Sunday June 26, 2016
Warden Woods features the Gus Harris Trail which was named after Scarborough’s fifth mayor. There is street parking on Herron Avenue which commemorates the original land owner. From here you can enter the park from the corner of St. Clair Avenue and Warden Avenue.
A major storm on August 19, 2005 was classified as a tornado remnant and caused significant damage in north Toronto. Flood control planning traditionally considers the likely outcome of an event they refer to as “1 in 100 years”. The storm on this day exceeded these estimates. Taylor-Massey Creek was one of the creeks that suffered the most damage as a result of the increased water flow. Manholes and sanitary sewers were exposed in the creek and bridges and pathways were damaged. The city conducted emergency repairs but the long term health of the creek was in question for several reasons.
The Taylor Massey Project (TMP) had begun just two months earlier in response to invasive species in Warden Woods, pollution and a potential massive redevelopment on adjacent properties. For several months the team collected inventories of plants and marked major ecological zones on a topographical map of the park. They convinced the city that a formal assessment was required and this was contracted in 2006. Eleven major vegetation communities were identified including some areas of mature forest.
The 1877 county atlas section below shows the major roads around Warden Woods outlined in red. The section outlined in green is a rare section of forest that escaped the clear cut logging of early Ontario. Taylor-Massey Creek is traced in blue where it passes through the park. The park follows the creek west and takes on the name Byng Park when it enters the former property of Thomas Sheard (part of the original forest on the map).
Sand is a common feature in Scarborough and Warden Woods is no exception. The area was once the bottom of a large river delta that has been exposed since the end of the last ice age. Glacial Lake Iroquois cut the Scarborough Bluffs out of this sand bank around 12,000 years ago. A much larger Taylor-Massey Creek drained a retreating glacier into this lake. It cut through the sand and glacial till to form the ravine that shapes the park. The sides of the creek continue to erode, especially during severe storm events. The pump in the picture below is being used by a work crew to drain a section of the creek for restoration.
Erosion has been an issue in the creek for many years and when the areas surrounding the park were developed in the 1950’s and 1960’s the creek was given erosion control in the form of gabion baskets. Gabion baskets are wire cages filled with rock, like the ones featured on Etobicoke Creek where a painted turtle had become trapped. Gabion baskets have a limited life span before they need to be replaced. The storm in 2005 and subsequent ones have caused may of these baskets to fail already. Looking down stream from here the old gabion baskets have been removed and replaced with large limestone slabs known as armour stone.
Farther downstream the water has been diverted and the stream bed prepared for the placement of the armour stone.
Like most GTA parks, Warden Woods has several places where the locals gather to enjoy a cold one and relax. In Warden Woods they each have a well contained fire pit and places for seating. There is one close to St. Clair Avenue on the east side of the creek that has a strange winding set of stairs leading fifteen feet up into the air. A small platform for sitting on is set near the top. I’m not sure how safe this is so there are no pictures from up there.
There is also a sign at this party spot that asks the users to keep it tidy. It appears to be working as the place is the cleanest outdoor drinking spot I have ever found in a park. Usually these places are littered with broken glass and beer bottle caps. At one of these party holes there are two bags in the tree by the table. One for those things that can be recycled and one for those that can’t. It’s the only place I’ve ever seen a sign like this and the only really clean “outdoor patio” I’ve come across.
Taylor-Massey Creek is a third order tributary to the East Don River. Stream classification was first proposed in 1952 by Arthur Newell Strahler who created 12 orders of streams. A first order stream is the smallest and the world’s largest rivers are twelfth order. When two first order streams combine they become a second order stream. Two second order streams combine to make a third order stream. If a two and three combine the two ends and the three remains a three. Taylor-Massey Creek drains an area of 360 square kilometers and has two second order tributaries that feed into it. As the area to the east of Warden Avenue has been developed for industrial use and later for housing it has had a lot of impervious surfaces that replaced former farmland or forest. The waterways have been forced underground into concrete channels. One of them enters into the creek from this unprotected opening.
The Taylor-Massey Project collected information on bird sightings in Warden Woods between 2004 and 2007. Sixty-one different bird species were reported including the Blue Jay, one of which is featured in the picture below. There are no lights on the trails in the park and this is considered to be a prime reason for the highly varied population of birds that nest here.
There are five bike trails in the park that give you the chance to get off the main path. There is one bridge to allow you to cross to the other side. It was built in 1975 and is featured in the cover photo.
This tree has blown over exposing the sand that it has been trying to grow on.
This section of the creek is eroding badly and likely will be the subject of ongoing work to preserve and restore the watershed.
It will be interesting to see what the creek looks like in five or ten years when the restoration is complete and the vegetation gets established again.
As the picture above shows, Taylor-Massey Creek is a beautiful place to explore.
Google Maps Link: Warden Woods
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