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.

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

Site Stories

Stewards Stories

Photo essay: From Landfill to Nature Renascence by the Northline Nature Stewards

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

Articles and Recordings

Discover Toronto’s Ravines with Ellen Schwartzel
Recording of presentation on Oct 14, 2022
At approx. 44 minutes, the talk describes the good work of TNS and also the City’s CSP.

2021 Newsletters

There are 4 newsletters from our pilot project: Jan 2021, March 2021, July 2021 and November 2021

How we Steward our Sites 

TNS has over 30 sites in 2023 and around 100 trained Lead Stewards (in 2023) but there is much more to do. There are 6,600 hectares of public ravine land and we are stewarding approximately 74 hectares on 23 sites (2022).  Each hectare needs active regular stewardship to improve biodiversity and ecosystem health.  Each site has one primary Lead and other co-Leads as needed to keep our ratio of 1 Lead to 10 volunteers at any one time. We’ve had from 2 to 145 people at each session and they occur every day of the week and at different times so there are lots of opportunities for everyone. Each group has (or will have) a dedicated team but there are also pop-up sessions organized by the site Leads. 

Each site works independently and organizes itself based on the needs of the Leads and the Volunteer Stewards but all following the same city approved protocols. You can view the sites, schedules and register to join on our Get Involved page (if you want to be an ongoing Steward) . Once you register for a site, the Lead Steward will contact you with details. People wanting to join a pop-up should contact for more info.

Currently there are 10 specific invasive plants that we can remove on approved sites on public land. If you want more info on them you can find it on our website.

Lead Steward Training session with Paula Davies, President at Todmorden Mills Wildflower Preserve (TMWP). Photo by Sharon Lovett
Photo by Gary James
Boots on the ground

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

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

Gearing up for 2022 Lead Steward training

Incredibly excited for Lead Steward training to start on January 12th, 2022! We have a big group this year – over fifty Lead Stewards are registered. We cannot wait to virtually meet everyone and start talking all things ecological restoration. Ravines here we come!

A friendly reminder that registration for 2022 Lead Steward training is CLOSED. Keep an eye out for a site near you to become a steward in the spring!

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.