UrbanToronto took the opportunity to talk with local city councillor Mark Grimes at a recent topping off event for Star Tower at Empire Communities' Beyond The Sea complex in Etobicoke's burgeoning Humber Bay Shores area. 

We're looking from the 40th floor of Star Tower down at the Mimico Creek. What are the plans for the greenspace below?  What can we expect in the next few years for Humber Bay Shores regarding the parkland here?

As you know we have a tremendous amount of energy being socked into one area here at Humber Bay Shores. It's always been the plan since we expropriated the water's edge of the hotel strip, that density would be transferred back to the landowners as a kind of payback. As you see, we're moving west towards the village of Mimico and we have an unbelieveable amount of density trying to come in, so what's very important is that we do keep the greenspace.

Condo development along the Mimico Creek, TorontoLooking northwest from Beyond The Sea up the Mimico Creek, image by Craig White

For years the Mimico Creek in this area has kind of been neglected, but there's a great group that oversees it now, the Etobicoke-Mimico Watersheds Coalition, plus we're working directly with Toronto Region Conservation Authority on how we can make park connections up into Ward 5, Peter Milczyn's ward. Through these developments on the east side of the creek as we go up Park Lawn, we're asking all these developers to contribute to a new trail system. We're trying to get a trail along both sides of the creek - with a bridge to connect them south of the rails, that's a very important part - along Mimico Creek to connect north of the Gardiner Expressway to Ward 5. We've used some Section 37 money to get the design worked on, which is well on the way.

Toronto Planning's overview of where the Bonar Creek meets the Mimico CreekToronto Planning's overview of conditions where the Bonar Creek meets the Mimico Creek

There's going to be a Grand Avenue Park revitalization - there's a piece on the corner of Grand Avenue and Manitoba which is separately owned by the City which I'm trying to bring into the park - and how do we revitalize that whole area, because that's very important. As you put this kind of density into the community, we must have greenspace for people to walk their dogs, ride their bikes, connect to the trail system, etc. So it's a very important part - I've heard it from the community loud and clear - that we have to preserve these greenspaces, and not just build more condos on that Grand Avenue land.

Grand Avenue Park, EtobicokeGrand Avenue Park potential expansion area, image by Craig White

Is Grand Avenue Park being worked on right now?

Not yet. There was a deal made back in the early 90s with the developer that some of this - this was the old Mimico Incinerator and Ash Dump - that some of this [contaminated] earth would be taken and kept in the park, and then they would put a metre of clean fill on top. Then the Ministry of the Environment and the City kind of changed their tune on what we should be doing there. We're coming to an agreement with the Ministry and the developer now, but I'm saying, let's not piecemeal that little triangle of land, let's take the other piece from the corner and really come up with a great concept for the parks. We're working on that now, though we're not close to finalizing it yet. I really want that whole green area to be looked at as one big piece, and not on a piecemeal basis.

Projects and Green Spaces near the mouth of the Mimico Creek, EtobicokeProjects and Green Spaces near the mouth of the Mimico Creek

This side of the rail tracks, when you look down here, there are some pieces of the old Mimico Sewage Treatment Plant, and Bonar Creek wetland, where there's a storm water outflow. We're working with the Toronto Water right now to put a retention pond on that land. Also, we want to punch through a tunnel for Legion Road under the rail tracks to Mystic Pointe and really connect these new communities, because they are true communities now: the City has done a full environmental assessment on all of this, and it's identified in the Official Plan now. 

Old Mimico Sewage Treatment Plant and Bonar Creek wetland areas, EtobicokeOld Mimico Sewage Treatment Plant and Bonar Creek wetland areas beyond Beyond The Sea, image by Craig White

To clean that property for civic use is millions of dollars more, and we are hoping the park trails would go alongside part of it. So we're working on alternatives with the Conservation Authority. I mean, this is a very important part of greenspace and how we connect it to Grand Avenue. You can also see the GO Train line here, and we want to connect these people that are moving into all this new density, so they can get out of their cars, and make those connections to transit.

Councillor Grimes speaking at the opening of Birmingham Street Skateboard ParkCouncillor Grimes speaking at the opening of Birmingham St. Skateboard Park, Summer 2011

Any recent thoughts on a potential new Park Lawn stop for GO?

That was discussed years ago, well before my time. I don't see it for right now, but you've got Metrolinx looking at a lot of options. To me, if you're asking me personally - GO is Provincially run, not City - I'm saying let's shorten the trains up and run them more frequently. I always say Ward 6, Etobicoke Lakeshore, is very blessed with transit. We've got great routes like Park Lawn, Royal York Road, Islington, Kipling, Browns Line, all great connections to the subway, but we're also are blessed with two GO stations - Mimico and Long Branch. How many wards can say they have two GO train stations?

A GO Train passes by the site of South Beach condominiums, Etobicoke, July 2010A GO Train passes by the site of South Beach condominiums, July 2010, image by Craig White

So how we make connections to the new communities is very important. When people are buying right now, and the sales people for these developers are saying "Listen, you are a 5 minute, 10 minute, 12 minute walk to the GO Train", I think it's a great selling feature. As we add this density, not only in my ward, but in the City of Toronto in general, we can't widen the roads, so it's all about getting people out of their cars, and the long term vision is for transit. So we start with these great connections to the Bloor-Danforth subway, but can it be improved? Yes, it can, and that's what we have to work on.