Toronto’s green spaces – especially those outstanding natural areas that still retain the capacity to function as healthy habitat – are treasured and enjoyed by many citizens and visitors to our city. They are also protected by law. In practice, however, these spaces suffer from many problems and challenges. These include storm water runoff; erosion, soil compaction and plant and wildlife disturbance when people, dogs and bikes go off-trail; and the spread of invasive species such as garlic mustard. There is growing public interest in pursuing outdoor activities, including active recreation as well as nature study and community stewardship. Climate change and urban intensification also add unprecedented challenges.
The City is undertaking several initiatives to restore and improve natural areas and to enhance their passive and active recreational value. However, it’s important to “get it right” – to support good intentions with sound decisions, adequate resources, effective communication and robust enforcement of reasonable park rules.
Nature can be surprisingly adaptable but it has a tipping point beyond which severe and possibly irreversible damage is done to ecological health. How much of the nature that we treasure in Toronto is already close to or even beyond that point?
We believe it’s time to get serious about protecting natural places and wildlife in Toronto.