Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Peter Worthington's Take On The Evergreen Brick Works

Natural environment a casualty at remade Brick Works: Worthington

Increasingly, the place is a horror. And now they charge for parking!

Every weekday, when I drive to and from the Toronto Sun, I pass the site of what used to be the Toronto Brickworks on the Bayview Extension — now re-Christened Evergreen Brick Works, which the Globe and Mail describes as “transformed into a unique urban oasis.” For close to 30 years my wife and I used to walk our dogs down a valley path that skirts the brickworks, and we were pleased when about 20 years ago it was converted into a nature park, complete with fake lakes and ponds that were a magnet for wild ducks, geese, herons, blackbirds, muskrats, turtles and assorted marsh life. It was a joy for dogs, and a refuge for people. Scattered benches, a few wooden walkway bridges, planted trees, water lillies and little in the way of fuss or fanfare. All that is about to end. According to the Globe, the Evergreen people are open for business — “a museum, playground, art gallery, garden, year-round camp, yoga retreat, food market, school and think tank all rolled into one.” No mention in the Globe about wildlife that has been the site’s most enduring attraction. Until now. I guess the nature environment is a casualty. It was always reassuring to see ducks nesting in the spring, swimming and followed by ducklings. Or see Canada Geese swoop on a fake pond, or watch a muskrat swimming with foliage to build a den. Birds of all sorts did their thing. It was a bit of the wild in the heart of the city. Regardless of what the Evergreen people say about preserving nature, common sense tells you that’s unlikely — not with a $55 million capital campaign that includes a 27-metre climbing tower, skating, restaurants and boutiques. So far Ottawa has contributed $20 million, Ontario $10 million, various foundations $18 million. During the renovations and construction, I’ve periodically taken to the trails that are still quiet and relatively serene. Increasingly, the place is a horror. If the expected hordes come (they may not) it’ll be worse for what wildlife remains. No matter what the planners say, that’s a given. And now they charge for parking! I suspect the whole venture is a entrepreneurial scam — talk one way, scheme for another. For example, the Globe quotes planners who say when the Don River floods, water and silt will be funneled through and around buildings “creating a series of Venice-like canals.” Give us a break! I wonder if whoever envisioned “Venice-like canals” in the Brickworks, has ever been to Venice? As for the Don River flooding, it would have to overflow the Bayview Extension to reach the Brickworks. I cannot recall that ever happening, and certainly not every two or three years. More hokum. In fairness, if it weren’t for the uniqueness of the Brickworks as an unspoiled (albeit man-made) reservoir for nature, the Evergreen development might be all the Globe and various publicity ads say it is. The sad thing is that it was already unique, and the revamped site is nothing special, despite National Geographic naming the development as one of the world’s top 10 geo-tourism destinations. The way construction is progressing, the manicured surroundings, the yuppiness — I suspect the site should soon be removed from the National Geographic list. Rather than reason to celebrate, I’d argue what’s underway is a sorry day for Toronto, and certainly for the wildlife that was encouraged to take up residence there.

The Toronto Sun