smalls creek

Ontario planning to cut 267 trees in a Toronto ravine and locals are furious

Locals are trying to save Small's Creek Ravine and the north part of Williamson Park Ravine from deforestation after Metrolinx expansion plans threatened to ruin their oasis. 

Small's Creek Ravine, located in the Woodbine and Gerrard area, is a green space that's well used and loved by the surrounding local community. 

"'The forest' brings much needed reprieve from the constant hum of city-living and some good old-fashioned exercise and exploration. It's where we go for clean air, discovery, and to tap into imaginative play," wrote one resident, Krista Fogel, in an Instagram post

Local yoga teacher Celeste Shirley added: "For ten years, students from the local high schools have been coming for classes to develop skills to relax the mind, quell anxiety and connect to nature. [...] Merrill Bridge ravine was our forest, for our reflection time. The little creek, (aptly named Smalls Creek) was our backup band."

Williamson Park Ravine is also a designated "Environmentally Significant Area" and is home to a diverse wildlife population. 

But now many are worried that their sanctuary will be destroyed as Metrolinx is planning to remove hundred of trees so they can add a retaining wall and a fourth track to expand its GO train service along Lakeshore East. 

According to the latest plans, Metrolinx wants to remove 267 trees from the Toronto Region and Conservation Authority (TRCA) regulated boundaries, plus an additional 363 Metrolinx owned trees.

This comes as a shock to many locals, who only learned about this plan a few weeks ago. 

"Communication that is happening is inadequate, often poorly formulated, and lacking the detail that’s needed at the local-level,"explained City Councillor Brad Bradford in a statement. 

However, Metrolinx spokesperson Scott Money told blogTO that consultations have been on going for quite some time. The community has known about plans for the ravine for years and have been consulted at length.

"We're dealing with this community a lot," he said. " We know their concerns and want to consult with them." 

For example, he told blogTo that last Friday Metrolinx community relations staff and environmental and project experts went on a community walk with some of the locals to explain what they plan to do in the ravine. Money also told blogTO that they're talking with the local elected officials.

"We also have more consultation sessions planned for the early New Year," he added. 

But one community group, Smallscreek.ca, feels like they've only gotten generic answers back from Metrolinx and is working hard to stop the destruction from happening by drawing awareness to the problem any way they can. 

For example, last week they ribbon tied all the trees marked for removal to show how extensive the devastation would be. 

"We want to work with Metrolinx to create a better solution," Michael Terk, the group's founder, told blogTO.

The group has been calling for more community consultation and transparency. 

For example, they only received the map detailing which trees would be taken down on Friday Dec. 18. 

"It's an arborist report. Why was it a secret?" questioned Terk. 

The group is also asking for the start of the project to be delayed until a less destructive solution can be found. 

"We are not against a fourth track. We want public transit. We want electrified trains running in and out of the city as much as possible [...] but Metrolinx has no consideration for the future of this space," said Terk. 

"We feel like Metrolinx is treating it like the side of the 401 [but] it's a park and the community uses it. So how do we make this into place when the construction is done that people want to come visit?" 

While Metrolinx has told the group that the walk path will still be there and they will replace the trees, Terk argues that they're changing the entire socioeconomic use of the space. 

"They're going to replace 100-year-old oak trees with saplings and there's going to be a 128-meter concrete wall along the path," he said, suggesting ideas like potentially saving some medium size trees to replant later or doing away with the retaining wall, whose function - according to Terk - still hasn't been fully explained with proper evidence and data. 

"Our goal is to have real, live, meaningful discussions with Metrolinx and make slight modifications to their plan to do [the expansion] in a way that maintains our community."

Construction is set to start as early as January 2021 and go for 8 to 10 months.

Lead photo by

Olivia Little


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