A “vancouver” misting rain softened the light as I got off the Go Train at Long Branch. Lee Tovey and Zoe Danahy were waiting for me in the parking lot. After brief introductions, Lee drove us to our destination, currently a large deceptively nondescript construction site by the water.
We stopped at a small mobile hut, where I met Alex of the TRCA and changed into my thick wool socks so I could fit into the smallest men’s size steel-toed boots. Alex handed me a hard hat that I adjusted for my head and then he drove us further into the site toward the water, crossing the now day-lighted Serson Creek.
Alex parked the truck and I stepped out into the mud.
The site looked like an undulating moonscape. Rolling berms snaked around pooled and dry depressions that disappeared in the fog.
The smell of rain and mud pervaded as we set out in ankle-deep mud toward the snaking berms. I scrambled over rip rap chunks as big as me to glimpse the new shore of Lake Ontario–re-imagined. Beyond, the lake vanished in a veil of fog. I was told that on a clear day you could see the Toronto Waterfront and the CN Tower. All I could make out was a few ghost trees that marked the nearby eastern shoreline.
Lee took me along a dyke embankment of clean fill made of red brick and cement riprap from various construction sites. “Clean fill” refers to anything like brick, top soil, gravel, and cement that has been tested for possible contaminants, as opposed to plastic, glass, or metals.
Lee pointed to the left and right of us to depressions (containment cells) where Lake Ontario was being reclaimed for marsh-building. The depression on my left was still full of water; but the one on my right was fairly dry and already populated with anchored logs and shrub plantings to consolidate the wetland and provide refuge for marsh life. I could hear the large pump actively removing lake water at the south end of the evolving wetland. Beyond the high berm of human-sized riprap was the lake, its shoreline now redefined.
As I gazed over the brown monochromatic landscape, I imagined a tapestry of greens in Councillor Jim Tovey’s vision: 26 hectares of future wetlands, forest and meadow and beach. The Lakeview Waterfront Connection will span the Lake Ontario shoreline from the old Lakeview generating station to the Toronto line at Marie Curtis Park. Part of the Inspiration Lakeview development, it will restore pedestrian and cyclist access to a previously forbidden section of the waterfront to “connect 9.5 kilometers of shoreline for water’s edge experience for the public,” says Councillor Tovey.
The plan is to put in the fill, create dyked marsh cells, then add forested areas, meadows, and cobbled beaches. The first containment cell was closed off in spring of 2017. Three rocky, inaccessible islands will be created just offshore as breakwaters and additional habitat for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. Trail systems, seating areas and a boardwalk will be added.
The area along the current shoreline has limited vegetation, food, or cover, so fish prefer Credit River to the southwest, or nearby Etobicoke Creek to the northeast. The new conservation area will create valuable wetland and nearshore habitat to support fish spawning, adding to fish populations and diversity along the entire Mississauga waterfront. “The environmental benefits will extend beyond the local area into Lake Ontario and the Great Lakes ecosystem,” said Tovey.
Two creeks that flow into the lake—Serson Creek and Applewood Creek—will flow through the new wetland. The rejuvenated mouths of these newly day-lighted creeks will provide habitat for aquatic organisms, food source for fish. Trout or salmon may run up these creeks; potential for species such as smallmouth bass, northern pike and bullhead is also there.
The development will consist of a mix of eco-friendly homes, green businesses, a post-secondary campus, European-inspired recreational canals and wetlands, an arts and culture island, a kilometer-long waterfront pier, and park. It’s amply named Inspiration Lakeview, after the inspiration of Councillor Jim Tovey, who conceived the idea one evening in 1994 while walking his dog in the area.
“It’s rare in life that you see something like this happen,” said cyclist Dorothy Tomiuk to The Star. “A naturalization project of this scale will transform our urban environment and contribute to a healthier Great Lakes ecosystem.” said Andrew Farr, Director of Water for the Region of Peel. “We’re learning more about the connection between environmental health and human health each day. Access to natural spaces leads to a better quality of life for families and youth, and that’s exactly what the Lakeview Waterfront Connection Project will do.”
The western Lake Ontario shoreline is a key stopover area for migrating birds, bats and insects. The wetland will provide habitat for migratory birds and other species, reflecting a time before the Europeans arrived, said Mike Puddister, of Credit Valley Conservation. “Wildlife will find it,” he told The Star. “It is our field of dreams in many respects. If you’re an environmentalist, this is a dream come true.”
Witness the birth of a wetland through photography…
To celebrate the residential / park development, eleven professional photographers were invited to photograph the development site during its early phase. These images, along with water-inspired narrative provided by limnologist-author Nina Munteanu, will be displayed in an exhibit during a gala event January 14 2018, hosted at the Lakeview water treatment plant. The exhibit will be displayed for the public at another location at a later date in 2018.
Lakeview Water Treatment Plant:
The water treatment plant uses a state-of-the-art filtration and cleaning process to provide clean tap water to the community. This includes a three-step process: chlorination (coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation and dual media filtration); ozone, biologically activated carbon contactor (BACC) and membrane treatment; and ozone, BACC and UV and membrane treatment.
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist, limnologist and internationally published author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories and non-fiction. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books.