Stewardship on Public Land

Site Stories – Ashbridge’s Bay Park

by Clyde Robinson, Lead Steward Oct 28, 2022

Thank you once again for another super successful stewarding effort at Ashbridge’s Bay Park. 

As you remember how glum we all felt (tee hee hee), when confronted with the Phragmite patch (please see the first picture below).   Then our jubilation and thank you to all for it’s removal.

Unfortunately I did not have a “before” picture but here is the “after” picture from our event, I believe in 2019. 

 You can see how much bigger the Ash tree (more to the right of the picture and yellowing in our up to date picture) has grown. If you look closely you can see Bob, Paula Davies the Lead Steward from the Todmorden Wildflower Preserve  http://www.hopscotch.ca/tmwp/  and myself.

When you walk by here from now on, on your leisurely tour of the park you can remember and say to yourself I removed that Phrag. It will come back, not as strong, but over time we will prevail!!

View this post in a pdf

Other Posts

2022 Wrap Up: Burdock, birds and special observations in Ashbridge’s Bay Park

Site Stories – Glen Stewart Park

Glen Stewart Park – A Year in Review

By Sylvie Dion, Lead Steward

We completed our last work session of the season on Oct 27. The weather was really beautiful for a fall day. The leaves in the trees were a mix of golden colour, dark orange and bright red. The sun came out shining brightly as the temperature went up. Lovely!

We have attached some photos from our last work session. You can see our volunteers working with the pullerbear which is a specialized tool to pull out small trees. The pullerbear was lent out to us from the stewardship at Cherry Beach. We are grateful for this help, since using that tool really made a difference. We were able to pull out a large number of invasive saplings, so many that we lost count of them. 

The last session of the year at Glen Stewart Park

In total during the season, 

  • We had 37 field work sessions.
  • We collected about 2.5 garbage bags full of litter.
  • We disposed of 60 garbage bags of invasive plant matter.
  • Our team of stewards collectively worked 230 hours of field work. 
  • The number of registered stewards is 28. 
  • The average number of stewards who came to our work sessions is 3.6 per work session.
  • We have removed all mature garlic mustard, DSV, mature burdock, Norway maple saplings and buckthorn saplings from both Glen Stewart Park and the Balsam Entrance. 
  • We have removed some non-native wood avens from Glen Stewart Park and a few lily-of-the valley from Balsam Entrance. 
  • We had no reportable safety incidents

Read the full article

Site Stories – Northline

Photo essay: From Landfill to Nature Renascence

by the Northline Nature Stewards (October 14, 2022)

The thrill of spotting wildlife takes on new meaning when you find it at a site that you’re stewarding. Two regular Northline stewards, Paul Reeves and Conrad Barrington, are also talented nature photographers who have been capturing the magic at “our” site. Their images offer a tantalising glimpse into some of the flora and fauna at Northline this fall, and underscore the site’s gradual transformation from former landfill to wildlife haven.

Juvenile Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) photo: Paul Reeves

This juvenile Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) was one of a flock that was attracted to the berries of a large Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) tree at the site on October 3. Any berries ingested will, unfortunately, help spread the invasive buckthorn far and wide via bird droppings. A wasp augmented the berry feast. Photo: Paul Reeves

Full photo essay

Northline Posts

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

Site Stories – Sunnypoint-Neilson Park

August 30, 2022

Happy Monday to our Sunnypoint Stewards!

** As the sun is setting sooner and the mosquitos are coming out earlier, we are moving our start time to 6:30pm.  We know that this may make it a rush for people coming home from work, so please just come and find the team whenever you can arrive at the park **

Thank you to the volunteers who worked so hard along the fence line last week.  We know that this is an area that we cannot rid of DSV because we cannot cross the barrier.  But it was a valuable lesson to see what unchecked DSV can do to the native plants in an area.  It also gave us an opportunity to witness the DSV seed pods opening up and to see how quickly the seeds disperse over a wide area.

DSV seed pods opening

We would also like to welcome our newest steward, Gloria!  

Debbie and Gloria with DSV

Toronto Nature Stewards was in the news last week as part of a Toronto Star article by TFN President Ellen Schwartzel describing the need to protect our green spaces.

Lorna and Shirley removing DSV

Our goals for this week:

(a) Interested in learning more about native plants? Daniela will be taking one group into the woods ( MU1) to locate and map the native trees and plant species we are working so hard to protect.  This will be a nice change of pace from cutting DSV.

(b) The second group will return to the north end (MU3) to check up on the native species and remove any remaining DSV and burdock.

Natasha, Daniela and Cheryl

August 1, 2022

Happy Holiday Monday to Our Sunnypoint Stewards,

We hope that you have had a great long weekend! We successfully tackled both burdock and dog-strangling vine in the northern section (MU3) of the park last Tuesday. The DSV was no match for Natasha, Debbie and Marcia…and the pictures prove it! 

I have also attached a couple of pictures of second year burdock so you can see how tall it can grow, its wide leaves and the burs starting to form.  Fortunately, there was not a lot of this in MU3, but we will keep an eye out for it. 

Our goals for this week:

(a) try to clear out the last of the DSV in the meadow ( MU2)

(b) begin tackling the DSV along the guardrail in MU4 if time allows 

Please pass this message along to any neighbours who might be interested in helping. 

July 26, 2022

We hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend and that Sunday’s rain helped your gardens struggle through this heat wave. Tuesday’s weather forecast looks promising, so we hope we will be able to work in MU3 and MU4, just as we had planned for last week.

So….our goal for this week’s session is to have a little change of scenery and work at the north end of the park, removing the stalks of burdock and any other invasive plants at the top of the ravine. We’ve attached the information sheet describing how to identify and remove burdock. (It’s the plant that looks quite a bit like rhubarb.)

Please pass this message along to any neighbours who might be interested in helping. 

Burdock 2nd year growth
Monarch caterpillar on Swamp Milkweed

Our goals for this Tuesday (June 14, 2022):

Hello to our amazing stewards!!

Thank you to all of the stewards who worked so hard last Tuesday. We hope you have had a wonderful week….and that pulling all of that garlic mustard is not taking its toll on your back.

(a) to remove garlic mustard in the north end of the park. (MU3 and MU4)

(b) to begin tackling the dog-strangling vine (DSV). We have attached an information sheet about this notoriously invasive species


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.

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

Projects with Plants

One day when we were stewarding, I admired Louise’s shirt, and she said she made it. Louise dyed this lovely pattern using leaves and flowers. The dramatic dark one is sumac, and the smaller yellow ones are the flowers and stems of Coreopsis tinctoria from her garden. She lays the leaves and flowers on the shirt, wraps it tightly around a dowel, ties it tightly with string, and then lets it steam over water for an hour. Some fabrics accept dye readily and others need help. I’m so impressed. And, I want to make one! Maybe next summer we’ll persuade her to show us how.

Specialized Police Units at Cherry Beach

Specialized Police Units
by Anna Hoad, November 10

I saw the Canine, Marine and Bomb Units recently. The Canine Unit was training their dogs. There are between 32-35 dogs, though only a few come out to train each time. They’ll take any kind of dog, but many are German Shepherds from eastern Europe, who are bred for police work. Chasing and biting come naturally to dogs, so of course the training was focused on them stopping both on command.

I was attending a water sports safety session at Cherry Beach put on by the Toronto Windsurfing Club. Stacy Kellough, Detective Constable in the Marine Unit, said here’s about 35 people in the unit but only 2-3 boats out on any shift. She congratulated the clubs on ensuring members know how to enjoy water safely. She said the people they rescue tend not to belong to clubs. Aside from the safety gear specific to your sport, she recommends bringing a cell phone in a dry bag. If you call 911 to report people in trouble, your call converts to latitude and longitude within 10 miles of shore. They’ve rescued people that have blown miles offshore that way.

I saw the Bomb Squad cruising by. Love the anarchist drawing on the van. Happy they didn’t need to stop!

Cherry Beach Mid-August post

Cherry Beach August post

Cherry Beach July post

Cherry Beach June post

Cherry Beach Spring post

Site Stories – Middle Mill Stewards

Stewardship in the Snow

Had a wonderful morning working (playing really) in the snow at our Middle Mill stewardship site in the Don Valley. As it was our last session for the season, we made bush piles from the Buckthorn we’ve been pulling for the last month. Bush piles will provide habitat for the furry little creatures trying to stay warm over the winter.