Downsview Lands Community Voice Association  

Information forum on Downsview Park for residents and park enthusiasts 

Newsletter 70                                                                           September 2021       

American Elm #668 on the William Baker woodlot    

As previously reported, in late June a huge limb of this magnificent tree, comprising 1/3 of its bulk, separated itself from the main trunk. 

This was on the main N/S pedestrian walkway of the William Baker woodlot, s
upposedly in the middle of a quiet day     

Where it sheered off is a problem as the tree had 3 equal branches emanating from a single point, rendering it potentially unstable.

While the 2 remaining large branches are hale and hearty, the long gash created by the split is susceptible to disease and/or infestation over the long run.  The bark will not regenerate by itself, and an artificial coating or seal will not 'take'.  

For now, it is wait and see.  The Park's ultimate decision will be made on the basis of the arborist's report which has not yet been received.
The toughest 'sell' in the proposed Wm Baker District Plan?
                           Has to be Block 2  --  N/E corner of Street A and Keele

Currently this block is part of Natural Heritage Woodlot 27 extending it southward to Street A

48 established trees (10cm trunk diameter) to be cut down 

The proposed plan seeks to rezone Block 2 from Parkland (no development) to Mixed Use (some institutional /commercial on lower level, 105 residential units on 3 or 4 levels above)

Dramatic confrontation between ecological and real estate values

On 23 Aug. the DLCVA submitted its detailed  objection ("the Case for Block 2") to the City's Planning Dept.  HERE

York Centre Federal Election and Downsview Park

In its long and laboured transition from CFB Downsview, Downsview Park has had the unique status of being a federal park in a big city, supposedly self-financing, run by a crown corporation (Canada Lands Company / "CLC") appointed by the government.   

While the CLC operates at arms length from parliamentary oversight,  it is not unaware of the breezes blowing in from Ottawa -- hence the importance of any federal election.

In the Park's 25 years of existence, its political masters have been either Conservative or Liberal. 

While often critical of personnel and policy, the DLCVA is a-political and does not support any candidate or party 

Conservative candidate Joel Yakov Etienne has the unenviable task of introducing himself to voters at a time of relative social isolation.

A newcomer to politics, he comes at it from a different direction, with deep roots in the Jewish, Francophone and Caribbean communities.

A lawyer with an established North York practice (immigration, litigation), he has a first hand familiarity with the problems and roadblocks encountered by newcomers to Canada.

Incidental facts: As an occasional news host, Mr. Etienne has a longtime interest in TV broadcasting, and has contributed to the indie miniseries Rising Suns.

He is head lawyer in an on-going high profile lawsuit against the RCMP and the Province of New Brunswick that was explored on The Fifth Estate last September.  His client, Dr. Jean Robert Ngola, a 50-year-old Congolese/Canadian physician in Campbellton NB, was the first person testing positive for Covid 19 in the province on May 27, 2020 after crossing the border into Quebec to pick up his daughter.  One hour after he received notification (11:00am), this confidential information made it to Facebook, and by 2:30pm he was identified in the news as "patient zero" and the probable cause of introducing coronavirus into the province.  Facing widespread public anger, he was forced to vacate his practice and respond to charges under the Emergency Measures Act.  The problem with this "rush to judgment" was that nobody did their due diligence; and as Mr. Etienne has repeatedly pointed out, the more you look at the evidence against this "irresponsible medical professional", the weaker the case becomes.  Suit is on-going.

After a close battle with Conservative Julius Tiangson, sitting Liberal MP Ya'ara Saks won the York Centre seat in a 2020 byelection occasioned by Michael Levitt stepping down.  The election was close enough (46% to 42%) that it could not be called until the wee hours.

Growing up in the riding, Ms Saks has been active as a business woman (yoga studio), commentator and social advocate.

With an active interest in Israeli politics, she served in the social service sector there for several years.

With a political science BA from McGill and an international relations MA from U of Jerusalem, Ms Saks has long advocated for more diversity and dialogue in the public realm.  To the despair of some, she has been even-handed in her comments on the Israeli-Palestinian question.

What her friends say about her:
  • "She is not the shy and retiring type, giving you about 20 seconds to state your business."  
  • "Any chance her wardrobe comes from Marks Work Warehouse?"
  • FULL DISCLOSURE: Out of the blue and without being asked, Ms Saks facilitated an exclusive half-hour face-to-face between Anita Anand (Minister responsible for Downsview Park) last month and two members of DLCVA (for which we are thankful)

Taking up the torch for the NDP who got 6% of the vote last time around is 27-year-old  software engineer Kemal Ahmed

Mississauga born and raised (in a well-established Pakistani pharmacist family), he married last year during the pandemic observing all the Covid-19 protocols.  One of the ceremonies for this occasion was held in Earl Bales Park. 

As befits someone with coding in his DNA, he has multiple connections with an awesome roster of start-up and early venture firms (consulting / web-designing / app-developing / contract-marketing / video-streaming), including one of his own focused on music accessibility for the hard of hearing.  

Having an on-going interest in sustainability and ethical investment, he has long advocated "open spaces" for both the physical and technical environments.

Issues particular to Downsview: affordable housing for newcomers/young people, retention of assembly operations at DeHavilland Aircraft, sustainable development of lands associated with Bombardier Airstrip.

As an MP, what does he bring to the table? energy and a willingness to revisit policy priorities that favour the affluent.  "The job is listening, growing, and advocating for things constituents need that I won't directly benefit from."
From grassland to market garden
“The original soil that was here is long gone … but we’re making it work; we’re getting crops, but (soil quality) is a big challenge in the city.”   
Jeremy Stojan, farm manager

Something interesting is happening at the Park's new "urban farm" run by Fresh City Farms near Stanley Greene. 

As head tenant they have succeeded in "greening" over half of their allotment of what used to be hard-scrabble grassland in ways that are organic and sustainable, yet not that obvious. 

THE PROBLEM: a miniscule layer of organic topsoil on top of an extremely compacted clay subsoil.  (the word "cement-like" is often used)

Despite remediation efforts of the CLC over the past few years, the soil is not in good shape.  Although nutrient-rich, the extreme density of the clay hinders root development and proper drainage, in effect "walling in" any new plantings.

THE SOLUTION: slow and un-dramatic soil remediation, including the following:

  • Periodically adding mulch and compost to the surface layer
  • Manually aerating and gently lifting (but not turning over) the crusty soil via pitchfork
  • Introducing site-specific re-trenching to improve drainage
  • Occasionally using clear plastic covers to encourage growth, and opaque ones to discourage growth of unwanted species
  • Alternating a few raised row beds where required
  • Encouraging root penetration into the clay by selective planting and strategic weeding practices
  • Very occasional machine tilling
  • Relying as required on a mix of drip and sprinkler watering
  • Choosing and periodically rotating sustainable crops
In this transition to a flourishing garden, a couple of negative factors should be indicated:
Watering: While Fresh City has asked a well-digger to determine if a natural water source (its first choice) is available, no drilling has yet been done.  For now, all the water is from a public hydrant.

Perimeter Fence: While this is a necessity for any urban farm, same will not be built until next year.

Meanwhile the results of this focused approach are in full view this harvest season, and are impressive.  Check it out.  Next year the area under cultivation will be doubled. 
Andrew Palamarchuk's Aug 6 article in NY Mirror   HERE

Recently spotted at Downsview Park:
Temporary soccer nets on the Festival Terrace 
The DLCVA regards this as a positive first step.

The Festival Terrace is an enormous flat space
of 13.6 acres, sometimes called 'the great lawn'  
which is reserved for high profile special events.

Even in the best of times, it is not that busy.  It is out-of-the-way and often deserted

Save for some weekly drive-in movies in June and July, there have been no crowd events this year due to the pandemic.

Despite being ringed by a perimeter of small saplings, its only shade comes from one majestic elm in the centre
As can be seen in this sketch, the Festival Terrace is not linked to the the Circuit Path, and in the absence of a headline event, this venue which is capable of handling 40K visitors (and very profitable when doing so) is isolated from the rest of the park.

It is encouraging to see it finally being used by park visitors and children wanting nothing more than a place to play.

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