Toronto and Region Conservation
for The Living City

2012 Annual Report

Developing Agents of Sustainability

Developing Agents of Sustainability

Toronto and Region Conservation is not only protecting and restoring natural habitats, we are also helping people better understand, enjoy and look after the environment. By deepening the connection that residents and other stakeholders feel towards nature, it is hoped they will become ambassadors of The Living City and agents of sustainability.

Becoming an eco-conscious citizen is actually quite easy – it requires only a shift in the way one thinks about nature, a desire to protect our environment and a way to translate that desire into effective action. Across our jurisdiction, agents of sustainability are exploring new ways to live a green lifestyle. They are protecting nature in their own backyards, local parks and neighbourhoods. Some are growing and selling organic vegetables, supporting the growth of urban agriculture. Others are involved in volunteer and stewardship activities. All are working to bring The Living City to life.

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The Green Home Makeover showcases a greener lifestyle

Sustainable Neighbourhood Retrofit Action Plans (SNAPs) are transforming targeted neighbourhoods across the TRCA jurisdiction, improving the local environment, preparing communities for climate change and making them better places to live, work and play. SNAPs also are encouraging residents to learn what they can do individually in their homes and businesses to save water, conserve energy and contribute to a greener community. As part of County Court SNAP program in Brampton, the Green Home Makeover has transformed a 30-year-old home into one of the city’s greenest retrofitted residences, while demonstrating how small changes made inside and outside a house can have a big environmental impact.

Today, homeowners Paul Gay and Marisa Mancuso are living their dream of an eco-friendly lifestyle and are green champions in their community. The makeover of their home at 71 Turtlecreek Boulevard incorporated a range of innovative green technologies and products, including a high-efficiency HVAC system, improved insulation and weatherization, the installation of energy and water efficient appliances, Energy Star windows and doors, ultra low-flow toilets, rain barrels and a rain garden, water efficient landscaping for the front yard, and a permeable driveway and walkways.

This Green Home Makeover has been a learning experience from Day One. Not only have we enjoyed watching the transformation of our home, we have truly enjoyed working with everyone involved. It is refreshing to work with people who share a common desire to reduce our impact on the environment. Since the completion of the suggested retrofits, we have noticed improved comfort in our home and a substantial decrease in energy and water consumption. Even the smallest retrofit, such as replacing outdated toilets with new water efficient models, has made a remarkable difference. Now that all the improvements have been made, we will be able to monitor the overall savings and we look forward to sharing this information with other interested homeowners.

Paul Gay, homeowner, County Court SNAP, Green Home Makeover

“The lessons learned can be used by any homeowner thinking of retrofitting an older home to be more water and energy efficient, indoor and out,” says TRCA Chair Gerri Lynn O’Connor. “This project will demonstrate how homeowners can adapt any one of the green retrofit improvements in their own homes for savings that will be enjoyed for years to come.”

Completed in the spring of 2012, the demonstration project was developed and supported by TRCA, the City of Brampton, the Region of Peel, and local residents and businesses. As part of the project, the team conducted extensive analyses to help estimate potential future savings. In the first year the homeowners saw their energy and water consumption drop by about half. The home’s EnerGuide rating, the measure of a building’s energy performance, increased from 58 to 76, well above modern building code standards for a new home.

In addition, the renovations improved the comfort of the indoor environment, while the attractive outdoor landscaping reduced rainwater runoff and improved biodiversity. TRCA will continue to monitor the home to evaluate the effectiveness of retrofit elements in enhancing overall house performance. To learn more about the Green Home Makeover or to follow the home’s transformation through videos and photos visit: www.sustainableneighbourhoods.ca/wp/green-home-makeover/

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Bringing fresh locally-grown food to one of Toronto’s busiest urban centres

TRCA has been involved with agriculture ever since its inception in 1957. It has leased thousands of acres of agriculture lands to farmers and in 2008 adopted a Sustainable Near-Urban Agriculture Policy which conserves TRCA’s agricultural land base and challenges the organization to contribute more towards developing sustainable communities by producing local food on its lands for the Toronto region, planting of diverse crops, demonstrating innovative sustainable agricultural production methods and technologies, and implementing beneficial management practices.

In partnership with farm related community organizations, TRCA has developed three near-urban farm projects. Current initiatives include the Albion Hills Community Farm in the Town of Caledon and the FarmStart McVean Farm in the City of Brampton.

These farm projects not only increase accessibility to fresh local food, they also promote social equity, reduce the environmental impacts of food imports, create jobs and provide opportunities for ‘in-the-field’ training for aspiring farmers.

In 2012, TRCA embarked on a third urban farm venture—the Black Creek Community Farm (BCCF). BCCF is located within the Jane and Finch community where food security is a pressing concern. The goal of the farm is to be a community-run farm that engages, educates and empowers diverse communities through the growing and sharing of food. The farm grows fresh organic produce – by and for the local community – and provides an array of career training programs, educational workshops, and community events.

Everdale is the lead organization at BCCF (www.everdale.org). Everdale is a farm-based charity with 15 years of experience growing food and providing hands-on farming education to children, youth, and new farmers. BCCF is approximately 3.2 hectares (8 acres) of prime farm land in the heart of Jane-Finch at 4929 Jane Street, on the other side of Black Creek from the Pioneer Village. Everdale leases the land and buildings from TRCA.

Everdale is joined at BCCF by a team of strong and active supporting partner organizations: FoodShare, AfriCan Food Basket, Fresh City Farms, York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, Ryerson University’s Centre For Studies in Food Security, Toronto Public Health, Driftwood Community Centre, Jane/Finch Community and family Centre, and several other local organizations and schools.

The Black Creek Community Farm also sells fresh produce to TRCA’s Food Services at Black Creek Pioneer Village, located less than 1km away, which provides more than 20,000 meals annually to visitors of the facility.

A neighbourhood-wide urban agriculture program is also an important component of the Black Creek SNAP, which is increasing local food production, managing rainwater, increasing tree cover, and working with the community to facilitate harvest sharing. This innovative community initiative engages youth and the community in urban organic farming, leadership development, environmental stewardship and health promotion. Services are provided through collaboration with the surrounding neighbourhood, social agencies, schools, faith groups and businesses. The farm held its first community farm event in the summer of 2013.

For more information about TRCA’s Near Urban Agriculture initiatives visit: www.trca.on.ca/urbanagriculture

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Engaging residents through stewardship and volunteerism

TRCA engages residents through the programs of our Stewardship Division as well as our Environmental Volunteer Network. TRCA Stewardship offers opportunities for people who want to get their hands dirty looking after the environment in their own communities. From hands-on demonstrations and workshops, to tree plantings and community clean-ups, participants can have an immediate and positive impact on the environment, while contributing to long-term sustainability. The division also develops educational materials, including fact sheets and guide books, to help people become stewards in their own neighbourhoods.

In 2012, TRCA’s Stewardship Division organized more than 185 public participation events in the regions of Peel, York, Durham and Toronto. Stewardship programs include Private Land Stewardship initiatives, the Healthy Yards Program, Multicultural Connections and the Conservation Youth Corp.

In 2012, the Stewardship Division received $21,000 from the Ministry of the Environment, under the Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA) Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem, to implement our new Water Garden Grant program. This is a cost-sharing program that helps homeowners install low impact development (LID) landscaping projects, such as rain barrels, soakaway pits and infiltration trenches, and rain gardens. By collecting and reusing rainwater on a homeowner’s property, the amount of runoff entering local storm drains is greatly reduced. In the past, COA has funded these kinds of programs only for rural landowners; this is the first for urban residents.

The Water Garden Grant is being implemented as a pilot program in the Valleybrook neighbourhood of Brampton. Each spring, the area is at risk of flooding due to heavy rainfall and spring melt flowing into nearby Etobicoke Creek. By improving landscaping on residential properties, re-positioning eaves troughs, replacing impermeable driveways and other LID projects, much of this runoff can be diverted from the creek, reducing the risk of flooding, water pollution and erosion. To date, six LID projects have been installed on private lands, and workshops were conducted in the community in 2013.

One of the biggest barriers to residents collecting and reusing rainwater on their property is a lack of knowledge, and so the Greening Your Grounds – A Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater Landscaping Projects was developed. The Guide was produced under the four-year Valleybrook Community Stewardship Initiative funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. See more at: http://trca.on.ca/get-involved/stewardship/healthy-yards-program/

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Volunteers are TRCA’s ‘eyes and ears’ in the field

The Environmental Volunteer Network (EVN) connects residents across TRCA’s jurisdiction with environmental organizations and municipal agencies to provide hands-on, meaningful volunteer opportunities. Through the Network, volunteers gain valuable work experience and training, while learning about conservation. They also make connections with professionals in the environmental field and give back to the community and the environment.

In 2012, 16,619 volunteers participating in various programs managed by TRCA’s eight divisions, including ornithological work with Restoration Services staff at Tommy Thompson Park, the Ecology Division’s Terrestrial Volunteer Monitoring Program, and Restoration Services’ Archaeology department, to name just a few.

In 2012, 23 volunteers worked in Tommy Thompson Park (TTP) monitoring migration patterns, conducting bird surveys, and banding these seasonal visitors. They have also tracked which species are nesting at the park, supported the Cormorant Management Strategy, and banded northern saw-whet owls to monitor their fall migration. Each volunteer receives hands-on training in bird handling and identification; in turn, these volunteers have provided staff with excellent photos, observations and insights into the bird and wildlife populations in the park. They also interact with students and the general public to highlight the work done by the TTP Bird Research Station and improve bird knowledge and awareness.

“When I retired in 2003 I wanted to spend my time on birds and found on-line that a banding operation was being started at Tommy Thompson Park,” says long-time volunteer Ian Sturdee. “I volunteered not knowing that this would involve about 1,000 hours a year. I’m now in my 11th year and it has been rewarding in so many ways to do this work. I hope it continues forever.” Ian Sturdee, as well as Ann Gray, Don Johnston and Bronwyn Dalziel, received 2013 Ontario Volunteer Service Awards for their outstanding efforts in volunteering for TRCA at Tommy Thompson Park.

The Terrestrial Volunteer Monitoring Program, which has been running since 2002, also attracts volunteers who have a strong interest in ecology and biology. At any one time, the program typically has some 100 volunteers actively monitoring sites. Terrestrial monitoring volunteers work with a partner on an assigned ten-hectare site located in a natural area within the Toronto region. The assigned site is visited ten times each year to survey for the presence of a set of flora and fauna indicator species.

“On just one trip, we were amazed to count 10 porcupines in total, five of them on-site and another five just outside the site boundaries,” says one terrestrial monitoring volunteer. “Porcupine trails in the snow made finding the animals themselves not very difficult. This was our first winter visit and the sightings made our day.”

Trained volunteers participating in the program extend TRCA’s ability to monitor the terrestrial ecosystem of our large jurisdiction over the long term. In turn, volunteers develop their species identification skills and gain valuable field work experience; this kind of experience is often sought by university graduates and international professionals.

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