Western Waterfront Master Plan aims to clean up Sunnyside Beach

Sunnyside BeachThe City’s Western Waterfront Master Plan is now available online, and it includes several ideas for making the western waterfront safer, more accessible and more enjoyable. The plan also includes proposals for restoring and strengthening connections between the waterfront and Roncesvalles, an idea long-championed by the BIA.

A short-term goal of the plan is a project to reestablish Sunnyside as a safe place to swim. Our beach was open only 45 percent of the time last year, due to bacterial contamination. The City is installing a vinyl curtain that should help keep run-off from the Humber away from the beach.

Geese and dogs have been blamed for much of the contamination, but a more significant cause is likely the fact that during heavy rainstorms our western lakefront becomes an open toilet for about a quarter of a million people. Like most of downtown Toronto, the west end is serviced by combined storm sewers that carry both stormwater and sanitary flows (feces and urine). When there is heavy rain, this system gets overwhelmed and responds by dumping everything into the nearest body of water.

Roncesvalles Renewed has proposed a “Living Sidewalk” that would integrate Roncesvalles’ stormwater drainage with an innovative new tree planting system. Instead of acting like funnels channelling water rapidly into the sewers, our street would become massive absorption pads, sucking up huge amounts of water and slowing the drainage process down. A bonus is that healthy trees absorb greenhouse gases, cool our street, and tend to be more attractive than a huge sheet of plastic.

The Living Sidewalk is not yet adequately funded, and time is running out to get the project included in the 2009-10 reconstruction of Roncesvalles. If you would like to offer support to the Living Sidewalk project, you can email Councillor Gord Perks at councillor_perks@toronto.ca .