By ALI RAZA, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
East Toronto residents remain frustrated with Metrolinx’s plans to remove 268 trees in Small’s Creek Ravine to accommodate the installation of a fourth track on the Lakeshore East GO line.
It would require the crown agency to remove the trees on the slope adjacent to the tracks and install reinforced concrete for a firm foundation for the tracks. Plans also include to replace an old culvert at the creek. It’s all part of Metrolinx’s proposed expansion and electrification of the railway.
The ravine is northeast of Coxwell Avenue and Gerrard Street East. Residents in the area have also expressed concern over construction plans slated to be overnight between 1 and 5 a.m.
When news of the construction plans became known to community members in late November 2020, a petition with more than 1,000 signatures and an advocacy group – Save Small’s Creek – formed.
In response, Metrolinx offered a meeting with residents and stakeholders regarding the construction plans for Small’s Creek on Feb. 3.
Capital Projects Group GO Expansion executive vice president Stephanie Davies and pre-construction services vice president Jason Ryan offered a presentation followed by a Q&A session at the Feb. 3 meeting.
In their presentations, Davies reviewed the “two main components impacting Small’s Creek” – the culvert replacement and the retaining wall that enabled the widening of the railway corridor.
She said the solution selected is “minimizing impact to the ravine,” and offered alternative options while explaining how they would be more destructive for the ravine.
It was also confirmed that construction access would be from Aldergrove Avenue on the north side, and Wildwood Crescent on the south side.
Ryan offered some details on the tree removal process, referring to “conflict vegetation” as interfering with electrification infrastructure.
“We are in fact going to be needing to remove some trees in the area,” he said.
But insisted “I think we have a good news story on our hands,” referring to Metrolinx’s plans to plant native species in the area after building the retaining wall.
“What we’re doing here, we’re doing it responsibly, intelligently, and right,” Ryan said.
For the Q&A session, residents were not asked to submit questions, instead they were asked to prioritize between four statements from most important to least important.
While they were grateful that Metrolinx offered a chance for dialogue and a meeting for concerned residents, those at Save Small’s Creek were disappointed with the lack of “two-way dialogue.”
Michael Terk, a member of the group and a resident in the area, posted a rebuttal on YouTube shortly after the meeting.
“A real two-way dialogue could’ve included folks from Small’s Creek,” he said. “Essentially we met with Metrolinx in a technical meeting and we were told there are no other options.”
Raising concerns of the walking trail, the ravine and park’s recreational use, the tree removal, the proposed ecological restoration, and construction noise during overnight hours, Terk said in his opinion he didn’t feel there was any two-way dialogue.
“We are going to be professional, patient, and wait,” he said. “But at this point in time we’re still waiting, and we’re a bit frustrated.”
Despite the frustration, the Small’s Creek group reiterated their gratitude for Metrolinx’s engagement.
“It’s great that they’re taking the steps to do things like this, that’s a positive,” Cleo Buster said. “But I think it was disappointing.”
Buster echoes many of the residents’ concerns of environmental damage in the area.
“The ravine on its own needs a lot of attention,” Buster said.
“But when you cut the ravine in half (culvert replacement) and put a wall down on one-side (retaining wall), including removing hundreds of trees, it’s hard to sell that it’s going to be better.”
A link to the Metrolinx meeting, and Terk’s rebuttal can be found at https://www.lakeshoreeasttrains.com/smalls-creek-latest-updates
Ali Raza is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.