The photograph of the area where they plan to build it clearly shows the lush canopy provided by the deciduous and coniferous trees that grow there and are part of the continuing wildlife corridor that includes the southern meadow, the riparian pathway along North Creek, the spruce grove, the regrettably narrow, previously contested and sparsely treed gap between the quadrangle and the school and the orchard and wooded areas to the north.
It is inconceivable to believe that a wide cement path in that spot with a foundation base containing freezing tubes and a surface area of 13,000 square feet would not require the removal of trees and cause major damage to remaining root systems. There would undoubtedly be habitat disturbance in other forms – additional lighting, music, noise from the zamboni and compressor pumps, additional activity and the probability of noisy skateboard use during the other three seasons (school maintenance staff are already finding homemade plywood ramps hidden among the trees for use in font of the school.
The second photograph at the bottom of this post shows destruction already of the habitat north of the Power House in the form of understory removal. The shrubs and ground plants that used to be there and provided cover and feeding spots for wildlife, particularly birds, have all been picked clean. It is not hard to imagine what might happen to the remaining understory if the plan goes ahead.
Friends of Sam Smith’s second argument is that there exists no formal forum for the public and community groups to plan development together with City staff. The park and grounds are a special, unique place with passionate appeal for many stakeholders. This was clearly understood by the public, City planners and local Councillors who put together the Master Plan in 1996 and echoed by Councillor De Baeremaeker in his 2006 report A Place for Nature, a Place for Youth, as well as the hundreds of park users and local residents who stood up to oppose the skateboard facility back in 2006.
The Master Plan for the Lakeshore Grounds, approved by Council, recommended “a specific group be appointed by City Council to provide input to the Design and Management Committee. Members should represent the wide variety of interests (the arts, boaters, naturalists, heritage, social workers etc.)”. Councillor Glen De Baeremaeker’s report that addressed public concern over the construction of a large skateboarding facility south of the Power House and eventually killed the plan recommended that Councillor Grimes “fulfill the former City of Etobicokes’s original 1996 promise to create a citizen’s advisory board to help protect and restore Colonel Sam Smith Park to its full ecological potential”. Friends of Sam Smith Park and other groups have persistently demanded that our Councillor fulfill this obligation and set up this board.
Until these promises are carried out and genuine input is valued, community groups and the public will continue to feel that they are constantly put on the defensive and kept away from real decision making rather than being appreciated as important contributors to the Park’s future and purpose. We are taxpayers and the park and grounds belong to the people of our city.
Two recent examples of the City going ahead with projects without community input are the removal of vegetation right in the middle of fragile habitat to accommodate the sports equipment storage boxes and the building of an unsightly wire fence north of the oval. Although relatively minor, both of these are galling to park users who might have suggested a more sensible location for the boxes and a better design for the fence or questioned whether the fence is needed at all. (See earlier blog posts in April that draw attention to these.)
So a simple slogan that might capture both major arguments could be …… No more development in the park without the approval of a Public Advisory Board, particularly if it applies to habitat areas.
Posted by Terry Smith