Thursday, March 31, 2011

STAR REPORT ON HUMBER STUDENTS PARKING AT SAM SMITH

The signs say park and facility users can park for free in the lot at the bottom of Colonel Samuel Smith Dr.
And judging by the number of cars there, the park should have been buzzing with visitors on a recent Monday afternoon. There were a few people walking their dogs, but other than that, there didn’t appear to be a lot of folks using the park and waterfront trail. Then again, it’s hard to tell who’s who — visitors to the park or students walking through the lakefront campus of nearby Humber College adjacent to the park. Chances are pretty good that most of the vehicles in the lot likely belong to students or staff taking advantage of a freebee.
And that’s got Mark Hlibchuk steamed. He recently came to the park to skate on the trail but couldn’t because all the spots in the free lot were full. He figures students “ignored the numerous signs which state that this lot is for park users only.”
Hlibchuk complained to Ward 6 Councillor Mark Grimes, whose constituency assistant Colin Johnson told him the lot is “open to all . . . including Humber College students. . . . The parks department does not have any policies in place to target drivers using the lot who are not there to make use of the park.” Hlibchuk said he was advised the posted signs are merely a “suggestion,” and unenforceable by law.
“Unless there is a bylaw, people will just ignore the sign,” he told The Fixer. Hlibchuk wants a bylaw passed, “but I don’t think the will is there with councillors, parks and rec, parking, or any other city department.”
Though he doesn’t get many complaints about the parking lot, city manager of parks Kevin Bowser said enforcing the rules at the busy park is tough. It would mean bringing on staff to mark tires and monitor who’s using the lot. That’s time-consuming and expensive. An alternative would be to charge for parking there, just as the city does in the municipal lot to the north, closer to campus. That no doubt would upset legitimate park users.
Bowser said his staff will meet with the parking authority to see what can be worked out and report back. Good thing is, the college year is almost over, which will free up spaces at least until September.

RESPONSE TO MUTE SWAN MANAGEMENT DISCUSSION

RE: KILLING, MOVING AND OTHERWISE INTERFERING WITH THE SWANS AND GEESE OF SAM SMITH PARK

Since the movement of human beings into the Americas 12,000 or more years ago, and particularly since the movements after the 1400s, humans have altered the structures of a wide variety of ecosystems, mostly to suit our needs and most often purposefully and often indirectly.

Ecosystems therefore have changed in many ways over time.

Mute swans are not indigenous to the Americas, nor is our own species: homo sapiens. To think that we can return to what might be termed a natural balance is unrealistic to say the least.

Nonetheless it is vital that we preserve the grebes and the whooping swans. The recovery of the later is threatened by mute swans which are more aggressive. 

I would suggest that if we wish to intervene to control the growing numbers of mute swans and perhaps Canada Geese it behooves us to do so in an ethical and kindly manner.

How to do so is open to question.

Should we relocate them, we must take due diligence not to smother them in trucks during hot weather.  Should we relocate them it must not be into the territory of other mute swans or geese as they will be invading their territory and aggressive encounters will ensue.

Should we, I believe the term is coddle, their eggs, they will lay more and spend their energy sitting on nests to no avail.

Killing them is out of the question on ethical terms even if it could be done humanely.

Therefore the only good way that I can see to deal with the issue would be to neuter the males and/or have animal doctors perform hysterectomies on the females and release them, when recovered, back into their own territories where they would likely continue to disturb some other birds but in numbers which would gradually decrease over time.

I can not imagine that our current civic society would go to such trouble and expense, so we are left with either BEING CRUEL OR ACCEPTING THAT ALL OF NATURE IS IRREVOCABLY AND CONTINUOUSLY BEING ALTERED BY  HOMO SAPIENS.

In the interests of humanity, therefore, I say accept that we have interfered with and altered ecosystems and try to live our lives in kindness to all the other species we still have to share this beautiful earth with.

The notion of controlling free running dogs during nesting time should also be considered in the appropriate areas of Sam Smith Park.  Humans as well should not disturb the wild life nor should we be feeding birds bread which is not healthy for them and fills up their stomachs and thus prevents them from eating appropriate food.

One final note this spring.  Please leave the pussy willows for the beavers to eat and remember Toronto Bylaws state that no fauna or flora should be removed from our Sam Smith Park.

Kathy Sims

Thursday, March 24, 2011

MORE ON FISH DIE-OFF

MOE (Ministry of the Environment) confirms MNR and TRCA findings about the fish die-off last Sunday .......

"On March 21 2011, Ministry staff contacted the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). According to a report from MNR, the fish kill was comprised of mostly Carp and the cause of mortality was due to the following:

1)      anoxia coupled with temperature fluctuations as the pond is shallow, had a lot of algae in it and no flow or;
2)      winter kill under ice.

Ministry staff attended the site on March 21 2011 and did not identify any dead fish or any signs of potential contamination. This supports the conclusions found in the report from MNR".

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

FISH DIE-OFF AT SAM SMITH

Last Sunday (March 22th) Friends of Sam Smith Park received a report of a fish die-off in the large pond at Sam Smith.  Upwards of 40 dead fish were counted.  FOSS immediately contacted the City Councillor, Laurel Broten's office, Toronto Region Conservation Authority and Environment Specialists in the City Parks Department.  All agencies responded immediately and inspections were conducted the following day by the Ministry of the Environment and TRCA.  The concern, of course, was about possible chemical contamination of the pond coming from North Creek which is, essentially, a stormwater run-off.  FOSS was assured during our inquiries by David Chapman, Park Supervisor, that the ice-skating trail does not use any chemicals in their operation.  The report below was forwarded to FOSS by Connie Pinto, Senior Project Manager at TRCA.  It looks as though there is a natural explanation for this event.  Interesting to note is that a similar fish die-off at Humber Bay was reported on the same day.  It was also investigated.


On March 21st TRCA staff conducted a shoreline/lake inspection within the area of Colonel Samuel Smith Park.  The inspection areas included, the boat basin, Lake Ontario open coast zone and the pond fed by North Creek.  Observations within the boat basin and open coast areas did not reveal any fish die-offs.  Located slightly northeast of the boat basin is the North Creek pond which did have a fish die-off.  The conditions within the pond is not ideal for overwintering fish habitat.  The pond is slow moving, relatively shallow and has abundant aquatic macrophyte biomass during the open water season.  Due to the habitat type and bathymetry, we believe that the fish die-off is a result of a winter kill and unrelated to fish health.  TRCA staff took photographs and visually inspected the fish located within the pond and did not observe any signs of disease.  The predominant fish species affected by the winter kill was Brown Bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosos) with 25 observed, Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) with 2 observed and Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) with 2 observed.

In addition to inspections, in-situ water quality parameters were taken and displayed relatively normal aquatic conditions.  In addition, surface water samples were collected as a precautionary measure. TRCA has spoken with Ministry of the Environment staff and they did not find any issues with suspected spills or contaminant releases.

MUTE SWAN MANAGEMENT

TRCA (Toronto Region Conservation Authority) are reviewing their management strategy for Mute Swans and Canada Geese.  While many Sam Smith park visitors enjoy seeing the swan families at Sam Smith, that does come at some cost to native species like Red-Necked Grebes who are also trying to breed in the park.  Read the letter below that was sent to Friends of Sam Smith Park by TRCA when more information was requested.  TRCA will have swan and goose info at the Sam Smith Bird Festival on May 28th and have lots of information available as well as staff to answer questions.

Currently TRCA manages Mute Swans and Canada Geese on waterfront sites (including Sam Smith) and select inland sites.  For Mute Swans management entails egg oiling, and for Canada Geese management entails egg oiling and a round up of moulting geese at a couple of locations.  We are updating the strategy to ensure that we are approaching the issue using the best science, monitoring and management tools available.  Mute Swans are managed because they are a non-native, invasive bird that have significant impact on native flora and fauna.  Specifically, Mute Swans are very territorial and will defend their territory against almost all intruders thereby excluding (and sometimes directly harming) many wildlife species from coastal marsh habitats at critical breeding times.  Mute Swans are also voracious eaters, consuming about 3.8kg of wetland vegetation a day.  This can seriously affect native wetland vegetation communities, wetland restoration efforts, and the availability of food to other species, especially waterfowl.

Based on the 2008 CWS mid-summer inventory (monitoring sites are grouped by general location) there were 98 adults in the Toronto Islands alone and an additional 463 adults between east of the Island to Oshawa Second Marsh and west of the Islands to Burlington.  Inland sites are not surveyed, so the numbers are an underestimate.  This same area in 2002 had a total of 240 adults, so the population trend is steadily increasing.  CWS staff note that the trend would have a much sharper incline if there were no control efforts underway.  The next survey will occur this year.  The Toronto population also fluctuates seasonally.  There were hundreds of Mute Swans across the waterfront in winter 2008-09.  While this doesn't impact nesting birds, it does impact wetland vegetation as they continue to forage in the winter and may reduce the availability of food and habitat to native species.


The only control method that TRCA uses for Mute Swans is egg oiling.  While this does not address all the effects they have on marshes, it will ultimately slow the population growth and reduce their impact on our native flora and fauna.  Oiling procedures following the US Humane Society protocol where eggs are immersed in water and only oiled if they are less than 10 days old (eggs older than this float, so it is easy to determine their age).  The management strategy is a region-wide plan that involves the collaboration and cooperation of multiple agencies and municipalities.  Public education is a major component of the strategy. 

NEW CITY OF TORONTO PARKS GROUP



Parks People are holding their first Summit on Saturday, April 16th.  It will be at the Brickworks and registration is free.  If you go to their website, you can register there.  Some FOSS members have already signed up.

Park People is a new organization dedicated to improving Toronto's parks.
Across many Toronto neighbourhoods, there is a concern that Parks are not living up to their potential and fully responding to the needs of our communities. Parks are essential to the health and vibrancy of any city, and Toronto is lagging behind cities across North America that are bringing people, government, park staff and private organizations  together to create dynamic parks that become the hub of  neighourhoods.
In 2010 Park People was formed to do just that.  Led by concerned citizens, and partnering with communities, parks staff and private enterprises, Park People is working hard to create lasting solutions to our underperforming parks.

Park People advocates for better parks for all communities by facilitating neighbourhood engagement in their parks, building a network of local community park groups, acting as a watchdog on issues affecting parks and highlighting the importance of good parks to the social, health, environmental and economic well being of all residents of Toronto. 

The group was founded in response to the groundbreaking Metcalf Foundation report by Dave Harvey - "Fertile Ground for New Thinking: Improving Toronto's Parks". A key focus for Park People in 2011 will be a citywide Parks Summit in April that will bring together park advocates from across the city for the first time ever.

COOPER'S HAWK

It looks as though the bird photographed a few days ago may be a returning Cooper's Hawk.  Hopefully they will set up house again this year near the Power House as they have for the past few years.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

SAM SMITH SPRING CLEAN-UP DAY

Alan Roy is holding his clean-up day at Sam Smith on Sunday, April 17th,
It starts at 8.30 a.m. and runs through to 3.30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

TRCA NESTING BOXES

Over the winter, TRCA (Toronto Region Conservation Authority) set up two kestrel nesting boxes on poles out on the headlands and two screech owl boxes in evergreens at two locations in the park.  They have also installed forty songbird nesting boxes which should attract even more tree swallows and, who knows, maybe a bluebird family!  These, along with the twenty-five boxes that FOSS repaired or replaced last year constitute quite the “Swallow City”.  (Have you seen the “Swallow City” at Mountsberg Conservation Area near Milton?)
There is also a plan in the works to mount the two purple martin houses that were donated last year to FOSS and CCFEW in a secure area of the park.  A chimney swift tower is also a possibility.
TRCA will be trying the red-necked grebe platforms again this year.