Our bit to protect the freshwater dunes at Woodbine Beach

An April 13, 2022, Toronto Star feature by M.L. Bream (“Hundreds of species and a precious bit of wildness get a reprieve“) has generated a lot of excitement in our community over the last week! With the removal of the nine-hole disc golf course at Woodbine Beach, the fragile freshwater dunes there will no longer be under such intense threat.

TFN is proud to have been one among many of the organizations and citizens to raise their voices in defence of the precious and sensitive habitat the course infringed on. By request, below is a copy of our official statement which was delivered to the Mayor & City Councillors in objection:

Dear Mayor Tory, Councillors and staff entrusted with safeguarding the natural environment in the City of Toronto:

The Toronto Field Naturalists recently discovered that a Disc Golf course had been installed on the western end of Woodbine Beach without any public consultation. We wish to register our objection and request that the city relocate the Disc Golf course.

The low area in question has been allowed to naturalize for the last several years. Twice during that period it has been inundated and it remained covered with water for most of the summer. Native wetland plants have begun to grow. Numerous species of native insects, including dragonflies and butterflies as well as birds have become accustomed to using the area. The records are available on iNaturalist, and I have attached them here for your consideration. Several of these species, such as the Lapland Longspur, Least Bittern and Whimbrel are either uncommon or rare in the city. The Least Bittern is also a species at risk. The City hosted a Phragmites removal event to retain the ecological integrity of this naturalized section of the Beach.

The Biodiversity Strategy enacted by Toronto City Council in 2019 cites numerous reasons why a healthy city needs a healthy natural environment. It contained this hopeful statement:

Activities are underway to restore and enhance formerly degraded natural areas within the ravines and along the waterfront, while new habitats are being created within built up urban areas.

Preserving and creating habitat at this site is not compatible with Disc Golf. It is clearly impossible to have fun playing disc golf if you have to stay on prescribed trails and not fetch your disc.

The Toronto Field Naturalists and many other naturalist organizations watch this site and participate in maintaining it. It is a valued part of the Toronto Waterfront. We request that you relocate the Disc Golf to a mown grassy area, which is more suited to the game.

Sincerely,

Ellen Schwartzel
President, Toronto Field Naturalists

This reprieve many only prove temporary, of course, so TFN will continue to follow this issue ongoing. While we welcome & encourage new opportunities for enjoyable recreation to be developed in the city, the dunescape at Ashbridges Bay represents one of North America’s rarest ecosystems and must be protected.

The Toronto Field Naturalists wish to acknowledge this land through which we walk. For thousands of years it has been the traditional land of the Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississauga of the Credit River. Today it is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to be on this land.