The City of Toronto and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) are constructing a new multi-use trail to connect the existing East Don Trail, Gatineau Corridor Trail, and the Don Trail System.  Following an extensive public consultation and environmental assessment planning process, the final trail design will be completed later this year with construction commencing in early 2018.

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Map of Study Area
Map of Study Area

Purpose

Currently, there is a significant gap in the multi-use trail network within the East Don Corridor.  The purpose of the East Don Trail Environmental Assessment Study was to determine a preferred trail route within this existing gap.  This trail will:

  • create a key connection route linking major trail systems
  • provide a safe way for people to access the valley system
  • provide a viable transportation route for cyclists
  • create outdoor recreational opportunities for a variety of users

Background

Multi-use trails are facilities separated from the roadway and support a number of users – walkers, runners, cyclists, inline skaters, wheelchair users, people with baby strollers and people walking dogs.

During the summer of 2011, the City of Toronto conducted an audit of its existing major multi-use trail network to assess the viability of new trail connections. The findings were produced as the Bikeway Trails Implementation Plan which recommends 77 km of new bikeway trails to be added to the existing network. The plan was approved by City Council at its meeting on June 6, 2012. The East Don Trail is the largest and most complex multi-use trail project identified as a priority in this plan.

In May 2012, a feasibility study (summary posted below) was completed to assess the potential for a trail system through the East Don Corridor.  The study determined that a trail was possible and identified potential trail alignment options and technical challenges.  In order to determine the best trail route, further investigations and environmental studies were recommended.

The next step in this study involved a comprehensive planning and design as part of the Environmental Assessment process. Community feedback was incorporated throughout this process.

With approval from the MOECC to proceed with the project, the City of Toronto and TRCA are working on the detailed design and securing additional permits and approvals for the implementation of the East Don Trail.

The City has completed the East Don Trail study report and issued it for a 30-day public review period from November 10 to December 9, 2016.

Executive Summary

ES-1 Purpose of this Municipal Class Environmental Assessment

The purpose of the East Don Trail Municipal Class Schedule C Environmental Assessment (EA) is to create a key connection in the multi-use trail system: provide safe access to nature and recreational opportunities for the public; and create a safe travel route, through an environmentally sound planning process. The City of Toronto’s Bikeway Trails Implementation Plan approved by Toronto City Council in 2012 identified the need for a trail connection in the East Don Corridor, while the East Don Trail Master Plan Update, completed in 2012, determined the trail connection was feasible and recommended that further environmental studies were necessary. The East Don Trail EA has assessed a number of options to facilitate this connection and has identified a preferred trail route and design concept.

ES-2 Study Area

The East Don Trail EA Local and Regional Study Areas are shown in Figure ES2-1. The Local Study Area, also referred to as Study Area, encompasses an area where the proposed trail will be routed and where direct effects of the project may occur. The Regional Study Area a larger area where indirect effects of the project may occur.

ES-3 Background

The City of Toronto, working in partnership with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has undertaken a Schedule C of the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (MCEA) process to facilitate the creation of the East Don Trail. The East Don Trail would provide a connection to the City’s multi-use trail network between the existing East Don Trail located east of Wynford Heights Crescent, the proposed Gatineau Corridor Trail and the Don Trail Systems located south of where the East Don River and West Don River meet (Forks of the Don). In addition, a section of the East Don Trail would realize one of the strategic connections of the Pan Am Path, a multi-use path connecting Toronto trails and creating an active-living legacy for the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.

The key planning initiatives that supported the East Don Trail EA included the Bikeway Trails Implementation Plan and the East Don Trail Master Plan Update. Recommendations and resolutions made in planning documents such as the City of Toronto Official Plan, Accessibility Design Guidelines, Multi-Use Trail Design Guidelines, Natural Heritage Study, and Natural Environment Trails Strategy were also used to delineate the EA study area, identify problems and opportunities, develop project objectives, and identify and evaluate alternatives.

ES-4 Study Process

The East Don Trail EA was conducted in accordance with the requirements of the MCEA, Schedule C, as amended in 2015. This process consists of five phases with mandatory points of public contact, with the focus being a comprehensive and traceable decision-making process. The five phases include the following:

  • Phase 1: Identify the problem (deficiency) or opportunity
  • Phase 2: Identify alternative solutions to address the problem or opportunity by taking into consideration the existing environment, and establish the preferred solution taking into account public and Review Agency input. Determine the appropriate Schedule for the undertaking and document decisions
  • Phase 3: Examine alternative methods of implementing the preferred solution, based upon the existing environment, public and Review Agency input, anticipated environmental effects, and methods of minimizing negative effects and maximizing positive effects
  • Phase 4: Document, in an Environmental Study Report (ESR), a summary of the rationale, and the planning, design and consultation process of the project. The ESR is filed with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and placed on the public record for a 30 day review period
  • Phase 5: Complete contract drawings and documents, and proceed to construction and operation, with appropriate monitoring (MCEA, 2015), conditional on the project approval following the ESR submission

As per the MCEA requirements, this ESR has been prepared to document the East Don Trail Schedule C MCEA project activities, correspondence, and decision-making process up to and including Phase 4 of the MCEA process.

ES-5 Consultation

Public consultation was carried out in accordance with the consultation requirements set out in the MCEA document. Stakeholder groups included the public (interested persons and Community Liaison Committee), Indigenous communities, Review Agencies, Technical Advisory Committee, Key Stakeholders (agencies and businesses that own land or utilities within the project Study Area) and local politicians.

Three Public Events and seven meetings of the Community Liaison Committee were held over the course of the Study. Notices were issued in a variety of methods to advise the public of the commencement of the Class EA, Public Events, completion of the Class EA, and key project decision points. Copies of these notices were sent to project stakeholders. In addition to the notification and public event requirements set out by the MCEA, a number of mechanisms were used to provide an opportunity for meaningful engagement throughout the duration of the study, which included a regularly updated project webpage regular updates of a frequently asked questions document, and an email account providing for one-window communication opportunities between the public and the project team.

ES-6 Problem/Opportunity Statement and project objectives (Phase 1)

The East Don Trail EA problem/opportunity statement and project objectives were developed and refined following review by City of Toronto staff, TRCA staff, and the public, and constitute the following:

Opportunity Statement

A significant gap in the multi-use trail network exists within the East Don Corridor between the existing East Don Trail (east of Wynford Heights Crescent), Gatineau Corridor Trail (at approximately Bermondsey Road), and the Don Trail System (Figure ES6-1). The East Don Trail will fill this existing gap in the trail network, thus creating a continuously connected trail network.

Project objectives

The successful preferred solution for the East Don Trail will address the following six main objectives:

Connections

  • To provide a key connection route linking local and inter-regional trail systems

Public Safety

  • To provide a safe way for a broad spectrum of users to access the valley system
  • To provide safe off-road options (where possible) for cycling and recreational use
  • To investigate options to accommodate emergency response, city and utility maintenance vehicles/activities

Natural Environment

  • To assist in the management of informal trails by providing a single focused multi-use trail within the East Don Corridor
  • To be respectful of the natural environment through the alignment, design, and construction of the trail by aiming to avoid, prevent, or minimize negative impacts
  • To increase access to a range of users to discover and appreciate natural areas within the city

Recreation

  • To create trail and outdoor recreational opportunities for a variety of users
  • To provide trail and outdoor recreational opportunities for neighbouring communities

Transportation

  • To function as a safe travel route to everyday places and amenities

Supports Other Initiatives

  • To coordinate with other planning initiatives in the area allowing for future integration of the multi-use trail (e.g., Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit)

ES-7 Existing conditions and detailed environmental inventory

Review of the existing conditions of the East Don Trail EA Study Area provided the necessary information to support the decision-making process. The proposed alternatives were evaluated based on the impact on the existing environment.

The environmental inventory included the examination and documentation of existing site conditions concerning current transportation methods and existing trails, physical environment (particularly East Don River geomorphology, hydraulic parameters, and erosion hazards), biological environment (vegetation, wildlife etc.), cultural environment (archaeology, built heritage etc.), and socio-economic environment (local land uses, infrastructure, etc.). In the Alternative Solutions EA phase (Phase 2), existing conditions information was used to evaluate the alternative trail alignments in terms of their potential impact on the surrounding environment.

During the Alternative Design Concepts EA phase (Phase 3), a detailed environmental inventory was compiled and included; a topography survey, East Don River flood levels, and tree inventory. This information was used to develop, refine and evaluate the trail alternative design concepts.

ES-8 Alternative solutions (Phase 2)

Alternative solutions are feasibly different ways of solving the identified problem or addressing the identified opportunity. In Phase 2 of this EA, a number of alternative solutions were developed and evaluated. The preferred solution addresses the EA problem/opportunity statement as well as project objectives.

To identify the preferred solution, a two-step process was undertaken:

Step 1: Alternatives To

Two functionally different ways of addressing the problem/opportunity termed “alternatives to”, were identified. The “alternatives to” included the “Do Nothing” alternative and the “Provide Multi-Use Trail Connection” alternative. To determine the preferred functional approach, the “alternatives to” were evaluated in the context of project objectives and potential impacts.

The “Do Nothing” alternative consisted of no action, and the “Provide Multi-Use Trail Connection” consisted of constructing a multi-use trail from the existing East Don Trail to the Lower Don Trail. A trail connection would also be constructed to facilitate a planned connection to the Gatineau Corridor Trail.

The “Do Nothing” alternative does not meet or provides limited fulfillment of the project objectives while the “Provide Multi-Use trail Connection” alternative meets all project objectives.

The potential impacts associated with the “Do Nothing” and “Provide Multi-Use Trail Connection” “alternatives to” were assessed based on six broad criteria themes which included: Functional Value, Natural and Physical Environment, Social and Cultural Environment, Cost, Technical, and Support of Planning Initiatives.

“Provide Multi-Use Trail Connection” approach was identified as the preferred “alternative to”. This alternative provides access for a variety of users into the East Don Corridor and facilitates connection with existing and planned adjacent trails; provides recreational opportunities, increases public safety (trail use and access); connects adjacent communities and neighbourhoods, and supports a number of current planning initiatives such as the Bikeway Trails Implementation Plan.

Step 2: Alternative Trail Alignments

After the “Provide Multi-Use Trail Connection” approach was selected as the preferred “alternative to” (the result of Step 1), a number of trail routes termed “alternative trail alignments” were developed that supported the problem/opportunity statement and project objectives.

For the purposes of developing and evaluating alternative trail alignments, the Study Area was divided into three distinct areas (Area 1, Area 2, and Area 3) based on the overall Study Area size and complexity of existing conditions (highly variable topography, infrastructure, multiple land uses and property requirements). Unique alignments were developed for each Area, and were then evaluated relative to each other (e.g., Area 1 alignments were evaluated relative to each other, separately from Area 2 and 3 alignments). The preferred solution consists of three preferred trail alignments, one in each Area.

Conforming to the “alternatives to” evaluation approach, alternative trail alignments were evaluated in terms of their potential impact on the surrounding environment. In particular, positive and negative impacts were examined according to the following categories: Functional Value, Natural and Physical Environment, Social and Cultural Environment, Cost, and Technical. Based on the results of the evaluation, the preferred alternative trail alignment (i.e., preferred solution) was selected.

The alternative trail alignments and preliminary evaluation results were presented to the public and other project stakeholders. In response to feedback received on the alignments and evaluation, a number of Area 1 and Area 2 alignments were revised and evaluated. Area 3 alignments did not undergo revisions.

For clarification purposes, the original alignments presented to the public prior to revisions were termed original alignments, and the alignments revised and evaluated as a result of public and stakeholder feedback were termed revised alignments.

The original alternative trail alignments and approximate lengths by Area are listed below. Trail alignments and Areas are shown in Figure ES8-1.

Area 1

  • Forest Trail A (1.4 km) and Forest Trail B (1.4 km)

Area 2

  • Road Link A (2.9 km), Road Link B (3.3 km), and Road Link C (3.4 km)
  • River Walk A (2.7 km), River Walk B (2.8 km), and River Walk C (3.4 km)
  • Rail Trail A (2.1 km), Rail Trail B (2.2 km), and Rail Trail C (3.4 km)

Area 3

  • Access Route A (1.7 km), Access Route B (1.7 km), and Access Route C (2.1 km)

The revised alternative trail alignments and approximate lengths by Area are listed below. Trail alignments and Area boundaries are shown in Figure ES8-2.

Area 1

  • Forest Trail A (1.4 km) and Forest Trail C (1.0 km)

Area 2

  • Hillside Trail (2.1 km), Corridor Trail (2.1 km), and River Walk (2.7 km)

The preferred solution consists of Forest Trail A in Area 1, Hillside Trail in Area 2 and Access Route B in Area 3, and is shown in Figure ES8-3.

In Area 1, Forest Trail A provides improved access to existing city infrastructure and emergency vehicles and is more easily accessible by trail users, including those with limited mobility. This alignment also allows for a future connection to be made to the Victoria Village community. Located in an area characterized by multiple informal trails, Forest Trail A would provide the local community with an opportunity to enjoy the valley lands while minimizing impacts on environmentally sensitive areas and discouraging public access to potentially unsafe areas (e.g., high eroded river banks). Finally, Forest Trail A constitutes an aesthetically pleasing route that travels through a variety of landscapes and offers a diversity of user experiences.

In Area 2, River Walk B scored highest in the evaluation. However, this trail alignment cannot be considered further at this time as the property (Flemingdon Park Golf Club) that would be required for trail implementation is not currently available.  As a result, the second-highest scoring alignment, Hillside Trail, was identified as the preferred alignment and moved forward to Phase 3, with the Hydro Corridor Connection facilitated via the B option. Hillside Trail allows for an easy connection to be made to Eglinton Avenue East, which, in turn, allows for a connection to future proposed Eglinton Avenue bike lanes and the Eglinton Light Rail Transit, thereby increasing access to and connectivity among transportation modes. Hillside Trail results in a low impact to aquatic habitat, river processes and hydraulics of the East Don River. In addition, this alignment results in the least impact on local business operations while providing an aesthetically pleasing route that will travel through a variety of settings.

In Area 3, the majority of Access Route B is located along an existing Toronto Water maintenance access route, which is to be formalized as a multi-use trail. Access Route B connects to the Don Trails and Taylor Creek Trail via the Taylor Massey Creek bridge. This connection not only allows trail users to access East Don Trail from the Lower Don, West Don, and Taylor Massey Creek trail systems but also provides an optimal access point to existing Toronto Water infrastructure.

ES-9 Alternative design concepts for preferred solution (Phase 3)

Phase 3 of the Municipal Class EA Schedule C process focuses on  the examination of alternative methods of implementing the preferred solution, based upon the existing environment, public and Review Agency input, anticipated environmental effects (or impacts), and methods of minimizing negative effects and maximizing positive effects (MCEA, 2015).

To create the alternative methods of implementing the preferred solution, or design concepts, the preferred trail alignment selected in Phase 2 of this EA was divided into 12 segments delineated by watercourse or rail line crossings.

As shown in Figure ES9-1, two or more design concepts were developed for each segment, which included trail path sections (segments A to D, F, G, I, J, and L) as well as crossings (segments E, H, and K). Developing a range of viable alternative design concepts for some trail portions was impractical or infeasible. These areas were identified as preferred segments and will be included in the trail detailed design. Alternative design concepts were not developed for short sections of the preferred trail alignment, existing access routes, the majority of watercourse crossings, and transition areas (trail portions immediately adjacent to crossings).

Alternative design concept development was informed by the location of existing informal trails and directed by several technical constraints within the area.  Concepts were also considered against project guiding principles to ensure that only viable design concepts that met project objectives were brought forward for evaluation.

The three main technical constraints imposed by the area and associated with design concept development included topography, flooding frequency, and extent of existing urban forest. As mentioned in ES-7, a detailed environmental inventory consisting of topography survey results, East Don River flood levels, and tree inventory was compiled to develop, refine, and evaluate the trail alternative design concepts.

The guiding principles in developing alternative design concepts included the following:

  • Meet accessibility requirements, where possible
  • Maintain grades of less than 5%, where possible
  • Meet user needs (e.g., ensure adequate sight lines)
  • Route trail outside of the 2 year floodline, where possible
  • Minimize impacts to the physical and natural environment
  • Meet the needs of emergency and maintenance vehicles, where possible

Evaluation incorporated identification and assessment of the potential environmental impacts of each alternative design concept. Consistent with the evaluation approach used in the EA Phases 1 and 2, the evaluation criteria were grouped according to categories of impact: Functional Value, Natural and Physical Environment, Social and Cultural Environment, Cost, and Technical.

The preferred alternative design concept for the entire trail consists of the preferred alternative design concepts selected for each segment and is illustrated in Figure ES9-2. The preferred design concept selection was based on the alternative design concepts evaluation results as well as input from the public and other project stakeholders.

ES-10 Preferred alternative description

The preferred alternative is illustrated in Figure ES10-1 and a description of key elements is provided below.

  • General route: The preferred trail alignment is approximately 4.8 km long, and includes 10 watercourse crossings (bridges) over the East Don River and Taylor Massey Creek, two bridges over tributaries of the East Don River, five crossings of the Metrolinx rail line, and extends through properties owned by the City of Toronto, TRCA, and Hydro One (Infrastructure Ontario).
  • Trail design: An asphalt multi-use trail, approximately 3.6 to 4 m wide, is recommended by the City to accommodate typical two-way pedestrian and non-motorized uses (bike, rollerblading, etc.) as well as occasional City of Toronto maintenance or Emergency Medical Services vehicle access while maintaining a reduced footprint through the natural environment. The trail design will follow the Toronto Multi-Use Trail Design Guidelines (2014) and City of Toronto Accessibility Design Guidelines (2016, draft) where feasible.
  • Watercourse crossings: Although multi-use trail crossings do not have the same potential to impact flood levels as major road crossings of a watercourse, to ensure that the required longevity of the crossing structure is not inhibited from a geomorphic process perspective, watercourse crossings would be placed perpendicular to straight and shallow riffle sections along straight and stable sections, where possible. Specific sizing of the crossings will be completed in the detailed design project phase. Typically, a minimal allowance defined as a 25 year erosion threshold is applied to bridge abutments beyond the channel top of bank to allow for natural creek tendencies such as erosion, migration, or enlargement.
  • Rail line crossings: A total of five crossings of the Metrolinx rail line are required to facilitate the preferred alignment. At two of the rail line crossings – Metrolinx 1 and 4 – constructing a tunnel through an elevated embankment is feasible. Both tunnels will be designed and built based on current conditions (i.e., current rail line right-of-way and embankment dimensions). At the northern most rail line crossing (Metrolinx 5), an existing rail line infrastructure bridge spans the East Don valley with sufficient room for the trail to extend underneath. Here, an underpass will be constructed. At Metrolinx 2 and Metrolinx 3 crossings there is not enough separation in grade between the rail line and adjacent lands to tunnel under the track, therefore level crossings and bridge crossings were explored.  Though the level crossings were evaluated the highest, the bridge crossings have been selected as the preferred method following discussions with Metrolinx. All rail line crossings require the approval of Metrolinx prior to implementation.
  • Road underpasses: The trail will require crossing (underpasses) of two roads, the Don Valley Parkway and Eglinton Avenue. The Don Valley Parkway underpass exists as part of Toronto Water maintenance access route.  To facilitate the trail under Eglinton Avenue an elevated structure will be implemented along the east side of the river.
  • Aesthetics and design elements: Improvements to the landscape within the East Don corridor are proposed as an integral component of the trail implementation. Where possible, landscape improvements will be designed to achieve a number of parallel objectives, including the following:
    • Mitigation of impacts on vegetation communities anticipated to occur as a consequence of trail construction
    • Restoration of existing degraded landscapes within the valley in the vicinity of the alignment of the proposed trail
    • Enhancement of user comfort and experience
    • Enhancement of user safety and security
    • Integration of interpretive narratives
    • Establishment of a unique and recognizable aesthetic signature that binds components of the trail together

The proposed materials to be utilized in the construction of the features and amenities along the trail include naturally weathering steel, concrete, and natural stone. The trail, associated landscape features, and amenities will be designed with the objectives of improving accessibility and enhancing public safety. The design will be guided by the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation Guidelines (2014) Part 4.1 Design of Public Spaces Standard and the City of Toronto Accessibility Design Guidelines (2016, draft).

  • Infrastructure/utilities: Utilities and infrastructure which may be affected by the trail include, but are not limited to those owned by Metrolinx, Hydro One, Toronto Hydro, Enbridge, Bell, and Toronto Water. Each of these stakeholders has specific standards to be met throughout design and construction. In addition to the utility companies mentioned above, Flemingdon Park Golf Club has been involved in the Study as Key Stakeholder since the trail is routed in close proximity to this golf course. Pending approval of this EA, these stakeholders will continue to be engaged throughout the East Don Trail Project detailed design and implementation phases.
  • Construction: Construction of the East Don Trail will likely be undertaken in three phases:
    • Phase 1: Phase 1 extent and key features are illustrated in Figure ES10-2. This section of trail is approximately 3.1 km in length, including the Hydro Corridor Connection The key elements include one tunnel crossing of Metrolinx rail line (Metrolinx 1), one  bridge crossing over the Metrolinx rail line (Metrolinx 2) (pending approval), four bridges over the East Don River (Bridges 2 – 5), and one over Taylor Massey Creek (Bridge 1). The construction of this segment would be initiated in 2017.
    • Phase 2: The second phase of construction is planned to extend from the existing East Don Trail south to Eglinton Avenue East, as shown in Figure ES10-3. This phase involves extending the trail segments over five bridges (Bridges 6 – 10, as shown in Figure ES10-1), Metrolinx underpass (Metrolinx 5), a tunnel crossing (Metrolinx 4) and a bridge crossing over the rail line  (Metrolinx 3). This section of the trail is approximately 1.4 km long. The construction of Phase 2 would potentially commence in late 2017/early 2018.
    • Phase 3: The third phase of construction would connect Phase 1 and Phase 2, extending east of the rail line corridor along the base of the valley slope (Figure ES10-4). While this section is relatively short (approximately 900 m), the trail here traverses the most challenging topography due to significant grade changes and presence of low lying wet areas as well as areas of impingement where the rail line right-of-way  extends into  the valley slope. Phase 3 construction start date is to be determined.
  • Cost: The total approximate cost to implement the preferred design concept throughout the entire Study Area is $26 million (not including applicable taxes).  The cost provided should be indexed and adjusted to market conditions at the actual time of construction.

ES-11 Environmental impacts and mitigation measures

Minimizing or eliminating environmental impacts was an important aspect considered in the selection of the preferred alternative trail alignment and the preferred design concept. However, due to the location and scale of the project, there are environmental impacts that may require mitigation through the detailed design. Potential impacts associated with routing a trail through a valley system in an urban setting include impacts to vegetation (existing urban forest), species of concern and wildlife habitat, archaeological resources, existing informal natural surface (dirt) trails, safety and accessibility, user conflict, electromagnetic fields, geotechnical conditions, fluvial geomorphology, and surface erosion and overland flow. The trail detailed design phase will include a number of detailed assessments (e.g., geotechnical investigations) to inform the design of the trail so that these impacts can be prevented or minimized.

Furthermore, specific construction techniques (e.g., best practices for sediment source control and pollution protection), set protocols (e.g., spill control plans) and other measures developed in advance as part of the construction, monitoring and restoration plans are intended to mitigate residual impacts and impacts that may arise during trail construction.

ES-12 Permits and approvals

City of Toronto, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and/or the party responsible for the trail implementation will secure necessary permits and approvals for the implementation of the proposed East Don Trail in order to comply with the various Acts and Regulations such as the Railway Safety Act, Ontario Heritage Act, City of Toronto Ravine and Natural Feature Protection By-law etc. As well, approvals from a number of Key Stakeholders and property owners (e.g., Hydro One) whose properties abut or are intersected by the proposed trail will need to be obtained in order to proceed with implementation.

ES-13 Commitments to future work

East Don Trail EA commitments to future work include the following:

  • Finalization of the trail detailed design
  • Development of construction management plan, monitoring plan, and restoration plan
  • Development of the trail operations and maintenance plan
  • Finalize Stage 2 Archaeological Assessment

To view complete report, list of figures, tables and appendices download PDF files call Maogosha Pyjor at 416-338-2850 or Maogosha.Pyjor@toronto.ca.

The Community Liaison Committee (CLC) provided interested community members with an opportunity to discuss options for an East Don Trail with City of Toronto and TRCA staff.

Members of the committee included representatives from local community organizations, users of the East Don Valley Corridor and local residents. The CLC met seven times during the Environmental Assessment (EA) process.

1. What is an Environmental Assessment Study?

An environmental assessment (commonly known as a EA) is a study required by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) to assess the potential positive or negative effects of an individual project on the environment. Social, cultural and economic aspects are also considered. Key components of an environmental assessment include:

  • consultation with government agencies and the public
  • consideration and evaluation of alternatives
  • management of potential environmental effects

Ontario Government Environmental Assessments 

2. What type of Environmental Assessment is this Study?

The Study was planned in accordance with the guidelines set out in the provincially approved document titled “Municipal Class Environmental Assessment” (Municipal Engineers’ Association, October 2000 as amended in 2007, 2011, and 2015) and falls within the category of a Schedule ‘C’ Class Environmental Assessment (EA). The Study has also been undertaken in accordance with the Ministry of Infrastructure (MOI) Public Work Class EA.

Municipal Class EA process

MOI Public Work Class EA

3. What is the purpose of the East Don Trail Study?

This Study will determine a preferred trail route withing the East Don valley lands. This proposed trail will:

  • Create a key connection route linking major trail systems
  • Provide a safe way for people to access the valley system
  • Provide a viable transportation route for cyclists
  • Create outdoor recreational opportunities for a variety of users

4. Where is the Study Area located?

The Regional Study Area is located within the East Don valley lands, which are located in the City of Toronto, and is bounded by Lawrence Avenue to the north, O’Connor Drive to the south, Victoria Park Avenue to the east, and Don Mills Road, Overlea Boulevard and Donlands Avenue to the west.

5. Where is the funding for the trail coming from?

Funding will come from Transportation Services, and Parks, Forestry & Recreation capital budgets. Capital budgets are part of a multi-year funding program which is adopted by City Council. The multi-year plan covers longer term and one-time expenditures for fixed assets. Some funding for the trail may also be sought through other internal funding mechanisms (e.g. Section 37 funds) and external grant/stimulus program opportunities.

Note: Section 37 refers to the Planning Act which permits the City to authorize increases in permitted height and/or density of new developments through the zoning bylaw in return for community benefits.

6. How does the proposed multi-use trail connect with the Pan Am path project?

A portion of the East Don Trail Study Area forms part of the ‘Pan Am Path” – this includes the southern section of the East Don Corridor as well as the connection to the Gatineau Corridor Trail. The Pan Am Path is a multi-use path that will connect over 80 kilometres of Toronto’s trails, adjoining neighbourhoods and Pan Am competition sites from north west Etobicoke to south east Scarborough. It is supported by City Council as a Pan Am showcase project.

7. What are the expected benefits of an East Don Trail?

Multi-use trails are actively enjoyed by a wide range of users and are generally considered an attractive neighbourhood amenity. Trails provide a space for interaction with neighbours and increase access for people to discover natural, cultural and heritage places in the City.

Public places that are actively used by residents are generally regarded as safer and more comfortable for all ages – the most effective crime prevention approach is to encourage a high level of activity along the trail system.

Trails support the opportunity for physical activity through hiking, walking, running, rollerblading and cycling which is in tune with the City’s public health objective to encourage physical activity to improve the health of Torontonians.

Building trails that are high-quality and accessible infrastructure also promotes social equality.

The East Don Trail will provide a single multi-use trail in a valley system that currently contains an extensive network of informal trails. This will encourage users to stay on a single route away from more ecologically sensitive areas, minimizing negative environmental effects. For more information refer to Questions 27 and 29.

Environmental Study Report (ESR)

8. What is the status of the East Don Trail Study?

  • Phases 1 to 4 of the Environmental Assessment (EA) process have been completed for the East Don Trail Study.
  • Phase 1 identified the purpose of the Study (the problem or opportunity for this Study) and set project objectives.
  • Phase 2 identified and evaluated alternative solutions, or alternative trail alignment options.
  • Phase 3 identified and evaluated alternative design concepts for the preferred solution and selected a preferred design concept (preferred trail route). To view the preferred trail design concept on the project website, see Summer 2016 Update.
  • Phase 4 included preparing the Environmental Study Report (ESR), which documents the project activities, correspondence and decision-making process up to and including Phase 4 of the EA process, for public record.
    The ESR was available for a 30 calendar day review period from Thursday, November 10 to Thursday, December 9, 2016

During the thirty day review period, members of the public submitted written requests to the provincial Minister of the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change to require the City to comply with Part II of the Environmental Assessment Act. The Minister has denied the requests for the Part II and approved the Class EA.

Part II Order process

9. Once the project is approved by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), what are the next steps?

The project will move into the implementation phase. The implementation phase, or Phase 5, includes completion of trail detailed design, contract drawings and documents, followed by trail construction and operation with appropriate monitoring, as detailed in the Environmental Study Report.

Detailed Design

10. What happens during the trail detailed design?

The trail detailed design will refine and finalize the preferred trail design concept selected in Phase 3 of the EA and described in the Study ESR. This phase will produce detailed design drawings including construction standards and specifications, Construction Management Plan, Environmental Monitoring Plan and trail Operations and Maintenance Plan.

11. Does the project have to go through any reviews or permits beyond the EA?

Yes. A number of permits and approvals will need to be secured prior to trail construction. Acts, regulations and City by-laws that may need to be adhered to include, but are not limited to the, Migratory Birds Convention Act, Ontario Heritage Act, Conservation Authorities Act , Ravine and Natural Feature Protection By-law and Noise Control By-law.

In addition, where the proposed trail route intercepts public utilities, review and approvals will be required from those utility companies, including: GO/Metrolinx, Hydro One, and Enbridge Gas.

General Design Parameters

12. What is the general design for the trail?

The trail will be designed as multi-use trail. Toronto has hundreds of kilometres of multi-use trails in parks, hydro and rail corridors, boulevards and natural areas across the city. Multi-use trails are generally paved and shared by people walking, in wheelchairs, pushing strollers, running, in-line skating and cycling. The East Don Trail will be an approximately 3.6 to 4 meter wide, 4.8 kilometer long asphalt multi-use trail routed within the East Don Valley, and contain a number of watercourse bridges and crossings of the rail line.

13. Where will the proposed trail be located?

A number of factors were assessed to determine the most suitable trail location, including physical, natural, social-economic, and cultural environments. The preferred trail route meets the Study objectives for providing safe access to the valley lands, a safe off-road option for cyclists and other users, as well as providing a simple focused route while avoiding or minimizing environmental impacts.

14. Where will the access points to the trail be located?

The trail will be accessible from the existing East Don Trail, Lower Don Trail, Taylor Creek Trail, West Don Trail, Wigmore Park, Eglinton Ave East and Brmondsey Road.

15. What type of material will be used for the trail surface?

The majority of the trail surface will be asphalt. Asphalt was chosen because it is a firm and stable surface, does not erode, and has lower maintenance costs than other materials (e.g., natural surface, limestone screenings, woodchips). Asphalt is also able to support a variety of users and abilities (i.e., children, users with mobility issues, and elderly users) and is considered a standard trail surface for multi-use trails by the City of Toronto. In some sections of the trail a boardwalk surface may be necessary to travel across lower wet areas.

16. Will trail amenities be provided (e.g., signage, lighting, etc.)?

Yes. Some trail amenities will be located at nodal points (where the trail meets the road, other trails or parkland), and may include garbage receptacles, signage and bicycle parking. Lighting will be explored at areas where the trail meets the street (access points). These types of amenities including, specific locations, type and details will be determined in the detailed design phase of the Study.

17. Will the existing gravel access route along the East Don River which is used by Toronto Water remain as it is?

Toronto Water uses the existing route in the southern portion of the Study Area for periodic monitoring of the East Don Trunk Sewer. The preferred trail alignment also utilizes this route. Shared use of the trail with Toronto Water will have a smaller footprint of impact to the local area.

Construction

18. When will construction of the trail start?

The trail will be constructed in three (3) phases as follows:

1) The section of trail to be constructed in Phase 1 extends from the Lower Don Trail, over Taylor Massey Creek, along the Toronto Water access route, through the lower section of the ravine towards Flemingdon Park Golf Club and east through the Gatineau Hydro Corridor, terminating at Bermondsey Road. Phase 1 will be initiated in early 2018.

2) Phase 2 is planned to extend from the existing East Don Trail south to Eglinton Avenue East, with construction potentially commencing in early 2018.

3) Phase 3 will connect Phase 1 and Phase 2, from Eglinton Avenue East south to the Gatineau Hydro Corridor. Phase 3 construction commencement is to be determined.

Construction for each phase will be subject to approvals and budget availability.

19. How long will it take to construct the trail?

Currently, there is no definite time line for the length of construction. Construction of the trail will be done in three (3) phases as outlined in Question 20, with the construction of the complete trail taking approximately 4 or more years, subject to approvals and budget availability.

20. How will trail construction impact the surrounding environment and what will you do to ensure it’s protected?

The trail construction may impact the surrounding environment in a number of ways. Construction activities may affect local vegetation (tree removal), aquatic environment (sediment run-off), wildlife (displacement as a result of construction-related disturbance), existing natural area uses (adjacent trails closures and intermittent increases in noise and vibration levels) and several other environment components.

To minimize the impacts, various mitigation measures have been proposed. These include sediment and erosion control measures, post-construction site restoration and tree planting, conformance to migratory and breeding bird timing windows, minimizing the size of staging areas, and issuing timely construction notices to local residents and park users.

The project Environmental Study Report contains a detailed description of construction-related environmental impacts and mitigation measures. As per the requirements of the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment, these provisions are to be adhered to during trail implementation.

Consultation

21. How will the public be updated about the trail detailed design and construction?

The public can keep informed in a number of ways:

  • a public event will be held during the detailed design phase
  • the project website for the EA will be maintained for the detailed design and construction phases
  • members of the public who wish to receive updates by mail can contact Maogosha Pyjor, Senior Public Consultation Coordinator, by phone: 416-338-2850 or email: eastdontrail@toronto.ca
  • you can subscribe to the mailing list to receive updates by emai

Accessibility

22. Some areas in the valley are very steep. If a trail is built there it may be inaccessible for people with mobility issues and elderly users. How will this be addressed?

The East Don valley lands provide an interesting and varied trail experience, but do present challenges for making the trail easily accessible to people with mobility limitations, such as those with a disability, the elderly and people with strollers. Wherever possible, the trail will be designed and built to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Throughout the process of the selecting the design concept, all efforts were made to route the trail in areas of minimal grade changes. In cases where the trail locations, and consequently the design, are restricted, less steep alternatives were explored. Trail detailed design will incorporate signage informing users of trail segments with potential access challenges.

23. What is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)?

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was enacted by the provincial government in 2005 to help make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities. This act lays the framework for the development of province-wide mandatory standards on accessibility in all areas of daily life.

24. Will Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act apply to the East Don Trail Project?

The East Don Trail will comply with the requirements set out by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). However, AODA allows for exceptions to be made where meeting requirements is not possible due to:

  • existing site constraints (for example, existing hydro, rail and gas infrastructure)
  • negative effects on water, fish, wildlife, plants, invertebrates, species at risk, ecological integrity, or natural/cultural heritage values

The City of Toronto’s Parks Forestry & Recreation Advocate for People with Disabilities is involved with the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) for the East Don Trail Study. In addition the City’s Parks Forestry & Recreation Community Disability Steering Committee has been engaged during the EA process, and will continue to be engaged as part of the detailed design. These individuals will provide input into the design process to ensure that accessibility standards are met wherever possible.

Natural Environment

25. How will you ensure that the trail will not look “over developed”? I like the natural feel of the Don Valley lands.

One of the defining features of the current Study Area is the feeling of escaping into nature while still being in the city. During the evaluation and selection process of the preferred route opportunities to avoid or mitigate effects on the natural environment were addressed, and included a trail aesthetics component. Based on this component, crossing structures and segments most consistent with the natural environment experience were ranked higher during the evaluation and selected to form the preferred route, where possible.

26. Will an increase in traffic in the area harm existing plants and wildlife?

Currently, the East Don valley lands have an extensive network of informal trails (dirt trails that develop over time from repeated use). Throughout the Study Area, these informal trails have an impact on the natural environment, including:

  • habitat fragmentation – the breaking up one patch of habitat into a number of smaller patches
  • increased opportunities for interaction –between people and local wildlife and/or, their pets and wildlife

By developing a single multi-use trail, users will be encouraged to stay on a single route. In addition, the trail will allow access to the valley for future restoration and maintenance of areas that are currently in a deteriorated state.

27. Will there be any restoration work or improvements to the natural environment in the area associated with the trail?

The trail design and location will respect the natural environment and minimize negative environmental impacts. However, it is recognized that some damage may occur.

A Monitoring Plan will be developed in the detailed design project phase that will outline the procedures to monitor the potential environmental impacts of trail construction as well as assess the effectiveness of impact mitigation measures. Also to be developed during detailed design, the Restoration Plan will address compensation for necessary vegetation removal required to construct the trail. The plan will specify compensation for the removed and/or injured trees, at a greater amount than removed.

Finally, the City of Toronto will adhere to any conditions, such as tree and shrub planting, of permits issued under applicable regulations, such as Toronto’s Ravine and Natural Feature Protection By-law 

28. Will the development of the trail increase the spread of invasive species?

Invasive species are plants, animals, aquatic life and micro-organisms that out compete native species when introduced outside of their natural environment and threaten the local ecosystem. Invasive species are already present throughout much of the Study Area. Informal trails which people use through both infested areas and pristine areas are one way invasive species are spread.

Part of the Study looked at minimizing negative environmental effects by concentrating use on a single trail, away from areas with higher ecological value where possible. A formal trail that allows for better access to the valley will also make it easier for the City to monitor and address the spread of invasive species.

To reduce the potential of trail construction contributing to invasive species spread, the following measures will be implemented during construction:

  • Minimize importing and/or moving fill/soil, where possible
  • Retain as much existing vegetation as possible during site preparation and construction
  • Avoid transplanting vegetation to minimize spread of invasive species from infested to non-infested areas
  • Employ restoration practices that contribute to prevention of invasive species spread (e.g., use site-appropriate native plants and invasive-free materials for post-construction restoration).

29. How will the development of the trail impact local wildlife?

Impacts on wildlife associated with trail development vary depending on the species of animal. The majority of wildlife in the Study Area are species that have successfully adapted to and are commonly found in urban settings (e.g. grey squirrel). The potential negative effects on wildlife of developing a single multi-use trail are expected to be minor overall.

To minimize the impact of trail construction to wildlife, the following measures are proposed:

  • design the trail and configure construction access and staging areas to minimize vegetation removal, grading and filling, where possible.
  • restrict site preparation, such as tree removal, during the time of year when migratory and other birds are breeding (between May 1 and July 31).
  • restore areas around the trail after constructing using appropriate native tree and shrub species and consider other habitat enhancements where appropriate.
  • if necessary, further measures to minimize potential impacts will be developed in consultation with the City of Toronto Tree Protection and Plan Review section, TRCA biologists and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

30. How will the trail impact the deer that currently use the area?

Impacts on white-tailed deer in the Study Area are expected to be minor. Efforts will be made to minimize removal of trees and shrubs that provide cover for deer. In addition, providing a single trail can lower disturbance to deer[1] by concentrating human use to a smaller area which deer can avoid. Deer are highly adaptable and able to use a variety of landscapes, except open areas where they cannot take cover[2]. In urban areas, white-tailed deer become more active at night and use areas with more cover during the day[3].

Land Ownership

31. Are the private landowners in the local Study Area being consulted?

Yes. The private landowners and key stakeholders that will be directly impacted by the design and construction of the proposed trail are being consulted regularly throughout the Class EA process, and their feedback and concerns are being documented by the project team. They include Hydro One, Enbridge, Flemingdon Park Golf Club, and GO/Metrolinx.

32. What will happen to the Flemingdon Park Golf Club?

In the evaluation of trail alignments, the alignment which went through the Flemingdon Park Golf Club (River Walk B) scored the highest in terms of functional value, less impact on natural and physical environment, and user experience. However, the preferred alignment that has been selected is the second highest scoring alignment (Hillside Trail) with a portion of the trail which runs adjacent to the Golf Course. Hillside trail was chosen because it does not affect the current operations of the golf club or require private property acquisition. The East Don Trail Project team will continue to consult with Flemindgon Park Golf Club throughout the process.

Safety

33. How will the new multi-use trail provide safe access to the valley lands?

A number of design criteria will be looked at during the detailed design stage of the Study to help ensure safety of trail users including:

  • providing safer routes and access points to the valley lands that cross the river and rail line in a safe manner, address erosion issues; and, avoid flood prone or steep areas, where possible
  • designing the trail to accommodate Emergency Medical Services vehicles (i.e. ambulances)
  • ensuring unobstructed sight lines for trail users
  • compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) – see Accessibility questions for more information
  • Providing signs that outline existing Parks, Forestry & Recreation bylaws like those that restrict the use of motorized bicycles on trails, maximum cyclists speeds of 20 km/hr, and dogs on-leash regulation

34. Will a new multi-use trail be able to accommodate different users safely?

Multi-use trails can work. Sharing trails helps to build a trail community in which users cooperate to preserve and protect a common resource. When all trail users observe basic trail etiquette, their encounters with other users will be amicable, and most people will have a satisfying experience on the trail. Trail head signs will help to promote trail etiquette so that all users are aware of how to use the trail appropriately. Residents are encouraged to call 311 for anything of concern.

A number of factors will be considered during detailed design to address user safety including:

  • width requirements for safe multi-use (3.5 to 4 metres)
  • clear sight lines
  • pavement markings to direct users
  • resting and passing areas
  • regulatory, informational and warning signage

Where the trail intersects with access points a number of measures will be considered to increase safety for users including:

  • impressed pavement treatments
  • cautionary wording in the trail pavement to help to slow faster users and provide awareness for all users of a trail crossing

Trail and Users

35. Will the new plan include winter maintenance of the Trail?

No. Parks, Forestry and Recreation does not maintain multi-use trails in winter and the Study does not recommend winter maintenance of this trail. Winter maintenance is not being considered for a variety of reasons including cost, topography of the trail, and potential impacts on the adjacent natural area.

36. Will you be doing anything to address the increase in garbage that will come with an increase in users?

The City will provide trash bins at trail access points. In addition, a formalized trail will help concentrate the majority of users into a single area and thereby reduce the amount of litter in more sensitive areas of the valley.

37. Will off-leash dogs still be allowed in the area once the trail is constructed?

Off-leash dog parks are not part of the scope of this Study. Under the Parks Bylaw (Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 608-34) and the Animals Bylaw (Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 349-11), dogs are required to be on a leash when not in a designated off-leash area.

A number of existing off-leash dog parks are located within the City. The closest ones are located at the Brickworks (Bayview and Mortimer), Sherwood Park (Mount Pleasant north of Eglington),Sunnybrook Park (south of Sunnybrook hospital, near Bayview and Eglinton) and at the Taylor Creek parking lot (east of Don Mills Road at the Taylor Creek Trail head).

Any request for a new off-leash dog area on City parks should follow the normal procedure as defined in the “People, Dogs and Parks – Off-Leash Policy” independent of this project.

38. What will happen to the natural surface (dirt) trails in the area?

The scope of this Study is limited to a multi-use paved trail. The natural surface trails will be addressed as part of the City of Toronto’s Natural Environment Trail Strategy. The strategy works to ensure the protection of the City of Toronto’s natural areas while offering safe and enjoyable recreational opportunities for all users.

39. Will the trail include additional by-law enforcement e.g. to reduce off-leash dogs and cyclists riding too fast?

Trail etiquette has been noted as an important issue. The City will continue to encourage safe and appropriate use of the trail through signage. Further efforts, such as public education campaigns and increased by-law enforcement, are beyond the scope of project. To report bylaw infractions, please contact 311.

40. Some trees in the East Don Valley lands have an orange dot on them, what does this mean?

A1.Orange spray paint (usually in the form of a dot) on trees found within the East Don valley lands may be part of one of two programs: The East Don Trail Study detailed tree survey or the City of Toronto Emerald Ash Borer Program

A detailed tree inventory (survey) was undertaken during the East Don Trail Study, to inform the evaluation process used to select the preferred trail route. During the field surveys some trees were spray painted as reference points. For more information on the detailed tree inventory and how it was used during the EA process please refer to the Environmental Study Report – Appendix F.

Orange dots on trees may also be associated with investigations done as part of The City of Toronto Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) program. The EAB is an introduced insect pest from Asia that attacks and kills all species of ash trees. This invasive pest devastated ash trees in southern Ontario and parts of the United States since its discovery in Detroit, Michigan in 2002. The City of Toronto is managing the impact of EAB within Toronto through the following ways:

Removal of dead and dying ash trees
Insecticide treatment of selected ash trees
Tree replacement and proactive planting
Communication and public outreach
Co-operation with both public and private sectors in the areas of research and development

Emerald Ash Borer in Toronto

[1] Taylor, A.R. and R.L. Knight. (2003). Wildlife reponses to recreation and associated visitor perceptions. Ecological Applications 13(4): 951-963. in Snetsinger, S.D. and K. White. (2009). Recreation and trail impacts on wildlife species of interest in Mount Spokane State Park. Pacific Biodiversity Institute, Winthorp, Washington.

[2] University of Michigan. (2013). Deer conflicts: Urban/suburban deer management. Deer.fw.msu.edu. Retrieved from deer.fw.msu.edu/conflicts/urban.php

[3] Canfield, J.E., L.J. Lyon, J.M. Hillis, and M.J. Thompson. (1999). Ungulates. in G. Joslin and H. Youmans, coordinators. Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife: A Review for Montana. Committee on Effects of Recreation on Wildlife, Montana Chapter of The Wildlife Society. in Snetsinger, S.D. and K. White. (2009). Recreation and trail impacts on wildlife species of interest in Mount Spokane State Park. Pacific Biodiversity Institute, Winthorp, Washington.