Glen Stewart Ravine

July 17, 2016

The Glen Stewart Ravine is home to a Red Oak and Red Maple forest mixed with Witch Hazel which is a rare forest type in Toronto.  In 2008 it was determined that the forest was suffering due to loss of the understory.  The ravine slopes had been cut through with secondary trails that compacted the soil and exposed the tree roots.  These trails have been closed off and in some places they have been planted over.  Other areas are being left to regenerate naturally.  The park has undergone a major restoration and planting program in an effort to create a forest that will be healthy and self sustaining for generations to come.

The Glen Stewart Ravine is a great place if you are one of those people who like to exercise by running up the stairs in the park.  The steel stairs in the cover photo rise 114 steps from the ravine floor to Balsaam Avenue.  These stairs replaced a set of wooden stairs similar to the set featured below that currently descends the ravine from Kingston Road.  More stairs climb the ravine to an entrance on Beech Street.  The Balsaam Avenue stairs and the wooden boardwalk below them had deteriorated to the point of becoming unsafe and both were replaced.


The picture below shows some of the trees that have been planted to replace invasive species that were removed as part of the restoration process.  Spring of 2016 saw the planting of over 800 trees and shrubs, including one lone white pine, as well as 2,500 grasses and herbs.  The three red oak trees planted here go along with 20 other small red oak trees and 3 mature ones to help restore this rare red oak forest.


Chicken of the Woods is considered to be one of the “foolproof four” mushrooms.  This easily identifiable mushroom is recommended for those who are nervous about collecting their own mushrooms for fear of poisoning themselves.  The underside of the fungus does not have gills but rather is covered with fine pores.  This mushroom grows on decaying trees and will rot the inside of a living tree if it gets started on one.  They can be harvested year after year or twice in a season, if you only take the outer few centimeters.  The younger fungi are brighter in colour and the older ones develop a bitter taste.  The plant gets its name from the fact that it can be substituted for chicken in recipes.


The eastern slope of the ravine has a lush undergrowth in this little dell along the side of the Balsaam  Avenue stairs.  The ravine supports a diverse population of migratory birds with more anticipated when the restored forest is mature a few decades from now.


South of these stairs is a section where the former erosion control has been removed.  The wood cribs that had been installed were rotting and in danger of collapse.  They were replaced with a new environmentally sensitive product called Enviroloc.  These fabric sand bags are designed to allow vegetation to grow on top providing a more natural stabilization of the slopes.  The picture below shows some of the restored slopes.


Ames Creek flows through the ravine.  It’s waters come from ground seepage in the sandy soils of the slopes.  This seepage is one of the reasons for the boardwalk along the floor of the ravine.  During heavy rain events the trail was turned into a muddy mess.  The new boardwalk provides an accessible trail as far as the rest stop that can be seen near the Balsaam stairs in the cover photo.  The picture below was taken from the boardwalk and shows the creek where it flows through a wetland.


The new stairs to Balsaam Avenue were built with helical piers.  This construction method screws the piers into the soil until they meet a specified amount of resistance.  This allows the piers to support the load of the stairs without having to do major excavation on the slopes.  The railings on the stairs and the boardwalk are made of hemlock which was chosen because it is naturally disease resistant.  The picture below shows the new boardwalk looking north.  The new stairs can be seen in the distance.


The creek and ravine are almost void of signs of their past usage except for this old covered discharge system.


Ames Creek is forced underground into a storm water pipe just before it reaches Glen Manor Drive East.  Years ago developers filled the ravine in and buried the creek.  Glen Manor Drive East and West frame a narrow strip of park which has the former creek running below it.


On June 10, 1925 about 70 percent of the Presbyterian churches in Canada joined with the Methodists and Congregational churches to form the United Church of Canada.  The idea was to form a Canadian Church which would be inclusive of all nationalities. The few Presbyterian churches in Southern Ontario that refused to join were cut off from the resources of the main group.  Many congregations lost everything and had to start over with new buildings and new missions.  The corner stone for the Beaches Presbyterian Church was laid on July 17, 1926, just one year after the split in the church.   The Beaches Church is on the east side of Glen Manor Drive, roughly where the filled in portion of Glen Stewart Ravine has been built over.


Glen Manor Drive brings you to the part of Toronto known as The Beaches.  The sand here has been carried by the motion of the lake from where it has been picked up east of here.  Erosion of the Scarborough Bluffs is dropping houses into the lake near Gates Gully.   The boardwalk runs for 3 kilometers along the sandy shore line from Balmy Beach to Ashbridges Bay.  The tall smoke stack in the back ground is at The Hearn, an abandoned power plant in The Port Lands.  It stands on the former marsh of Ashbridges Bay at the mouth of the Don River.


Wild Blackberries are less common than wild raspberries but they are growing in the Glen Stewart Ravine.  The blackberry is not actually a berry in the botanical sense in that it is an aggregate fruit made up of many little drupelets.  Blackberries and Raspberries are related but one difference can be seen when picking the fruit.  The torus, or stem, of the fruit remains on the plant with a raspberry leaving a hollow core on the fruit.  The blackberry torus remains in the fruit.


Google Maps Link: Glen Stewart Ravine

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