget approval.

One of the most fundamental questions was, “What’s the operating budget?” There was no answer available - not even an estimate. Is it any wonder the City struggles to balance its budget?

Another good question was, “What about the skateboard park?” This was a top priority two years ago, but when it couldn’t be built in this location, it fell off the radar. Requests from the skateboarders and other community groups to restart the siting process have gone unanswered. It certainly leaves one wondering whether this is about building something the community wants and needs, or just getting something built near the Power House.

If you would like to make your voice heard, additional comments will be included in the summary report by Lura Consulting if they are received by June 12th. You can download the Comment Form here as a fillable MS Word file or as a pdf file. (The meeting was so well attended, they ran out of comment forms.)

The meeting also got coverage in the Etobicoke Guardian on June 6th. Click here to read Tamara Shephard’s article.

The tone of the article that went into the print edition changed substantially. Click here to read that one. Of particular interest was Councillor Grimes’ claim that $900,000 had been spent “ready the Power House and install transformers”. Unless he is counting the complete cost to restore the building, this is at least 10 times the number we have heard for costs directly related to allowances for a possible ice skating facility.

The June 10th editorial in the Guardian was much more in line with how we viewed the meeting and the situation at Sam Smith Park. Click here to read that one.

For more on this issue, also check the Friends of Sam Smith Park blog

August 22, 2008

The report from Lura Consulting was released today. Unfortunately, it isn’t so much a report as a list of comments. There is a transcript of all the questions and answers from the public meeting, and a summary of comments received by the June 12th deadline. Questions that were unanswered at the meeting remain unanswered. There are no new answers or next steps in the report. The closest we get is the covering letter:

August 14th, 2008

On Thursday June 5th 2008, Parks Forestry and Recreation staff in conjunction with Councillor Grime’s office organized an open house to present the conceptual plan for the proposed Skating Trail in Etobicoke Lakeshore. The meeting was hosted by LURA Consulting, a firm hired by the City to facilitate the discussion, collect and organize comments and feedback from the community, and prepare a summary report.

Some residents expressed excitement and support for what will become a great family destination in your neighbourhood. Others raised concerns regarding the potential impact of a skating trail in this area. Be assured that City staff are committed to developing this project taking into account the importance of the sensitivities of the park and community, and without disturbing the existing Wetlands-Wildlife Restoration Trail.

In proceeding with the project, the City will be issuing a proposal call in September for qualified and experienced firms to initiate the design phase. It is anticipated that the project would be complete and operational for the 2009 skating season

I appreciate the time and effort you have taken to be engaged in this process and providing your opinions and input. LURA Consulting will continue to receive your comments as the project progresses so please forward any comments to shall@lura.ca.

Yours truly,

Michael Schreiner
Manager Construction Management
/Capital Projects

You can click here to read the full report in pdf format (6.7MB, 66 pages).

The final appendix of the report is the the “arborist’s report”, a site plan review by the City of Toronto’s Urban Forestry department. The final page details the “Potential Tree Conflicts” they have identified. That page is reproduced in the Zoomify window below:

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