Getting to Know the Scarborough Waterfront Project – The West Segment

The Scarborough Waterfront Project is an Environmental Assessment (EA) Study covering approximately 11 kilometers of Scarborough’s shoreline between Bluffer’s Park in the west to East Point Park in the east.

Since the Study Area is so large, it has been divided into three Segments to make it easier to study the different features and address the unique constraints within each Segment.

All segments of the Scarborough Waterfront Project

This is the first of a three part series in Getting to Know the Scarborough Waterfront Project that will delve into each Segment of the Project. Discover information about the existing conditions, rationale for the Preferred Alternative, and more.

The first issue explores the West Segment, which stretches between Bluffer’s Park and the Meadowcliffe shoreline, and includes Bluffer’s Park sand beach and the shoreline below Cudia Park.

West Segment

West Segment of the Scarborough Waterfront Project

Existing Conditions of the West Segment

Each Segment within the Study Area is quite different from the other. The West Segment is a popular regional destination where those who wish to spend a day at the beach, have a picnic or BBQ by the water, launch their boat or visit a restaurant with panoramic views of the Scarborough Bluffs Marina may do so. There is only one entrance and exit to Bluffer’s Park along Brimley Road, which is very steep and lacks separated pedestrian/cycling routes for most of its length.

Bluffer’s Park Beach is designated as a Blue Flag Beach, and the bluffs and tablelands are designated as an Environmentally Significant Area (ESA) and Area of Natural Scientific Interest (ANSI) as indicated in green shading in the map below.
The existing Waterfront Trail is set-back from the water and winds through residential areas (as shown with the turquoise line in the map below). There is limited public access to the water’s edge along the top of the bluffs.

While the public are actively using the eastern end of Bluffer’s Beach, there is still risk of bluff failure (the red line in the map below shows the area of risk from slope failures). Safe passage along this stretch is currently not possible. While you may be able to occasionally walk/wade directly below the Cudia Park bluff to access the Meadowcliffe shoreline (depending on the lake level, time of year, etc.), you would need to walk within the bluff erosion risk line. In addition, the Cudia Park bluff will start to self-stabilize over several decades.

One of the most significant species within the West Segment is the Bank Swallow. These migratory birds nest in the hundreds on the bluffs just north of the east parking lot. This area also contains significant sand dune vegetation communities.

Alternatives Explored

All Alternatives considered retaining the existing sand beach and provided different opportunities to create safe public access between Bluffer’s Park and the Meadowcliffe shoreline.

A total of five distinct Alternatives were explored. Some Alternatives included sub-configurations which were variations of the same conceptual design. In addition to this, a “Do-Nothing” approach was also evaluated. In total, nine scenarios were considered for the West Segment. Click here to view all of these scenarios that were presented at the January 2016 Public Information Centre (PIC).

Each scenario was evaluated to determine which one best met the five Project Objectives that were approved during the Terms of Reference phase (2014 – 2015) of the EA.

Two Alternatives emerged as being preferred that would provide a trail connection to the Meadowcliffe shoreline: Alternative 1 (Headland-Beach), and Alternative 5B (Beach Expansion [wide]).

The Project Team further reviewed these two Alternatives in order to provide one Preferred Alternative for public feedback for PIC #2. Alternative 1 proposing a Headland-Beach system at the base of Cudia Bluffs Park would result in a small loss of the existing sand beach along the very eastern section of beach. Alternative 5B on the other hand proposes to extend the Blue Flag Beach further east to create the trail connection. Considering that the area currently supports the criteria to meet a Blue Flag Beach designation, and that comments received supported an expansion of the beach, Alternative 5B Beach Expansion (Wide) was identified as the Preferred Alternative for the West Segment.

Preferred Alternative

5B Beach Expansion (wide)

Alternative 5B includes the expansion of the existing beach by approximately 60 metres into Lake Ontario between Bluffer’s Park and Meadowcliffe (see image below). To achieve this Alternative, a headland will be constructed at the Meadowcliffe shoreline and the existing headland at the east end of Bluffer’s Park will be expanded. This Alternative will include an extension to the existing trail north of the expanded beach to meet Meadowcliffe.

A benefit of this Alternative is the reduction of dredging at the marina entrance, which will also benefit aquatic communities.

While it will take a considerable amount of time for the sand to accumulate (approximately 30-40 years), the Project Team will explore opportunities to add sand to this area to enable the trail connection to Meadowcliffe.

Map of Preferred Alternative (Beach Expansion - 5B)

Refined Alternative

The Project Team is currently finalizing the Refinements to the Alternative, taking into account the comments received since PIC #2 held in June 2016. In addition to this, habitat enhancements, including improvements that target birds and butterflies and increased diversity of fish habitat, especially for cold water species, are being outlined.

The Project Team is also looking to create a plan for pedestrian and cycling access along Brimley Road.

These concepts will be presented to the public at PIC#3.

Have questions or comments about the
West Segment?

Did You Know?

Bluffer’s Park Blue Flag Beach

In 2008, TRCA worked with Toronto Water to develop a solution to the water quality challenges at Bluffer’s Park Beach. Prior to this work, the beach was often closed to public swimming due to high levels of E. coli bacteria. The goal of the Wetland Improvement project was to improve beach water quality for wildlife and for swimmers at Bluffer’s Park Beach, enhance marsh and dune habitat in the area, and provide better visitor access to the east end of the park.

The City and TRCA created a dune and wetland system to hold and infiltrate runoff that had previously been flowing directly into Lake Ontario. This tertiary water treatment solution included two hectares of restored wetland within a 3 hectare wetland complex and 0.3 hectares of restored beach dune. The work included:

  • Deepening the existing marsh behind the beach to increase its water retention capacity;
  • Creating a dune system at the marsh edge as a barrier to water discharging onto the swimming beach, with any storm overflows being directed to infiltration basins;
  • Directing water flows within the marsh to the east end of the beach, away from the swimming area;
  • Building a small dyke at the base of the bluffs to hold back water and release it at a slow rate through a series of wetlands;
  • Creating beach dunes and small wetland features;
  • Redirecting stormflow from parking lot into wetland and away from beach;
  • With community involvement planting dune and wetland areas; and
  • Installing a fence along the trail.

The benefits of the project include:

  • Significant improvement of water quality such that the Bluffer’s Park beach was awarded Blue Flag Status in 2011 and continues to be regularly awarded it
  • Enhancement of diversity in the existing backshore wetland;
  • Increased stormwater infiltration;
  • Control of invasive species;
  • Management of storm flows; and
  • Improved trail connection to the beach area.

As an illustration of water quality improvement, in 2005 Bluffer’s Park Beach met the Provincial Water Quality Objectives (PWQO’s) for only 21% of the swimming season; since 2011 it has met the PWQO’s over 90% of the time.

Image showcasing location of wetland which is immediately north of the Bluffer's Park beach area