Comments on the Port Union Waterfront Improvement Project
Ward 16 - Scarborough Highland Creek
The Scarborough Community Council recommends the adoption of the following report
(May18, 1999) from the Commissioner of Economic Development, Culture and Tourism:
To provide comments on the Port Union Waterfront Improvement Project Environmental
Assessment (a project of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority) to be submitted to
the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.
It is recommended that:
(1)Council endorse the comments contained herein on the Port Union Waterfront
Improvement Project Environmental Assessment;
(2)this report be submitted to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment as comments on the
Environmental Assessment; and
(3)the appropriate City officials be authorized and directed to take the necessary action to
give effect thereto.
The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has proposed an improvement
project for the Scarborough waterfront, between Highland Creek and the Rouge River. The
project requires an individual Environmental Assessment (EA) to be prepared and approved
under the provincial Environmental Assessment Act.
The TRCA has prepared an Environmental Assessment document for the Port Union
Waterfront Improvement Project which has been submitted to the Ministry of the
Environment (the Ministry) for approval under the provincial Environmental Assessment Act.
The City of Toronto, among other agencies, has been asked to comment on the EA by the
Ministry as part of the review under the Act.
In response to the Ministry's request for comments on the Environmental Assessment, this
report has been prepared for submission as the City's comments. The Ministry will publish a
review of the Environmental Assessment, based on comments received from members of the
public and various agencies. A minimum 30-day review period is required, during which any
interested party may make submissions on the Environmental Assessment.
An executive summary of the Environmental Assessment (Appendix A) and a plan of the
project area (Appendix B) are on file in the Office of the City Clerk, Scarborough Civic
In essence, the undertaking entails the creation of a greenspace corridor south of the Canadian
National Railway tracks between Highland Creek and the Rouge River that is natural in
character. The project will establish a land base sufficient for a trail and other amenities south
of the tracks. This greenway south of the tracks will also link existing parklands in this sector
of the waterfront, creating linkages that will contribute to both regional and local scale
The undertaking's key features include:
- 3.8 km of waterfront greenspace corridor and trail
- The addition of 11.82 hectares of lakefill south of the railway tracks
- The configuration of the shoreline will include two series of headland beach
systems, a larger headland to function as a pedestrian node south of the tracks as an
extension to the Village Common (described below) and two existing dynamic
beaches at the western and eastern ends of the project. A portion of tableland in the
centre section of the project, known as Chesterton Shores, would require only
minimal shoreline work to maintain and enhance the existing land base.
- Five linkage points to the waterfront:
- a pedestrian underpass at the Port Union Village Common
- a pedestrian underpass at Lakeridge Drive
- a bridge across the mouth of Highland Creek (western limit of project area)
- an existing level crossing at Chesterton Shores
- an existing grade-separated crossing at Rouge Beach Park (eastern limit of
Along the entire length of the project area, there is a high-speed railway corridor, which is part
of the main GO Transit network. The majority of the railway embankment is higher than the
inland areas, forming a barrier between the community and the Lake Ontario waterfront. The
area north of the tracks has been undergoing redevelopment in recent years, particularly in the
vicinity of Port Union Road.
At present, there are only two formal access points to the waterfront along the entire length of
the project area. The first is at the level crossing at Chesterton Shores. The second is at the
east end at the mouth of the Rouge River at Rouge Beach Park. The lack of safe access to the
waterfront is a safety issue and one of the main reasons for the undertaking.
Several existing plans and initiatives that encompass the project area provide a planning
context for the undertaking. The Metro Toronto Waterfront Plan (1994) recognizes the
waterfront's regional significance. The TRCA's 1996 Integrated Shoreline Management Plan
(ISMP) builds on the Waterfront Regeneration Trust's Lake Ontario Greenway Strategy
(1995). The goal of both these documents is to "provide an ecosystem-based framework to
ensure that shoreline management activities result in a clean, green, accessible, diverse,
connected, open, affordable, attractive and useable waterfront."
At a more local level, the former City of Scarborough's Port Union Village Community
Secondary Plan (Official Plan Amendment 858) covers the area from Highland Creek to
Chesterton Shores. It calls for a public greenspace, the Village Common, to be located at the
foot of Port Union Road. The Village Common would extend into the proposed waterfront
area by means of a pedestrian tunnel (to be constructed by the City of Toronto) at the foot of
Port Union Road, becoming one of the principal access points to the waterfront.
The estimated budget for the Port Union Waterfront Improvement Project is $16.8 million in
1998 dollars (excluding property acquisition). The project will be implemented by the TRCA
with equal funding proposed from the Federal and Provincial governments and the City of
It is proposed that the Port Union Water Front Improvement Project be funded in two main
components: Phase I, from Highland Creek to Chesterton Shores, would be constructed first
and Phase II, from Chesterton Shores to the Rouge River, would follow. The timing for the
completion of each phase will depend upon the acquisition of shoreline properties, project
funding, and project approvals.
The waterfront area will be operated by the city as part of its parks system. The City, therefore,
has an interest in the project both as an operator as well as a funding partner.
Comments on the Environmental Assessment:
The Policy and Development Division of the Economic Development, Culture and Tourism
Department requested and coordinated the submission of comments on the proposed
undertaking from relevant city departments and services. Comments were received from
Urban Planning and Development Services, the Economic Development division of Economic
Development, Culture and Tourism, the Works and Emergency Services -Technical Services
division (verbal reply indicated support for the project), and emergency services providers
(fire, police and ambulance). Appendix C includes copies of the replies received. Comments
on the EA, including those received from other departments, are set out below in several main
(1)Park Form and Program
The project is to create a linear greenway south of the railway tracks between Highland Creek
and the Rouge River, which will be predominantly natural in character. This greenway will
require the placement of lakefill to achieve the necessary land base for the proposed facilities
(principally the trail and the pedestrian node) and shoreline structures needed to achieve a
suitable stable beach.
While the placement of lakefill is acknowledged as an impact on the existing shoreline, the
proposed project has been designed to require minimal filling for the identified park program.
Furthermore, a significant stretch of the area has a history of fill resulting from the creation of
the railway bed. Given the need and the opportunity to provide safe access to the waterfront,
the proposed lakefill appears to be justifiable and acceptable.
The project is in accord with the waterfront policies of the former Metro Official Plan and the
former City of Scarborough. It will further enhance the City's objectives of improving access
and enhancing the recreation potential of the waterfront.
(2)Relationship to the Community
The project has particular significance for the Port Union Village Community, which is
undergoing redevelopment. The Port Union Village Community plan promotes access to and
use of the waterfront and encourages improvement of its amenity value. The linkage of the
Village Common by a pedestrian underpass to a pedestrian node on the waterfront is an
essential element in the Village Common concept.
The plans for the undertaking were also formulated with community involvement and
consultation and therefore the plan is considered to be supported by the public.
The undertaking would provide an overall benefit to the City as it seeks to meet the greenway
needs of the community, the city and the region.
(3)Safe Public Access to the Proposed Waterfront Area
Safe access to the waterfront is a principal basis for the undertaking and stems from the
presence of the railway embankment that forms a physical barrier to the waterfront.
Appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that all planned access points are included in
the final implementation of the project and that people are discouraged from crossing the
tracks (e.g., with fencing and signage).
(4)Provision of Emergency Services in the Proposed Waterfront Area
Based on the anticipated increased use and activity in this section of the waterfront due to the
creation of the parkland, emergency services providers (police, fire and ambulance) have
commented on the need for appropriate access for their vehicles, both with respect to access
to/from the park and access within the park.
South of the tracks, the 3.5-metre wide trail runs the full length of the proposed greenway and
should be designed to accommodate emergency service and maintenance vehicles.
With respect to access to and from the greenway, there are, as outlined above, five points of
access across the railway tracks. From west to east, these are:
- A bridge across the mouth of Highland Creek
- A pedestrian underpass at Lakeridge Drive
- A pedestrian underpass at the foot of Port Union Road (Village Common)
- A level crossing at Chesterton Shores
- A grade-separated crossing at Rouge Beach Park
The proposed pedestrian bridge across the mouth of Highland Creek, at the west end of the
project area, will be able to accommodate the vehicles indicated (mini-pumper, ambulance,
Chief's van) by emergency services providers. The pedestrian underpasses at Lakeridge and
the Village Common will allow for a limited range of vehicles.
The level crossing at Chesterton Shores, slightly to the east of Port Union Road, should be
able to accommodate a broad range of emergency vehicles. The same applies to the
grade-separated crossing in Rouge Beach Park, at the east end of the project area, however, it
should be noted that this park road is, at present, typically closed during the winter season.
As with any access road or facility, maintenance practices will be important to ensure that the
access points remain serviceable as the park comes into public use. It appears that the access
points identified in the EA provide the degree of access indicated in the comments from the
emergency services providers.
Apart from the access comments, a number of other points were raised by emergency services
providers to help ensure public safety on the waterfront greenway. These comments are
outlined below. For the most part, they are most appropriately addressed in the detailed design
and project implementation stages that would follow approval of the EA. They are included
here in case of any potential implications they may have on the project that should be
considered at this stage.
Emergency services providers indicated that adequate lighting should be installed for safety
and security on trails and to assist emergency services staff. The EA states that park use at
night, dusk and dawn would be discouraged in order to minimize disturbance to active fauna
such as mammals and birds. This principle implies that lighting within the greenway may be
limited to certain areas, e.g., the pedestrian node and lookout at the foot of Port Union where
higher levels of use are anticipated.
The presence of lighting in the park in areas other than at the Port Union node should be
considered with respect to resident flora and fauna and migrating birds as stated in the EA.
Lighting may also provide a false sense of security to visitors using the park at night.
Moreover, if use other than in the daytime is discouraged, then lighting should be limited to
Emergency services providers indicated that public washrooms (with change rooms) should be
incorporated in the park design. There are, at present, public washroom facilities at Rouge
Beach Park and East Point Park (west of the project area). The plans for the Village Common
also include public washrooms. As there are public washrooms in existence or planned within
the greenway, this comment need not be addressed by the EA.
In their comments, emergency service providers suggested the following facilities and
conveniences be considered for inclusion in the park:
- Public rescue equipment such as floatation rings and rescue poles located at intervals
along the shoreline to enable on-scene witnesses to provide rescue assistance to
victims without endangering themselves.
- Water fountains along the length of the park to prevent dehydration on hot days
Emergency telephones strategically placed along the length of the park; telephones should be
marked with a number to which callers may refer when calling for help, in order to direct
emergency services providers to a specific location more quickly.
The foregoing items can be addressed during the detailed planning and implementation stages
for the project.
(5)Parking Provision and Access
The EA recognizes the importance of providing adequate parking but states that "no provision
for parking facilities are being incorporated into the Project". This raises the concern of
insufficient parking available for waterfront visitors. Inadequate parking was also raised in the
comments from the police.
The nature of the project area limits the ability to provide parking facilities south of the tracks
within the project area per se. Nonetheless, the issue of adequate parking for the proposed
waterfront greenway should not be underestimated. It is recommended, therefore, that
opportunities for parking to serve the waterfront area be pursued as the project progresses
(e.g., near the Village Common, in association with the GO Station, at Chesterton Shores). As
well, existing parking spaces in or near the project area (e.g., at the east end of East Point Park
and at Rouge Beach Park) should be maintained and managed as access areas for the
The Port Union Waterfront Improvement Project can be expected to have a positive effect on
tourism, not only at a local level but also at a regional level. The presence of the park may also
create opportunities for tourist-related amenities in the area.
(7)Environmental and Natural Heritage Issues
Disturbance of sensitive vegetation by off-leash dogs and the potential introduction of
invasive plants are a concern in a number of the City's parks and natural areas. However, the
EA recognizes the importance of this issue and strategies to address these problems and
minimize degradation should be addressed in the detailed design and implementation stages.
(8)Satisfaction of Terms of Reference
The Terms of Reference for the EA approved by the Ministry appear to be satisfied by the
The proposed undertaking would benefit the City of Toronto in several ways. First, it would
provide safe and enjoyable access to this sector of the waterfront. Second, the undertaking
would realize a greenway and trail along the Scarborough waterfront that would eventually
form part of the completely connected Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail. It would also improve
the connection between the Highland Creek and the Rouge River to the waterfront and to each
other, building upon the city-wide connected trail system.
Although some of the issues raised in the comments pose concerns for the City, they can be
addressed in the detailed design and implementation stages of this project.
Frank Kershaw Tel: 392-8199
Brian Rutherford Tel: 392-8179
A copy of the responses received, referred to as Appendix C in the foregoing report, was
provided to all Members of the Community Council and a copy thereof is on file in the Office
of the City Clerk, Scarborough Civic Centre.