Stewardship of Cottonwood Flats

On the morning of May 3, 2022, a dozen or so TFNers, City staff, and Community Stewardship Program (CSP) volunteers gathered at a scattering of armourstones in in the Don Valley for the inaugural session of something quite wonderful: a new stewardship team at Cottonwood Flats!

For the last five years, TFN has led the Cottonwood Flats Monitoring Project (CFMP), a partnership program with the City of Toronto‚Äôs Natural Environment and Community Programs (NECP) section of Urban Forestry that works to document biodiversity and trends in species abundance in this part of the Don Valley. A key question for us has always been “what’s the desired ecological trajectory?” Our collected data clearly shows that without the intervention of stewards, the Flats would no doubt become a extension of the kind of urban wilds typical of the lower Don. But the transformation of the Flats from post-industrial snow-dump to renaturalized area more than a decade ago was inspired by a desire to see it thrive as something different: a small spot of meadowland and wetland, vital habitats too scarce in Toronto.

TFN Volunteers at the CFMP session on May 15, 2022

As citizen scientists, serving as objective observers was important. As citizens & naturalists, however, it was challenging to idly watch the rampant spread of invasives and exotics, the creeping treeline, & the gathering garbage and remain impartial. Through our partnership with the Community Stewardship Program, TFN is thrilled we’ll now be able to help lead a corps of volunteers to directly support the well-being of nature in this area of the Don Valley by removing invasive species & restoring native habitat.

Our new CSP team is distinct from TFN’s long-standing (and ongoing!) Cottonwood Flats Monitoring Project, but both teams will enjoy very tight ties: CFMP data will inform our CSP stewardship activities, and the results of our stewardship efforts will be monitored long-term and documented in future CFMP data. This robust circle of citizen science and practical stewardship has limitless potential benefits not only to nature, but to deepening our understanding of the impacts of stewardship strategies & techniques in an urban environment.

CSP volunteers on May 3, 2022

All TFN members are welcome to join our CFMP team. All Torontonians are welcome to volunteer with the Community Stewardship Program and come lend TFN a hand at Cottonwood Flats. For more information and/or to raise your hand, simply email stewardship@torontofieldnaturalists.org.

More information on the history of Cottonwood Flats, the findings of TFN’s Cottonwood Flats Monitoring Project, and the future of our new Community Stewardship Program team is available by watching the video below:

Toronto Field Naturalists wishes to acknowledge this Land through which we walk. For thousands of years, the Land has been shared by the Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, and the Anishinaabe. Toronto is situated on the Land within the Toronto Purchase, Treaty 13, the traditional and treaty Lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. This territory is also part of the Dish with One Spoon Wampum, a covenant agreement between Anishinaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Wendat peoples and allied nations to peaceably share the land and all its resources. Today, the Land is home to peoples of numerous nations. We are all grateful to have the opportunity to continue to care for and share the beauty of this Land.