There will always be pressure from the City to set up conventional, recreational programming with the usual add-ons in and around the expensively renovated Power House as long as it remains, in their eyes, under utilized. We need an innovative vision for this area that is an appropriate fit with the natural features of the park that we all cherish so much. This is a letter that a committee of Friends of Sam Smith Park has been working on and will send to the Minister of Education, our M.P.P, the Boards of Education and others. What do you think about this idea?
Friends of Sam Smith Park (FOSS), is a community-based organization. Our mandate is to protect, enhance and preserve the Lakeshore Grounds in South Etobicoke and to facilitate education programs that foster an appreciation and preservation of the park.
This site is a perfect place for nature study by school groups from the TDSB and the TCDSB in Toronto. Therefore, we recommend its use for outdoor education as a showplace for the process of habitat construction and ecosystem studies. Indeed two public documents suggest that the Power House be used as a support building and we would like support in establishing this.
"The Lakeshore Grounds Master Design and Implementation Plan of 1996", states that "a second activity centre is proposed at the former Power House. It is recommended that this building be refurbished to support park activities and that facilities should include an interpretive/information centre". Councillor Glen De Baermaeker's Report, "A Place for Nature, a Place for Youth: A Report on the Skateboard Park Proposal for Etobicoke's Colonel Sam Smith Park" of September 2006 advises that the Power House "be a base to create a young naturalists' program to introduce urban youth to the miracles of nature hidden throughout Sam Smith Park".
The Sam Smith Wetland Creation Project is a park that was established by a number of government agencies (and a trust) including the former MTRCA. It was created using the MTRCA Remedial Action Plan based on rubble disposal, leading to a detailed naturalization of the site.
This is the first planned project of its kind in an urban area of the Great Lakes Region, and along with environmental benefits, the site might well be the first introduction for many students to Lake Ontario.
This site includes spawning and refuge areas for fish, amphibian ponds, junvenile, foraging and hibernating habitat for herptiles, mammal habitats, and foraging, nesting and loafing areas for birds based on shrub, meadow and aquatic vegetation communities. Most of the animal communities have located themselves in this complex ecosystem.
Kathleen Wynn, the Minister of Education for Ontario, has promised that all 32 recommendations of a working group she commissioned on Environmental Education, which reported in June 2007, would be implemented in all grades "as a priority". The report stresses that students should receive systems training in how interlinking parts of ecosystems function.
FOSS is suggesting that the Power House, which is maintained by Toronto Parks and Recreation and is not being used for weekday programs, could provide teaching space and toilet facilities to the TDSB and to the TCDSB, in conjunction with direct observations in the wetlands the park for educational purposes. Costs for staffing by the TRCA or other appropriately trained personnel and for general maintenance by Toronto Parks and Recreation could be covered by student fees, with school subsidies as required for individual students, as is common with ongoing field trips.
This could be an opportunity for cooperation between public sectors. Another advantage is that transportation to Sam Smith Park would be economical as the site is very accessible by several choices of public transit.
We are soliciting your feedback and your support in regards to this timely environmental proposal, especially given the closure of some outdoor education centres by the previous provincial government.
Friends of Sam Smith Park