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Sunday, December 30, 2012


The City of Toronto has finished its environmental assessment of the Etobicoke Waterfront Stormwater Management Facilities Study.  FOSS has just received a "Notice of Study Completion" and it is reproduced below.  The City's backgrounder can be read online here.  If you search "stormwater" in the search bar above, you will find more from the FOSS website on this.   
In spite of written submissions from Friends of Sam Smith Park, Citizens' Concerned for the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront and from many others interested in applying natural solutions to the stormwater problem; and in spite of a number of public consultations in which not one community member spoke in favour of what they have eventually decided upon; and in spite of a Community Work Group that rejected a solely engineered solution, all natural options that would have added water to our park's "lost" creeks and increased wetland habitat have been dismissed and none are incorporated in to the chosen design.

The chosen solution is the one the City wanted in the first place.  Why any of us ever thought our opinions would be seriously considered was, in hindsight, a bit over optimistic!

So, we're going to get the "big pipe".  All water in the South Etobicoke stormwatershed will be routed in to a large collector pipe and treated in a huge shaft located in Sam Smith Park.   
While the need to improve shoreline water quality for aquatic vegetation and wildlife is very important, give only engineers a problem to solve and the answer usually turns out be an engineered one! (with apologies to any "friends" who are engineers)

We've all been shafted!!!


  • Basis of concept – a flow – welcoming - inviting you in to this area and in to the park
  • Naturalized in sense of circular or oddly-shaped plots interrupted with sculptures, bird feeders, nesting boxes, benches or seating nooks – all amidst the apple trees and utilizing them.
  • What if the garden plots were run down the eastern border from the gatehouse and Rabba’s in such way that cover for wildlife could be added – nesting boxes, feeders, shrubs, etc...?  Is it possible to put some art structures to add to the location?  (a sort of a cohesive mix)
  • Incorporate community input for sculpting ideas for this and all parts of the park.
  • Some acceptance of crop loss to wildlife
  • Mix of vegetable and flower plots


  • We think that the garden sounds like a great way to connect the community and allow members to grow their own healthy food. We came from the High Park area where people did the same. So far the proposal sounds positive to us.
  • I just read the email and the revised location seems to make sense to me.
  • In my opinion, the old orchard location next to RABBA would work well.  The residents of the old hospital used to grow their own food, so this use is appropriate.  The meditation garden next to the Gatehouse sounds a bit iffy, though – too close to the road.  There are lots of quiet, natural spaces in the park where folks can go for the best meditation - in nature.
  • All sounds great to me. I grew up on the grounds in the now demolished Lakehouse. BTW, though I never saw water in the swale, I well remember the creek that ran beside our house was often filled with grain from Gilbey's Gin whenever they washed out their vats.
  • I like this idea very much. Apple orchard is good. You have my full support. 
  • I think its a great Idea but I am not sure why The Gatehouse which already has a garden around the house and is leading this project would require a meditation garden in addition to the outdoor space they already have. Community gardens in other areas catch on very quickly and if you add in the fact that we have food insecurity issues in our area and also many people living in cramped housing and/or no personal use of a garden- then surely we want to allocate as much space as possible to growing food. A meditation garden is a lovely concept but works best with a water feature and access to shade via trees or landscape features.  This would be easier to achieve close to the house.
  • I think a community garden is a great idea - my grandparents had one in Europe for many decades. My only concern is, based on two area gardens I’ve seen - one currently in High Park and one that used to be located next to Plant World on Eglinton Ave. as part of a building complex - is the appearance of the garden, especially if viewed from the street. The plots looked quite messy, with no standard fencing. Chairs were stacked up, compost heaps lying off to the side. I hope there are standards for community gardens?
  • Great idea and new location east of the entrance driveway in the old orchard next to Rabba that runs down from Lakeshore Blvd. is much better.
  • I have thought about the Community Garden at Sam Smith. I like the idea of gardens in that area next too Rabba. It needs something there and why not have the community growing veggies. I would like to add flowers and perennials in the mix and I think we need to add a few more fruit trees in that space. A few more benches and maybe a water fountain for a European feel would be great. A resting place/community garden.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


A working group consisting of a number of local agencies is looking to establish a community garden in Sam Smith Park.  Those agencies include the Gatehouse, LAMP, Daily Bread Food Bank, Foodshare, Humber College and the Ward 6 Community Action Team.  The group’s goals, besides community food security, are focused around physical, mental, emotional and social health, community building and education – the garden would become a catalyst for “social alchemy”, to use their phrase.

The plan for the garden has three components …

  • Individual family allotments
  • Community garden where a group of volunteers would work together to provide vegetables and fruit for local needs
  •  “Healing garden” (therapeutic purposes; meditation etc.)
Both CCFEW and FOSS were invited to a meeting yesterday and asked for our input.  We limited our comments to location only.  The original idea for a location was the large swale just south of the Gatehouse.  From our perspective, we suggested that the swale is not the best location for the following reasons ….

  • It is a wildlife corridor, particularly for spring and fall bird migration, and heavily used and enjoyed by birders
  • FOSS’s hope is that the buried Jackson Creek that runs through it and originally formed the wetland that is the current swale will be eventually surfaced as part of a stormwater management plan that now seems stalled, thus increasing and enhancing park habitat
  • FOSS would like to see the rich undergrowth that used to be under the trees restored so that the many birds who used to use it for feeding and shelter would return
  • The soil is probably contaminated from decades of industrial pollutants that were dumped in to the former creek; any new soil added might impact the root systems of the remaining trees
  • Very little sunlight reaches the interior of that swale because of the tall spruce trees surrounding it and that would limit what could be grown there
  • The space is quite small and would eliminate future expansion
  • It is out of sight and away from passing surveillance

We suggested a better location would be east of the entrance driveway in the old orchard next to Rabba that runs down from Lakeshore Blvd. to the small swale.  The space is larger, contains no significant wildlife habitat, has ”eyes on the street” and, besides, what could be better than a garden with apple trees in it!  Those apple trees go back to a time when the old psychiatric hospital grew its own food and patients worked the land as part of their therapy – a fitting heritage background for this proposal.

Our suggestions were well received by the working group.  As a consequence, the Gathouse will take the lead role in applying for permits.  They will apply to the City to establish a healing garden just west of the Gatehouse building (next to Farah Khan’s memorial garden) and to the Toronto Region Conservation Authority to start a small community food garden at the north end of the old orchard.  This should happen in the next two weeks.  It remains to be seen as to how well those applications will be received.

We have not yet had the opportunity to poll Friends of Sam Smith Park to get your thoughts.  We have only just learned the details.  So, friends, please take a few moments to e-mail Terry Smith and let us know how you feel and think about the proposal in general, FOSS’s suggestion for the best location and the project’s compatibility with our own goals and expectations for our park.

Thank you

Saturday, September 29, 2012


"The lovely signs that we installed at Sam Smith have faded since they were installed (green has turned to blue is the most obvious sign), which is a defect, and our vendor has agreed to replace them at no cost to the City.  We will be removing the existing panels early next week, and temporarily replacing them with plywood until we can get replacements (likely December before we receive them, and installed as soon as possible thereafter).  Ideally we would have replacements prior to removing the existing panels, but our vendor wants to have the defective panels in hand before fabricating replacements."

Janette Harvey
Natural Environment Specialist
City of Toronto - Parks, Forestry & Recreation
Natural Environment & Community Programs

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


At approximately 7.30 am near the marina last Sunday morning, Sam Smith Park hosted a distinguished visitor. 

This is a Peregrine Falcon. You can see on his feet that he has a band so it is a bird that has been fledged locally.

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation says that the band is, "green tape and indicates a male. Most likely it  is Euro from our Islington and Bloor nest at Sun Life. The only other candidate is Albus from our Yellow Pages nest at Markham and Milner in Scarborough. Euro is more likely as that nest is not far from Colonel Sam."

Thanks to Irene Cholewka for this photograph and the report.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Friends of Sam Smith Park has just come to understand that it was a Lake Shore Yacht Club member who actually designed and built the current nesting platform, including the floating steps, and located it on one of their marker buoys on the east side.  A previous post had wrongly attributed this year's successful attempt solely to the Toronto Region Conservation Authority's efforts.  There was confusion because TRCA has been working on this for the last three years and, in the absence of all the information, it was assumed that they were responsible.

So, kudos to the Yacht Club as well as TRCA.  Those of us who are so excited about our new Sam Smith family owe you both a big thank-you.
There is, unfortunately, a general perception that many of those in the boating community do not care about surrounding park land. This couldn't be further from the truth and LSYC's simple solution to the grebe nesting problem illustrates their commitment.


Monday, August 20, 2012


The two hatched chicks are actively feeding.  They can generally be observed riding on the back of one of the parents and accepting minnows caught and presented by the other.  Hopefully, they will survive the activity of people fishing close by and the mink that patrols that particular part of the marina wall.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Finally, after three years of testing out different types of nesting platforms and locations, TRCA (Toronto Region Conservation Authority) can claim success with the recent arrival of two Red Necked Grebe chicks hatched in the last few days.  One unhatched egg is still in the nest.
For some reason, as yet unexplained, a nesting platform moved (was moved?) from it's mooring further west and ended up tied (tangled?) to a small red buoy close to the northern marina wall about 30 or so feet from shore in a very convenient spot for observation.
The two hatched chicks have already been seen riding on a parent's back.
The photographs were taken by Irene Cholewka whose wonderful book of Sam Smith birds was on display at this year's Spring Bird Festival.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


At this year's Bird Festival, FOSS volunteers, along with visiting families, built bat houses as well as the usual tree swallow nesting boxes.

Why build a bat house?

Many bat species would typically roost under the bark of a dead tree and other safe crevices. However, due to habitat loss, this is often not an available resource. Bat houses provide a safe and secure home for bats to roost during the day and to raise their young.

Bats significantly reduce the amount of pest insects in our backyards while at the same time helping farmers and gardeners by eating insect pests. An individual bat can eat thousands of insects in just one night! More bats eating insects mean less pesticide use in our environment.

White Nose Syndrome, a virulent bat-killing disease, is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of bats, particularly the Little Brown Bat, Ontario’s most common bat species.  There’s no cure for this disease — which doesn’t affect humans, so don’t worry about getting infected — but by having bat boxes around, you could make the bats’ lives that much easier. That extra boost could help get them through winter, when the disease hits hardest.

Bats are helpful, not dangerous animals. They are safe and beneficial to have in your backyard. Less than 1% of bats have rabies.  The disease is also fatal to bats.  They are not carriers of rabies.

If you want to build a bat house for your home or cottage, here is the same Conservation Authority approved design we used at this year's Bird Festival. 
Locate your bat house about 12 to 15 feet above the ground on a building, tree or pole - a building will offer the most stable temperature. Orient your bat house to get maximum warmth, especially in the morning (southeast exposure).  If your bat house is not occupied by the end of the second year, try moving it to a new location.  The perfect location is near a permanent source of water (ideally within a mile of a stream, lake or marsh).


This red-wing blackbird repeatedly dive-bombed a red-tailed hawk Saturday adding a little feathered lustre to a demonstration in Etobicoke Saturday (VERONICHENRI/TorontoSun).

TORONTO - A red-wing blackbird who dive-bombed a red-tailed hawk and a bald eagle during a demonstration in Etobicoke was one lucky nest-protector.
Despite repeated kamikaze strikes Saturday, the much bigger juvenile flesh-eaters kept their beady eyes focused on owner Sam Trentadue. Raw chicken strips both he and the volunteers held were more appealing than a pesky interloper.
A flashing beak or taloned claw could easily have turned their tormentor into a nice light snack, “but they’re not trained to hunt and kill,” Trentadue told a mid-day audience at the third Spring Bird Festival.
Raised and trained by commercial breeders with the Ontario Falconry Centre in Scarborough, the hawk and eagle were among several raptors brought by him and partner Laura Brunato plus apprentice Bharathy Jayakhanthan, 16.
If freed, which is not allowed, the hawk, eagle, American kestrel, Great Horned Owl, prairie falcon and a turkey vulture named Frank — for Frankenstein — “would not survive,” Trentadue said.
Trailing light plastic lines attached to their legs, to prevent them flying off, the birds were released from the partner’s gloved hands or perches, pouncing on raw chicken shared with volunteers.
“He was kind of heavy and my arm shook a bit,” Kim Sine, 9, of Etobicoke, said, after the hawk fetched a treat.
Her dad, Brian Sine, who came with his wife Marcia and son Marvin, 6, for the second year, said “the wife is interested in birds” and the festival was a good family-oriented event.
There were “oohs” and “aahs’ when Trentadue said the owl — which kept turning its head almost full-circle — favours fresh skunk more than other prey in the wild. It avoids the repulsive impact of being sprayed because “they can’t smell.”
But several youngsters groaned when told a nervous turkey vulture may defensively regurgitate a ‘cast’ pellet of unwanted meal remains which, after a day of festering will smell so bad “it will empty the whole park.”
Luckily for the enraptured crowd, Frank was well-behaved when he landed on Kyle Hammond’s gloved hand — the five-year-old describing the bald-faced bird as “different.”
Trentadue, who regularly takes his flock to schools, fairs, public events and movie sets, said his centre is affiliated with the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Organized by City of Toronto staff, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Humber Arboretum, Citizens Concerned about the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront and Friends of Sam Smith, the festival attracted more than 150 registered participants.
Birdwatchers reported spotting more than 22 wild species during walks.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Prescription for health and happiness

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


City celebrates third annual Spring Bird Festival at Colonel Samuel Smith Park

The third annual Spring Bird Festival will be held later this month at Colonel Samuel Smith Park.
The free event, which serves to inform residents and park users about the importance of bird habitats, will feature a live reptile and amphibian display, guided bird walks, children's activities, bird and bat box building, a live snake display, bird-viewing stations and educational displays.
Hosted by City of Toronto staff, in partnership with Toronto and Region Conservation, Humber Arboretum, Citizens Concerned about the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront, and Friends of Sam Smith, the Spring Bird Festival will be held on Saturday, May 26 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Colonel Samuel Smith Park, 3131 Lake Shore Blvd. W.
Colonel Samuel Smith Park is a well-established bird stopover location for more than 270 species of birds along the Etobicoke waterfront.
Hourly guided bird walks run from 8 a.m. to noon. The festival officially begins with children's activities, educational displays and live bird demonstrations at 9 a.m.
Admission to the festival is free. Parking is limited, but the site is accessible by public transit.
For more information email or call 311.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Students explore hidden nature in the city. James S. Bell Junior Middle School students Briar Harling, 9, Jaiden O'Brien, 8, and Ethan Butler, 9, joined their Grade 2/3 class Monday at Colonel Samuel Smith Park for outdoor nature programming hosted by Humber Arboretum's Centre for Urban Ecology. Here, they show off some of the unique leaves they collected during a biodiversity game. 

Students explore hidden nature in the city

Humber Arborteum kicks off its south Etobicoke programming

A morning of flower picking, leaf collecting, bird watching and nest spotting had kids from James S. Bell Junior Middle School marvelling with wide-eyed enthusiasm at Mother Nature Monday, as Humber Arboretum kicked off its first season of nature programming at Colonel Samuel Smith Park.
Lucy Woods and Justice McChesney, both 7, were among the 19 students in grades 2 and 3 to get first crack at enjoying the May-June pilot project, which is aimed at south Etobicoke elementary school classes. Neither could contain their excitement at all they'd learned during the morning's Plants program, led by Nature Interpreter Chris Bialek.
"I learned that plants are an important resource in nature because they keep us alive by making us oxygen and food," Lucy declared proudly.
Added Justice: "Plants are great! They help us breathe, but some are very poisonous and can hurt us, so you have to know the difference."
Already a fixture for many northern Etobicoke schools at the college's North Campus (near Hwy. 27 and Finch Avenue West), Humber Arboretum's Nature Programs kicked off its inaugural season at the college's Lakeshore Campus this week with the James S. Bell visit.
The southern migration of the programming came as a natural move, Bialek said, given that Humber's Lakeshore campus is nestled in one of the city's most diverse urban green spaces - Colonel Samuel Smith Park.
"It's such a great area out here, and we really want to try and get as many schools out down here so the students can come and experience nature," he said. "The big part is making the kids think that nature is fun and that it's not going to hurt them. Some are terrified of snakes and everything else, so this is about teaching them that they're not going to get hurt and that they're going to have fun."
This May and June, classes ranging from grades 1 to 8 can sign up for a multitude of curriculum-connected programming meant to enhance and bring to life the science-based lessons they learn in the classroom. From Magnificent Monarchs, to Amazing Animals, to Cool Coyotes, each program offered caters to specific grades. (See sidebar for a full list of available programming).
Monday morning's Plants program, which had Daunet Morrison's grades 2 and 3 class out scavenging for as diverse a collection of leaves as could be found, perfectly complimented a unit she's currently teaching on biodiversity.
The whole program, she said, was a fun - and eye-opening - experience.
"It's absolutely incredible down here. I didn't even realize this (parkland) was here," she said. "It's been a great day so far."
A full day of Humber Arboretum's Nature Programming (which includes a morning and an afternoon program) down at Colonel Samuel Smith Park costs $11.50 per student participant (not including HST) - but Morrison's class, plus five other lucky classes, got a discounted rate, thanks to a subsidy generously donated by Citizens Concerned about the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront (CCFEW).
"We thought, just to jump start the program, we would offer a subsidy of $5 each for the first 150 kids," said Barbara Keaveney, CCFEW's secretary. "There is so very little outdoor education now in the schools...and it's just so good for the kids to get out. (Colonel Samuel Smith Park) is the only location we know of that's on the lake in Toronto and there's also a huge diversity of wildlife here. There's beaver, fox, lynx, deer - and the birds are amazing, too.
"The kids just love it."
For more information about Humber's nature programming, email or call 416-675-5009.

Humber Arboretum Centre for Urban Ecology's Nature Programs:
- Nature Walk (Grade 1 - January to December)
Using the trails of Colonel Sam Smith Park, take part in exploratory activities designed to look closely at nature.
- Habitats (grades 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 - January to December)
What is a habitat and why is it such a significant ecological concept? Learn about the four basic needs of all living things.
- Birds (Grade 1 - January to December)
What makes birds unique? Learn where they live, what they eat, and how they behave. Feed the winter Chickadees.
- Cool Coyotes (grades 1, 2, 4, 6, 7 - January to December)
Learn about the amazing biology and behaviour of our local elusive coyotes (pups to adults) through a variety of games and activities. This program will lead students to better understand the importance of top on the Lakeshore and how to peacefully coexist with a variety of wildlife species.
- Magnificent Monarchs (grades 1-4, 6, 7)
Students will have an opportunity to learn about the characteristics, lifecycles, and behaviours of Monarch butterflies (a species of special concern). A plant, migration, or cultural celebration focus can be provided.
- Trees (grades 1, 3, 4, 6 - January to December)
Trees play an important role in our lives. Learn about forest ecology, fruits, seeds, and tree life cycles.
- First Nation Games (grades 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 - Mid-May to November)
The First Nations People played many games. Have fun learning about their customs.
- Renewable Energy (Grade 5 - Mid-May to November)
Learn about different types of renewable energy and how we benefit from each.
- Plants (grades 3, 4, 6 - Mid-May to Early September)
Learn about the importance of the variety of plants in our world.
- Amazing Animals (grades 2, 4, 6 - January to December)
Uncover the differences between the animal groups. Wildlife native to the area will be emphasized.
- Insects (grades 2, 4 - Mid-May to November)
Examine and compare fascinating insects in different habitats.
- Pollinators (grades 1-4, 6, 7)
Are you aware of the many ways that humans rely on pollinators? Learn about the diversity of pollinators and find out how and why we should act to protect them!
- Ecology Games (grades 4, 6, 7 - March to November)
Play a variety of games and learn that everything plays an important role in nature.
- Watershed Awareness (grades 7, 8 - January to December)
What is a watershed and how do you study one? Identify your watershed address.
- Milkweed Meeting Place (grades 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 - June; September to November)
While learning about general plant characteristics, students will better understand how the Monarch caterpillar's only food source, the Milkweed plant, acts as a habitat for a community of interacting insects.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


The Australian Rules footballers were so concerned about the frantic killdeer defending her nest last Saturday that they painted markings around it to alert people to its hard to spot location. 
David Chapman's staff (Parks Supervisor) placed the cones around as well and have been alerted about holding off mowing that section of the playing field until the young leave the nest (all being well!). The eggs take 24 to 28 days to hatch and the young are mobile and usually move away from the nest very soon after hatching.  Keep your fingers crossed.


CANADA WARBLER - can be seen passing through Sam Smith

There is an excellent article in today's Toronto Star on songbird migration through Toronto.  Unfortunately, the writer does not venture to the west end of the City and misses out on describing another terrific place to witness this miracle - Sam Smith Park!

"Songbird ‘superhighway’ runs through Toronto as 50 million will fly over in spring migration"

Sunday, April 29, 2012


There is an excellent website that offers a history of the old Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital.

"Asylum by the Lake"

Here is a photograph from the website showing the ornate stone bridge that used to span the now buried Jackson Creek that met the lake at Rotary Park.  Remnants of the bridge can still be seen on the roadway between the two swales that were once wetlands on the creek.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Some random notes of interest from a recent Lakeshore Grounds Coordinating Committee meeting
  • Parks, Forestry and Recreation – Storage unit for aussie rules football going in on a newly placed gravel pad; will be moving staff into powerhouse this summer; maintenance staff will open and close washrooms on daily basis during summer months.
  • CCFEW  Nature Program at Humber Arboretum happening this spring with three schools signed up; CCFEW will subsidize students: $5/person for first 5 schools that sign up.
  • Lakeshore Yacht Club Twice annual closings of walkway; boat launch: Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28; stepping Friday, May 4 and Saturday, May 5
  • Councilor Grimes’ Office Morrison Street entrance: Councilor Grimes wanted it as part of parkland but it didn’t work out; it will be improved and still used for community access to park.


Eastern Towhee
"This morning Jeremy Hatt, Andrew Keaveney, David Hallett and I spent about three hours birding park.  Highlights: 1 Forester's Tern, 12 Yellow-rumped Warbers, 40 White-throated Sparrows, 10 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and smaller numbers of Field Sparrow, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-belled Sapsucker, Eastern Towhee, Fox Sparrow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow and Brown Thrasher.  There are still about 150 Red-necked Grebes, 15 Horned Grebes and a couple of Pied-billed Grebes in the area."

The Ontario Field Ornithologists operates an electronic mailing listserv called ONTBIRDS that notifies birders of interesting Ontario sightings.  The posting from Wayne Renaud, a local birder, shown above gives details about birds recently seen in Sam Smith ParkONTBIRDS is a good way to keep on top of what's being seen in our park as migration begins to accelerate as well as keep up with other interesting Ontario sightings.  On average, there are about 6 - 8 postings a day and Sam Smith Park is frequently one of them. Wayne is a regular reporter of Sam Smith birds during migration.

To subscribe, you need to send an email to with subscribe in the subject header. You will have to confirm any changes you make by replying to an acknowledging email. Unsubscribing is very easy to do.

If you are a knowledgeable birder, you may even want to post sightings yourself.