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Building Resilience into
Toronto’s Urban Parks in the
Face of Man-Made
Climate Change
Ed Horner
May, 2015
5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks
In 2013, Toronto experienced a thunderstorm
so severe and with such heavy rainfall that i...
5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks
5/15/15 CO2 Observations at Mauna Loa 1958- 2015
Today
5/15/15 CO2 Observations at Mauna Loa 1958- 2015
Since 1750s the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased
from 280 p...
5/15/15 CO2 Observations at Mauna Loa 1958- 2015
“The last time there was this much carbon dioxide
(CO2) in the Earth's at...
5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks
A severe thunderstorm in 2013 overwhelmed city
infrastructure and devastated many urban p...
“While stopping the release of greenhouse
gases remains our first priority, it's apparent
that some degree of climate chan...
According to Toronto’s Future
Weather and Climate Driver Study (1)
by 2050 Toronto will experience;
More Severe Weather Ev...
Summers that start earlier and last
longer will have negative
consequences for our urban parks.
Hotter and longer summers ...
Milder Winters will have consequences
for our urban parks
Milder Winters will likely result in fewer pests dying off from ...
More Extreme weather events will have
consequences for our urban parks.
More frequent extreme weather, such as higher wind...
What can we do to help our urban and urban
wilderness park areas?
Start a “friends of” park group. If your park has meanin...
5/15/15 Artist Concept Sherbourne Common
How Can We Deal With a Quickly Changing
Climate to Ensure Quality Park Facilities...
Where Adaptation is Not Possible
RETREAT/RE-PURPOSE
•Some park infrastructure will have to be moved to
protect it from dam...
Adopt-A-Tree Program
Planting trees is a good way to create carbon sinks and provide cooling shade for an
increasingly war...
Resources for a Toronto
“friends of” parks group
Park People Toronto is a non-profit Toronto catalyst group that encourage...
What else can we do to help our parks adapt
to global warming?
Create flexible park spaces that can be used for multiple p...
Conclusions
Toronto is facing rapid climate change that is going to adversely effect
the plants and trees of the urban par...
5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks
1– Future Weather and Climate Driver Study
2 – Andrew Freeman Climate Central
3 – David M...
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Park resilience v2.0

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Toronto, Canada by the 2050, will be facing longer growing seasons, shorter/milder winters, more severe weather (in the form of heavier rainfalls over fewer days) and more days of 30C or higher temperatures. Especially hard hit will be the urban parks. Heat and extreme weather events will take their toll in the form of uprooted trees (from higher wind velocities), root exposure (due to flash flooding) and general stress from increased soil compaction due to more of the public seeking cooler parks. The general public is mostly unaware of the challenges ahead for their beloved parks. This presentation is an attempt to educate and inform.

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Park resilience v2.0

  1. 1. Building Resilience into Toronto’s Urban Parks in the Face of Man-Made Climate Change Ed Horner May, 2015
  2. 2. 5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks In 2013, Toronto experienced a thunderstorm so severe and with such heavy rainfall that it overwhelmed the sewers and flood control infrastructure causing widespread power outages, transportation breakdown and severe damage in parks. This is the type of weather Toronto will have to deal with by 2050 .(1)
  3. 3. 5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks
  4. 4. 5/15/15 CO2 Observations at Mauna Loa 1958- 2015 Today
  5. 5. 5/15/15 CO2 Observations at Mauna Loa 1958- 2015 Since 1750s the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased from 280 pm to 404ppm – a 43% increase. (3) The vast majority of this increase is due to human activity and has occurred since the Industrial Revolution. This is a long term green house gas that will continue to warm our atmosphere for a score of decades to come. It is causing rapid climate change and increasing the acidity of the oceans, causing widespread damage to critical marine life.
  6. 6. 5/15/15 CO2 Observations at Mauna Loa 1958- 2015 “The last time there was this much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth's atmosphere, modern humans didn't exist. Megathoothed sharks prowled the oceans, the world's seas were up to 100 feet higher than they are today, and the global average surface temperature was up to 11°F warmer than it is now.” Andrew Freedman – Climate Central (2)
  7. 7. 5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks A severe thunderstorm in 2013 overwhelmed city infrastructure and devastated many urban parks.
  8. 8. “While stopping the release of greenhouse gases remains our first priority, it's apparent that some degree of climate change has already begun. In developing an adaptation strategy, the City of Toronto is taking steps to prevent negative impacts associated with the realities of a changing climate while proceeding with actions designed to combat further change.” Toronto Mayor, David Miller April 2008 (3) 5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks
  9. 9. According to Toronto’s Future Weather and Climate Driver Study (1) by 2050 Toronto will experience; More Severe Weather Events •Higher wind velocity •More frequent and harsher rain storms Hotter/Longer Summers •More heat alerts •More days over 30C Milder Winters •Less snow •More rain
  10. 10. Summers that start earlier and last longer will have negative consequences for our urban parks. Hotter and longer summers are likely to cause premature “bud burst” on trees. With buds appearing earlier in the growing season, there will be negative consequences for tree development and health Hotter and longer summers will encourage citizens to seek the cool shade of their local parks in greater numbers. This is likely to increase tree and lawn stress through soil compaction. Days over 30C will increase from 20 today to 66 by 2050 Hotter and longer summers will encourage non-native species to grow that may not be well suited to our local climate with it’s generally harsh winter. Toronto is generally a Zone 6 growing area but with a hotter summer we may experience spikes into zone 7 or even 8 that will encourage other plants to colonize that likely won’t survive the colder winters that are still sure to come. 5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks
  11. 11. Milder Winters will have consequences for our urban parks Milder Winters will likely result in fewer pests dying off from frost and cold. This will have a negative impact on the health and development of susceptible trees and plants Milder Winters, with less snow, will encourage major outbreaks of tree and plant pests having a negative impact on trees and plants. Increasing numbers of pest- damaged trees will have cost consequences for Toronto’s citizens Milder Winters will encourage non-native species to colonize local urban wilderness areas (unmaintained urban ravines, for example) creating greater competition for native species, changing the bio-diversity and crowding out preferred species. 5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks
  12. 12. More Extreme weather events will have consequences for our urban parks. More frequent extreme weather, such as higher wind velocities, will uproot trees, break branches and cause structural damage to park facilities. More frequent, rain and greater amounts falling in shorter times will cause flash flooding and erosion that will expose tree roots and remove valuable top soil upon which trees and plants depend More frequent winter ice storms will cause broken branches, downed trees and damage to park structures such as fencing, building roofs and entertainment facilities (amphitheatres, stage area and lighting). 5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks
  13. 13. What can we do to help our urban and urban wilderness park areas? Start a “friends of” park group. If your park has meaning for you then it needs a voice. With an official “friends of” park group it becomes difficult for your local councilor or city manager to ignore suggestions, comments or requests for action. Join a “friends of” park group. If you search the internet for information on your local park, you’re almost certain to find a group that has involvement with your park. With combined resources and a solid voice and lot of changes can happen. Act. If you can’t start a “friends of” park group or join one, then you can act on your own. Call your local city councilor and ask for the name of the area parks supervisor. Let him or her know of your concerns or observations and that you want to help however you can. Toronto parks has been ever more encouraging towards volunteer groups, especially in the face of shrinking budgets for their department. 5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks
  14. 14. 5/15/15 Artist Concept Sherbourne Common How Can We Deal With a Quickly Changing Climate to Ensure Quality Park Facilities? ADAPTATION •Tree and plant evolution and adaptation have, historically, occurred over thousands or tens of thousands of years. The changes they are facing today will occur over decades. •Park planners and ecologists will need to select plant material and design/plan parks for to be more resilient in the face of fast paced man-made climate change. •Some species will be able to adapt and others will not (4) •Parks, such as the Sherbourne Commons, will need to provide recreational facilities AND be part of the overall water management for the neighbourhood.
  15. 15. Where Adaptation is Not Possible RETREAT/RE-PURPOSE •Some park infrastructure will have to be moved to protect it from damage, such as the picnic and play facilities in Moncur Park, off Coxwell Ave. •Some parkland areas will need to be re-purposed. For example low-lying areas, prone to future flooding, can be turned into wetlands habitat. The low lying area near the Prince Edward Viaduct along the east bank of the Don River could be turned into marshland habitat. •Some parkland will have to be abandoned – especially that which is low-lying. East Riverdale lowlands, for example 5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks
  16. 16. Adopt-A-Tree Program Planting trees is a good way to create carbon sinks and provide cooling shade for an increasingly warm urban environment. Every year The City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation (or PFR) plants hundreds if not thousands of saplings in parks and ravine areas. We know that the City budgets are tight, very tight, for every department, PFR included. PFR employees try their best, but personnel is stretched thin and they simply can’t get back to every tree to give it the proper amount of water or mulching that it needs. Starting an “adopt-a-tree” program in your local park allows individuals –coordinated through and trained by a “friends of” park group– to look after specific tress to get them off to a good start with minimal stress and increased chance of survival. 5/15/15 University of Toronto St. George Campus
  17. 17. Resources for a Toronto “friends of” parks group Park People Toronto is a non-profit Toronto catalyst group that encourages and assists interested individuals or groups to form their own park user group. They have a wide array of resources that can be put to use and a lot of good advice based on their experience. TD Parks Builder Program. The Toronto Dominion bank has donated millions of dollars to assist park groups in Toronto improve their local parks, especially low income areas. Your park group may qualify for a grant. Toronto Parks and Rec. The City of Toronto has a lot of people working on parks and things change occasionally. Use this contact list to find the park supervisor for your ward. 5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks
  18. 18. What else can we do to help our parks adapt to global warming? Create flexible park spaces that can be used for multiple purposes. Picnic areas that can be converted to play fields, then to concert venues, for example, or an artificial ice rink that can be used by inline skaters in the summer. Allow and encourage official “friends of” park groups to plant diverse plant species that are better adapted to more severe weather conditions. 5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks Hard surfaces, such as concrete, artificial turf and asphalt, absorb heat and creates “heat islands” that cause the local micro-climates to warm – sometimes to very uncomfortable levels. (5) Plan parks with more grass, plants and trees. Minimize concrete, stone and asphalt. Continue and expand tree planting programs, monitor soil erosion and help transition park areas that are “at risk” to other purposes.
  19. 19. Conclusions Toronto is facing rapid climate change that is going to adversely effect the plants and trees of the urban parks while threatening park infrastructure Changes to the local climate are underway even now and they are predicted to accelerate Urgent action is needed by regional and municipal governments and citizens need to get involved in order to adapt our parks and build greater resiliency in the face of predicted regional climate warming In reality, the only options we have remaining to us is some combination of adaptation and retreat. While the mitigation of the harmful green house gasses that cause climate warming should be pursued in earnest it’s unlikely to make a significant impact in the near term. 5/15/15 GO Train Trapped in Flood
  20. 20. 5/15/15 Building Resilient Parks 1– Future Weather and Climate Driver Study 2 – Andrew Freeman Climate Central 3 – David Miller Ahead of the Storm – Extreme Weather Resilience in Toronto 4 – Toronto Seed Diversity Project 5 – Health Impact Assessment Artificial Turf - Use of Artificial Turf in Toronto Appendix and Footnotes Ed Horner May, 2015

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