This week Frontlines staff and volunteers ably led by Youth Program Coordinator Richard Graham (with camera) pose for a photograph after a Hurricane Hazel history lesson. The group was part of Frontliines’ summer day camp.
Close to 200 residents packed the York Civic Chamber Friday evening for an information session in the aftermath of the July 8th storm that hit Toronto. People impacted by basement flooding and sewer backups, especially in the Cordella Avenue area of York South-Weston are struggling to get their lives back to normal. Some are still without hot water and many have yet to receive a response from the city or their insurance companies. Ms Nunziata was flanked by a panel of city water engineers, claims adjusters and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. A representative from MPP Laura Albanese was also on the panel but didn’t participate. Toronto’s head of Stormwater Management, Ted Bowering began the evening with a talk that he had delivered many times before. Unfortunately the dry and glacially slow presentation outlining why peoples’ basements were flooded was not what residents were looking for. When Bowering estimated that a study of the local problem might be completed by March of 2014, the room erupted with anger. Many blamed the city for not fixing a problem that has been evident for years. Storm and sanitary sewers are combined in many areas and since there are fewer open spaces, rain is no longer absorbed by the ground. This causes sewage to regularly back up into basements. There is a downspout disconnection program that the city hopes will lead to less water in storm sewers but with smaller lots, downspouts simply drain onto pavement and into the sewers anyway. What is needed are larger, separated sewers so that storm water doesn’t get into and overwhelm sanitary sewers.
A TRCA representative talked about Black Creek and the channel, constructed in the 1960s that is now inadequate for the job, is poorly maintained and doesn’t drain floodwater off adjacent streets. Next, a City of Toronto insurance adjuster asked residents to submit claims to the city and they would be considered but several residents interrupted his presentation to indicate that the city had denied claims in the past and had invited them to sue if they didn’t like the answer.
As the meeting progressed, Ms. Nunziata was repeatedly shouted down by residents expressing anger that nothing is being done for them and the lack of response from the city. The last straw came when a representative from Mike Sullivan’s office took to the floor and tried to confront the councillor about a lack of support for infrastructure. Ms Nunziata walked off the podium and seemed to end the meeting leaving residents frustrated and bewildered. She eventually came back and resumed listening to residents but by that time, many had left. It is hoped that another meeting will be held that will have a more structured format so that all sides will be able to speak without interruption.
As for the solution to flooding, this will require an intelligent approach with upgraded sewers, holding tanks to store floodwater until it can be safely released but most of all, a commitment from councillors to implement a speedy solution that works and to find the money that will be necessary. With two major storms already this year, the next one may be just around the corner. Infrastructure maintenance and improvement isn’t sexy but when it’s neglected, the consequences cause a lot of suffering and unnecessary expense for residents and well-deserved political fallout for elected representatives.
On July 1st, the old fairgrounds in Lions Park once again echoed to the sounds of music and fireworks thanks to Canada Day celebrations that are becoming a firm tradition. Even though the event is not announced in the list of Canada Day happenings, posters around the site, word of mouth and a variety of newsletters and emails seem to get the word out. Throughout the day, vendors set up their stalls and the heady mix of diesel and burgers soon began to waft through the park.
The day was cloudy but mild and many families made a day of it, bringing chairs and picnic supplies. Politicians made their inevitable speeches while several bands and Elvis serenaded the crowd throughout the evening.
At 10 pm, the fireworks display began and did not disappoint. They were spectacular, lasting a good length of time and with a variety of flashes, bursts and window-rattling bangs enjoyed by residents on both sides of the Humber. The crowd drifted home happy, no doubt looking forward to another one next year.
There are several noxious weeds starting to make themselves known in the area after silently invading our gardens, parks and wild spaces. The Weston Village Residents’ Association is calling attention to a plant called ‘dog strangling vine‘. It’s a relative of milkweed but unlike milkweed, it has no natural enemies, spreads rapidly and will not support Monarch butterflies. Its long tendrils entwine and make it difficult to walk through them, hence the name.
Another in the long list is garlic mustard which was imported in the 19th Century because of its usefulness in cooking (garlic and mustard flavour). Because there is nothing to keep it in check, it is crowding out many native woodland plants like trillium and trout lily.
But wait; there’s a doozey waiting in the wings. Once sold as an ornamental, giant hogweed is a relative and look-alike of cow parsnip. Giant hogweed was imported as a spectacular garden plant as it can grow to over 6m (18+ feet) tall. Bee-keepers liked its huge numbers of flowers (and therefore seeds). If its size and ability to spread rapidly isn’t bad enough, GH is a phototoxic plant. When GH sap is allowed to contact skin, exposing the skin to sunlight can lead to blistering and scarring that can last for years. Sap in the eyes can lead to temporary or even permanent blindness. GH has been seen in the Toronto area but it probably hasn’t arrived in Weston yet. There is a hotline for sightings of this plant.
Unfortunately, any place on the North American continent is susceptible to invasions that arrive and there is little that the average citizen (no, not even Westonians) can do to get rid of these weeds other than keeping them out of our own yards. Some groups spend countless hours weeding garlic mustard and dog strangling vine from parks but this is a drop in the ocean. Sadly, like most plant and animal invaders (sparrows are not native), many of these weeds will be with us forever.
The answer is biological control. This can be achieved through the weeds’ natural enemies that were left behind in their homelands. Scientists are busy looking for bugs that will feed exclusively on these weeds. This was how Purple Loosestrife was tamed. A couple of decades ago, loosestrife was crowding out wetlands but then after rigorous testing, a bug was imported and purple loosestrife is just seen occasionally. As for giant hogweed, authorities fear that it is here to stay.
None other than CTV’s Colin D’Mello was in Memorial Park on Sunday as 12 Division officers hosted a community barbecue. The idea was to hold a meet and greet with the community where people could ask questions about the 25 Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) officers who will be patrolling the Weston area for the summer. Officers will be on bicycles, horseback and on foot patrol.
We can only wish the officers success in their summer mission and hope that they are able to cover more territory by moving around in smaller groups rather than the larger ones deployed a couple of years ago.
Elvis was on hand to assist in the official opening of the Weston Farmers Market last Saturday, June 15th.
Elvis was ably assisted by back-up singer Frances Nunziata. and celebrity dancers as noted above. It’s nice to see politicians forget their differences and come together for an event like this.