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Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSIs) are areas of land and water containing unique natural landscapes or features and are designated by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). These features have been scientifically identified as having life or earth science values related to protection, scientific study or education.

Earth Science ANSIs are geologic in nature and contain significant examples of bedrock, fossils, landforms or ongoing geological processes.  Life Science ANSIs represent biodiversity and natural landscapes. They include specific types of forests, valleys, prairies, wetlands, native plants, native animals and their supportive environments.

Life Science ANSIs contain relatively undisturbed vegetation and landforms and their associated species and communities (source: MNRF).  Significant ANSIs are protected under Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement.

The Scarborough Waterfront Project Study Area contains two (2) Life Science ANSIs and one (1) Earth Science ANSI.

  • The Scarborough Bluffs Life Science ANSI (provincially significant) is approximately 155 ha in size centered around Bluffer’s Park and is described as steep bluff habitat with vegetated deep stream gullies and tableland rim forested areas.
  • The East Point Bluffs Life Science ANSI (regionally significant) is approximately 72 ha in size and is described as mainly old fields and early successional forested areas with prairie vegetation along the rail corridor and vegetated stream gullies.
  • The Scarborough Bluffs Seminary Section Earth Science ANSI (provincially significant) is approximately 93 ha in size and is described as the geological layers of the Pleistocene sequence of deposition in Ontario – the Scarborough Formation (sand on top of clay) at the bottom, the Sunnybrook Till (silty-clayey soils) in the middle, and the Thorncliffe Formation at the top.


Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs) within the City of Toronto are areas of land or water within the natural heritage system that have any of the following characteristics:

  • Habitats for rare or endangered plant and/or animal species or communities;
  • Are large, diverse and relatively undisturbed which many plants and animals need to survive and reproduce;
  • Contain rare, unusual or high quality landforms; or
  • Areas where ecological functions contribute to healthy ecosystem beyond its boundaries (source: City of Toronto).

ESAs are protected under the City of Toronto Official Plan. There are four (4) ESAs within the SWP Study Area.

  • The Scarborough Bluffs Sequence has been designated an ESA for its significant flora species and vegetation communities, significant landform, significant level of diversity and significant ecological functions (bank swallow nesting and water storage within its wetlands).
  • Bellamy Ravine/Sylvan Park meets three (3) ESA criteria for significant flora species and vegetation communities, significant level of diversity and significant ecological function (bank swallow nesting).
  • Guild Woods meets two (2) ESA criteria for its flora species and vegetation communities, as well as its significant ecological function (water storage).
  • East Point Park meets four (4) ESA criteria for its significant flora species, vegetation communities and fauna species; significant landform, significant levels of diversity and significant ecological function (water storage).


Each Alternative considered in the Project includes an evaluation on how the Alternative may impact ANSIs and ESAs.  This means looking at each significant characteristic within each ANSI and ESA and examining how the Alternative could affect each of these characteristics.

For example, in the East Segment the East Point Bluffs ANSI / East Point Park ESA is significant in terms of its biological diversity, bluffs landform and water storage functions. The Preferred Alternative, Headland-Beach (i.e., top of Bluffs trail at East Point Park), is the most preferred Alternative for East Segment in terms of the ANSI and ESA (i.e., natural environment objective) because:

  • It maintains the actively eroding areas of the bluffs at East Point Park;
  • Will not affect the ecological function of water storage (ie., will not impact wetlands); and
  • It contributes to improving the terrestrial habitat on the tablelands by formalizing one main trail and recommendation for closing a number of informal trails that have fragmented the habitat within the park.

The Project will also facilitate additional habitat enhancements that will improve flora and fauna habitats within the Park.


In Ontario, Species at Risk are designated by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and protected under the Endangered Species Act. Species can fall into one of four categories: endangered, threatened, special concern or extirpated.

Standardized surveys within the SWP Study Area have documented 12 Species at Risk including bank swallow.  Each Alternative considered in the Project includes an evaluation on how the Alternative may impact Species at Risk. Species at Risk may also be designated under the federal Species at Risk Act; however, under this Act provincial governments are given the first opportunity to protect species found outside of federal lands.


In 2012, TRCA released a report entitled “Scarborough Shoreline Terrestrial Biological Inventory” which recommended that further shoreline hardening should be restricted to areas where it is necessary for erosion protection.

The Terrestrial Biological Inventory was undertaken to characterize the existing terrestrial conditions of the Study Area. That is to say, identify what plants and animals are found in the natural areas of the Study Area between Bluffer’s Park and East Point Park. The Terrestrial Biological Inventory considered only the terrestrial ecological components of the environment.

The Scarborough Waterfront Project considers the Study Area comprehensively. In addition to the Terrestrial Biological Inventory, there have been many other studies undertaken for this stretch of shoreline, including aquatic monitoring, erosion and safety assessments, informal trail mapping, and coastal assessments.

The Project provides an opportunity to address outstanding erosion concerns where the shoreline protection is proposed, significantly improve the degraded aquatic habitat conditions in the nearshore area, enhance the integrity of the habitat within East Point Park by restoring fragmented habitat, and provide an inclusive environment with safe public access to and along the waterfront for all abilities.

Once complete, the Project will provide an overall net environmental benefit.


Shoreline protection works can be designed to incorporate ecological functions and improve aquatic habitat by diversifying shoreline morphology (Headland-Beach systems with wave-like profile) and substrate (cobble and stone) as well as providing depositional areas (beach areas that accumulate sand).

Headland-beach systems feature all of these elements, which together are more beneficial to fish and fish habitat than the uniform conditions found along some sections of the Study Area shoreline.

The fisheries monitoring data obtained at Port Union, which features a series of Headland-Beach systems, demonstrate a positive response of the local fish community to the increase in shoreline morphology and substrate diversity provided by Headland-Beach systems.

In addition, shoreline protection works in the form of Headland-Beach systems offer an opportunity to restore the historical aquatic habitat conditions significantly impacted by stonehooking.

Stonehooking removed high quantities of stone and other coarse materials that constituted valuable components of diverse nearshore fish habitat, leaving the nearshore uniform and accelerating erosion. Some of this lost diversity can be reinstated as part of Headland-Beach systems design.


The Project Team explored a wide range of options for the East Segment. Based on the coastal and geotechnical conditions of the area, formal shoreline works were required in order to meet the Project Vision and Objectives to the best extent.


A geotechnical assessment was completed which identified a safe setback limit from the bluffs — that is, how far away from the edge of the bluffs a trail would need to be safely away from landslides.

While the bluffs may appear stable and safe, they are susceptible to erosion and landslides, which can reach up to 75 metres from the base of the bluffs. As more and more visitors are coming to the bluffs, the risk to public safety increases.

The Project seeks to strike a balance between protecting and enhancing the natural environment, and providing safe, formal public access for all.

In addition, the Project Team is working closely with representatives from all branches of Emergency Services, including Fire, Police, and Paramedics.

On average, Emergency Services respond to approximately 100 calls each year along the shoreline within the Study Area, ranging from minor medical calls to the more serious rescues from the bluffs. Access for Emergency Services is an important consideration in ensuring a safe experience for all.


The Preferred Alternative Headland creation at the base of the Doris McCarthy Trail in the Central section will address landslide risks by bringing the trail further away from the base of the bluffs and allowing for safe public access to the water’s edge.

The Refined Preferred Alternative for the Central Segment, Natural Regeneration Shoreline, will also enhance aquatic habitat through the creation of underwater features that will benefit fish communities. Terrestrial vegetation that targets pollinators, birds and other wildlife will be improved through seeding and planting of the new landforms.


Currently, access to the waterfront within the Study Area is limited, with access to and along the shoreline is restricted to those who are able to navigate the steep, rough terrain.

The Project provides the opportunity to improve access for people to experience the bluffs, through a range of waterfront experiences along both the top and bottom of the bluffs.

The Project is seeking to achieve a balance between protecting and enhancing the natural environment, while providing safe public access for all abilities.


The Project Team is working closely with the City of Toronto to ensure that appropriate operations and maintenance needs are identified as part of the Project.

The Project is anticipated to help alleviate existing user pressures at Bluffer’s Park by providing additional opportunities to experience the waterfront.


The Project Team is working closely with City of Toronto Transportation Services and TTC to explore opportunities to provide alternative means to access Bluffer’s Park, including peak-season TTC service to Bluffer’s Park and a shuttle service.