Stewards cutting down Japanese knotweed at Middle Mills, 2021
Stewardship on Public Land

TNS In the News!

Joel Rodriguez, Globe and Mail September 10, 2022

Toronto Nature Stewards volunteer to protect ravines

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-torontos-ravines-are-in-a-critical-state-threatened-by-invasive/

Toronto’s ravine system makes up a significant part of the city’s green infrastructure, as natural parklands and urban forests provide countless environmental, health and recreational benefits. However, the city’s ravines are in a critical state, threatened by invasive species, climate change and intensive land development.

In January 2020, Toronto City Council adopted the Ravine Strategy Implementation Plan to protect the city’s ravines. A group of volunteers formed the Toronto Nature Stewards (TNS) to help implement the plan and advance independent stewardship to restore the ecological health of Toronto’s ravines.

Hundreds of volunteer stewards work under the direction of lead stewards and meet regularly to pick up litter and remove invasive plants, such as lily of the valley, Japanese knotweed, and dog-strangling vine, which can crowd out native species.

Before the program started, only city park officials were allowed to remove invasive species from ravines. But the partnership allows volunteers to identify and remove these plants without supervision.

Geoffrey Chan and Catherine Berka are lead stewards at TNS’s Roxborough Parkette North site. Mr. Chan says the stewardship work has given him an appreciation for the rich variety of life that exists within the city’s ravine system.

“I used to think only of places like the Amazon as being powerhouses of biodiversity, but here in this part of Ontario, we have a wealth of biodiversity too,” he said. “Although I grew up in Toronto, I never knew this until now. It’s right in our backyard, and it’s a treasure.”

Toronto Nature Stewards now oversees 23 sites and has 60 trained lead stewards across the city. The stewardship year begins in April and runs until late October or early November.

Other related articles

Toronto’s parklands require more care, protection and expansion

Ellen Schwartzel, in the Toronto Star on August 21st. (https://tfngo.to/aug21star)

Woodbine Beach is exploding with a staggering variety of life in any season

M.L. Bream in the Toronto Star on September 8, 2022. (https://tfngo.to/torontostarream)

A City-wide Stewardship Celebration – Oct 1

A Celebration of Stewardship and Volunteering is taking place on October 1 at Middle Mill from 10am to 1pm. 44 Beechwood Drive, Toronto, ON M4K 3H8

Join the Toronto Nature Stewards, Toronto Field Naturalists, A Park of All and many more. This will be a fun filled day with lots of nature and kid friendly programming. This is our opportunity to thank and recognize every steward, volunteer and all those that give their time and energy to make Toronto a world class city. More information from the Toronto Field Naturalists.

If you are a volunteer steward and would like to help TNS with our table please fill out this form.

EventBrite info on all participating groups (Registration not required)

Here is a pdf version of this poster. Please share.

Site Stories – Highland Creek Park

Salima Pirani, Lead Steward

The Highland Creek Stewards have their own website with additional photos and information

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August 31, 2022

*Apologies for the wonky formatting — my power is out and I’m typing on my phone*

Hi everyone! 

Last week, Mark (he was still in town!), Sandy were greeted by deer (see attached photo) as we checked on the Japanese Knotweed.

With thorough scouting through to the perimeter, we found several short sprigs that had escaped our eyes and garden shears the week before. We also went across the path and found about seven JKW plants living their best life, pretty much undetected against a forest backdrop and unchecked DSV sprawl. Apparently whomever sprayed missed the edges of the patch and didn’t look across the path. All of these are now cut to contain the spread, and we’ll take one last look later in the season in case anything else slipped by us.

You Suggest!

Several of you haven’t had a chance to make it out to stewarding this season. Send me your ideal timing and we could do either a pop-up event or add another regular time each week (which brings me to…)

2023 Lead Steward Training Update:  I visited a sister site in the west end last week that has an Indigenous lodge and is partnering with them to create a seed bank of native plants. There, I spoke with Anna, who updated me on recruitment. 

Current Stewards may now apply for Training to help Lead existing sites. There may only be a select few new priority sites announced by TNS next year. The strategy is to strengthen our existing sites with a team leading each one. This gives Leads an opportunity to share the work, recruit and work with more volunteers (10 stewards per Lead), offer more than one session per week and collaborate, monitor and evaluate impact more thoroughly. Some of our Site Leads across the City already do this and we’d love to encourage this at Highland Creek Park as it may be the biggest site TNS has!

Want to take the training on invasive species and learn about lead stewarding? Fill in the simple Training Sign-up Form

Tonight’s Plan: Dog Strangling Vine seed pods are exploding right now so we’ll work on eradicating them either at the park entrance or closer to the oak tree. Either way, we’ll be close to the main path within a minute of the park entrance.

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July 27, 2022

Hi everyone,

🎵 Sun is shinin’… weather is sweet🎶

No heat wave tonight! We’ll continue taking down the dog-strangling vine and any other approved invasives along the park path. We’ve got some momentum going just as the seed pods are all popping up so we might prioritize lots of top-chopping. We’ll be less than a minute into the park, so anyone arriving late will not only see us but also our beautiful new TNS BANNER!

Highland Creek stewards and sign

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July 20, 2022

Hi everyone!

Four of us had a fun evening last week, with Mark on a mission to rid the forest of litter, as John, Penny and I took a moment to nibble on some yummy native black raspberries while decimating dog strangling vine (DSV) at the park entrance! We also met a local resident who wants to join us… which reminds me: If you or someone you know can help with outreach and recruiting (contacting local groups, cultural communities, UofT Scarborough, local schools — not just give ideas — please drop me a line!).

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July 13, 2022

I’ve been away on silent retreat for close to a week in nature, with ZERO dog strangling vine or garlic mustard anywhere! I saw loads of milkweed, cattails, pines, cedars, native maple, balsam, black cherry trees and spent time on the trails in pure, lush wilderness. I wasn’t so spoiled — I got in lots of mindfulness practice and dirtied my hands removing weeds from the vegetable garden. Here’s a photo of the little chipmunk (I called him Charlie in my mind) that would visit asking for nuts  I’m keen to get to the invasives in our park now! 

Ready for tomorrow? There is so much to do in this beautiful park. We can really use all hands on deck! I’d like for us to roll up our sleeves and attack more of the dog strangling vine and garlic mustard around the park entrance and along the park path tomorrow. If you have a garden spade, then we can uproot some of the burdock too. 

Bring your clippers if you have them! Anyone arriving late will spot us easily.

From our Stewards – Stories from the Field: Index

The Toronto Nature Stewards are working hard but still having fun while removing invasive species in our ravine and park sites. Each Lead Steward organizes their volunteers and have many different experiences to share with each other. The following posts are specific to a site, how to improve the experience and personal reflections. Follow the links to these stories.

Highland Creek stewards with their new sign

Stewards Stories

My Experience as a First-Year Lead Steward by Laura Muntean, Betty Sutherland Park

West Woodbine Beach, Dune and Meadow Habitat, Biodiversity and Damage Report, Summer 2022 by Clyde Robinson, Ashbridges Bay and Noam Markus

Site Stories – Northline

Lynne Barrington, Lead Steward (August 11, 2022)

We’ve achieved a lot in the past two months at Northline. Many challenges still lie ahead, but, as you can see from the list below, when you document the collective work we’ve done, it’s truly quite impressive. 

Water access for Northline secured

Rains on July 18 + 24 arrived in the nick of time for some of the recently-planted trees, which were wilting in the summer heat. But, thanks to the combined efforts of Paula Davies, Eduardo Lage and forrester Stephen Smith, we now have access to running water for the site. A business adjacent to the area we are focusing on, Oriole Landscaping, has kindly agreed to donate water for the trees. Going forward, we will be able to obtain water from their taps as needed.

Humane deer deterrents are working

Humane deer deterrents at Northline

All of the enclosures now have dead tree branches (and, even better, dead buckthorn!) secured along the perimeters. Together with the fencing, it seems to be making a real difference in keeping deer away from the precious native trees and shrubs that were planted at the end of May.

Many thanks to Paula Davies for the great suggestion, to Doug Wilson for the many hours he has spent cutting the branches and buckthorn to a suitable size, to Luciana Schuetze and Eduardo Lage for the idea of weaving them into the fence, and everyone else for putting them in place.

First signs that we’re defeating Dog-strangling vine

Facing a malevolent DSV monoculture as we do at Northline is daunting. But there are signs that we are winning against it in the tree enclosures – at last! Our stewardship event on July 31 marked the first time that we found only the odd DSV plant inside the enclosures when we arrived. Grasses and goldenrod were springing up in its place. Special thanks to Doug Wilson, Paul Reeves, Thomas Phillips, Conrad Barrington and Su Su Yin for your determined efforts to rid the site of this menacing invasive. 

Doug Wilson tackling DSV

Contributing to our new plant inventory

Have you spotted anything other than DSV at Northline? Paula Davies pointed out some fox sedge (Carex vulpinoidea) recently, and I have duly added it to a plant inventory that I’ve started compiling for the site. As we continue with our stewardship activities, please let me know if you see any plants you think should be included in the list. Our goal will be to document all plants, including invasives, to create a comprehensive record and help monitor our progress.

Tackling phragmites at our next stewardship event
on August 28 (9-11:00 a.m.)

A small patch of phragmites has taken up residence a short distance away from the trees we are nurturing. At our next volunteer event, we plan to take the first step towards eradicating it from Northline by cutting down the seed heads that are currently there. If you happen to have secateurs, it would be helpful if you could bring them along.

Thank you, once again, for your amazing dedication and hard work. See you on the 28th!

Northline Volunteer Stewards

West Woodbine Beach, Dune and Meadow Habitat, Biodiversity and Damage Report, Summer 2022

Report prepared by: Noam Markus and Clyde Robinson

We are pleased to present to the City of Toronto and TRCA a biodiversity report from the West Woodbine Beach Habitat in Toronto.

To date, 596 species of flora and fauna have been documented in INaturalist on the beach habitat.

In the report you will see:

* 25 plant species rated L2 – L3 – L4, species of regional and urban conservation concern by TRCA.

* A list of nesting birds, pollinators and mammals.

Also in the report is evidence of damage to the habitat and examples of long term damage from the use of disc-golf both at Ashbridge’s Bay Park and other parks in Toronto.

Please see the report here: West Woodbine Beach, Dune and Meadow Habitat, Biodiversity and Damage report Summer 2022.

Summary

This report documents the rich biodiversity found within the habitat at West Woodbine Beach in Toronto, Ontario. The observations have been by citizen scientists, confirmed by local experts and through iNaturalist. It is hoped that this report will help the public and Toronto City Hall officials, be more aware of the rich biodiversity within the habitat as there is no current Environmental Assessment and no official plant inventory by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).

My Experience as a First-Year Lead Steward

By Laura Muntean, August 2022

Laura Muntean BSUT

Background: I am a first-year lead steward that is working with Gary James, the other lead steward at the Betty Sutherland Site. Last year, I volunteered for several weeks at the Glen Stewart Site, where I learned much of my hands-on knowledge for stewardship from Cherie & Sylvie. Previously, I had very little knowledge of ecology or plants, and got started with the Toronto Nature Stewards when I was teaching students about invasive plants and discovered this program.

Stewarding has been a really rewarding experience. It’s been a great way to make an impact, learn more about plants and ecology in a hands-on way, and regain hope that we can all make a difference. It’s been so great to find so many people people that are also committed to getting involved.

The following are tips that I believe are helpful for successful stewarding (many of these are based off of slides from training that applied to my experience): Tips for Lead Stewards

Site Stories – Betty Sutherland Trail Stewards

Lead Stewards Gary James and Laura Muntean

We are a dedicated group of volunteers working to restore, monitor and preserve the biodiversity of the  Betty Sutherland Trail ravine through the Toronto Nature Stewards. Our specific TNS Site Page can be found here which includes contact information.

We have also created our own website to make communications with our volunteers easier. Please see documents posted there for more information about our site, including our Site Assessment and Stewardship Plan for the year and messages that have been sent to our Stewards on our progress.

Check out iNaturalist for our ongoing tracking of plants at our site at the Betty Sutherland Trail Project.

Here is a sample of our August 3rd message to our stewards.

Site Stories – Cherry Beach

Anna Hoad, Lead Steward

This spring we thought our site at Cherry Beach was doomed. The empire (of invasive plants) strikes back!

We took off half the old phragmites stalks in one area, but the rhizomes were so thick they had killed off all the undergrowth and were in the process of choking out the bushes and trees. Seeing the completely bare earth was sobering… garlic mustard, wood avens… Dog strangling vine was springing up and I thought, that’s it. We’re doomed! This site’s just too disturbed. It’s invasives ALL the way down.

Cherry Beach Phragmites in spring

Then I remembered Paula Davies telling us that the natives were hiding there; waiting to be released. So, we went on a hunt in areas we’d just cleared. And there they were … baby raspberries, currants, cottonwood trees, sumacs, and clumps of bergamot. They’re thrilled to have light and nutrients to themselves and are thriving. There were also non-natives, like comfrey and valerian, hopefully fitting into the ecosystem and feeding someone. There was even a little orchid (eaten too soon to be identified. As well as clearing the weeds around it, I should have been building a branch fence!)

Now every day we’re out stewarding, we point out to each other the plants we’ve discovered and released. It keeps us going.

Black Swallowtail butterflies love bergamot aka bee balm

Posts from the Cherry Beach Stewards

Cherry Beach Mid-August post

Cherry Beach August post

Cherry Beach July post

Cherry Beach June post

Cherry Beach Spring post