Mayor John Tory said he would push to fast-track $2.7 million for litter removal and invasive species control in Toronto’s critical-but-struggling ravine system by asking to include the first phase of the funds in the current budget.
But to find an estimated $104.9 million a year in capital costs for ravine improvements, including a major 81-kilometre “Loop Trail,” city staff are being asked to report back in the 2021 budget process with a plan and funding options. The city will also ask the federal and provincial governments to chip in and launch a campaign to raise money from private sources.
The announcements were part of a long-awaited implementation plan for the city’s 2017 ravine strategy. As Toronto stares down the threat of climate change, its 11,000 hectares of ravines are a critical asset. They are a green refuge for city-dwellers, host the majority of the city’s most sensitive wildlife habitats and provide an estimated $822 million yearly in “ecosystem services” that benefit us, such as flood protection and air pollution removal.
Tory affirmed the value of Toronto’s ravines in his remarks on Thursday at Evergreen Brick Works.
“These are world-respected natural assets that we have in the city of Toronto. It’s a remarkable part of our city landscape,” he said.
“I’m happy to say that after years of talk and years of preparation … we have a plan.”
Councillor Mike Layton, a frequent critic on environmental issues, said he was encouraged that the mayor wanted to begin operational funding now, rather than next year, as the plan officially recommends.
But he questioned why the plan for capital costs had to wait until the 2021 budget cycle.
“It seems like we’re putting off yet another phase of this strategy to another year,” said Layton.
“I would just hope that we would feel some pressure to start including it in the capital plan.”
The proposed operational funding includes $657,000 annually for litter collection and phased-in funding for invasive species management, starting at $600,000 and rising to $2,050,000.
Get more of today’s top stories in your inbox
Sign up for the Star’s Morning Headlines email newsletter for a briefing of the day’s big news.
The proposed “Loop Trail” would connect 81 kilometres of ravine trails into a “seamless, off-road, multi-use ring trail.” Tory said he had already met with federal cabinet ministers to request green infrastructure funding for the project, and said the response had been positive.
The implementation plan also recommended creating a dedicated ravine unit within the city’s Parks, Recreation & Forestry division.
In his remarks Thursday, Tory emphasized that this money builds on existing annual funding for maintaining and restoring the city’s ravines. Citizen stewards and academics have charged that existing levels of support are nowhere near enough to maintain and restore a resource vital to the city’s response to the twinned emergencies of climate change and the global extinction crisis.
The city’s executive committee will consider the plan next Thursday, and it will come before city council Jan. 29.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Does Toronto’s ravine system need litter removal and invasive species control? Share your thoughts