Local waterfront watchdog group opposed to city plans to build concrete recreational facilities in Colonel Sam Smith Park has once again taken its case to the Ministry of the Environment.
Citizens Concerned About the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront (CCFEW) wrote Environment Minister John Gerretsen on Sept. 10 to request he pass a project-specific regulation designating a proposed artificial ice skating track as a project to which the Environmental Assessment Act applies.
Three months ago, city plans to construct the $2-million ice skating track drew support and interest from some residents.
But opponents charged the plan is an intrusion on a lakefront retreat, and repeated arguments voiced two years ago in a protracted battle against a controversial, now defunct, city plan to build a concrete skateboarding pad in the same naturalized waterfront park's meadow.
In its application, the group states the site of the proposed $2-million artificial ice skating track is a woodlot designated for "landscape regeneration" in the park's Master Plan.
CCFEW argued the environmental impact of the city's proposal has not been evaluated within the context of natural heritage policies, or on the woodlot and the park, in general.
"This development poses a threat to parkland intended for passive recreation compatible with a natural habitat," reads CCFEW's request.
A city-funded biologist's report in 2006 indicated 121 migratory bird species use the park's habitats.
At a public meeting in June, city officials unveiled preliminary plans to build a 250-metre linear skating trail. The 4.2-metres-wide trail with "morality" lighting and a "very discreet" sound system was proposed for 12 per cent of the one-hectare site, project lead Steve O'Bright, a co-ordinator with the city's park and recreation department said.
The remaining 88 per cent of the site will be renaturalized, O'Bright said.
But in its designation request, CCFEW cites site-management guidelines for the park, known as the Lakeshore Grounds, dating back to 1997 that indicate passive recreation should dominate at the site.
The guidelines cited further indicate "single purpose facilities which occupy large land areas should be discouraged at this specific site."
"CCFEW's position is that an ice skating facility with lights and music is a single purpose facility that was not envisaged when these principles were approved," the group wrote in its request.
"Traditional recreation in the Lakeshore Grounds has been walking, bird watching, nature study and enjoying views of the waterfront. The meadows are not cut and the areas where the grass is cut are not maintained as playing fields."
This is CCFEW's second designation request of the ministry in as many years.
In June 2006, the group requested the same ministry regulation over the contentious, now defunct, city proposal to build a skateboard park in Colonel Sam Smith Park's meadow.
City plans to build the skateboard park died that September after Ward 6 (Etobicoke-Lakeshore) Councillor Mark Grimes got strong advice from colleague Ward 38 Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker to put the controversial park elsewhere.