An East York marathoner who won the 2014 Brooklyn Marathon is hoping to come up with a winning formula to help clean up the polluted Don River and its surrounding trails.
“Acres and acres of garbage have been tossed and dumped in the Don,” said Lawrence Warriner, who offers trail-running classes. “It’s destroying the Don.”
Abandoned shopping carts, metal safes, and all sorts of plastic waste are not uncommon sights under the foliage of the single-track trail near Thorncliffe Park Drive.
It’s more than just a “picnic gone bad,” he says.
The garbage is waist-deep and goes on for acres, polluting the Don River as it flows downstream right into the harbour.
That’s what inspired him to create the Don’t Mess with the Don campaign in early April along with concerned residents and other trails users — urging stakeholders to come to a maintainable solution.
He believes cleanup efforts alone won’t solve the problem.
“You can have 1,000 people with 1,000 garbage bags each and you would not clean it all. We’ve got to come up with a management plan,” he said, noting the great work people do to clean up the area has to be matched with a plan to stop household waste and other garbage from making their way to the trails.
“You pull one thing out and you’ve got something a foot below it. It goes down three, four or five feet in some cases, where you’re pulling out all plastics … all crumbling in your hands and become micro plastics and go into the water,” the 54-year-old said.
Looking exasperated as he navigates through the wasteland that this area has seemingly become, Warriner says the travesty is affecting Don Valley’s wildlife occupants — from deer and foxes to birds and beavers.
“You see deer walking here eating the garbage,” he said.
The group has created the interactive map below to identify “hot spots” in the trail system, where the waste problems are considered to be some of the most concerning.
City councillor Janet Davis echoes the concerns.
“We continually have challenges with garbage that gets into the ravines. And there are some areas that are particularly bad,” she said, adding that there should be outreach to property owners of the large apartment buildings that flank the ravines — examining the capacity of their garbage areas to determine whether they add to the problem.
There should be more public education and co-operation from everyone “who is contributing to the situation,” as well as some enforcement, Davis says.
Warriner notes that in addition to Davis, other city councillors in the area, such as Coun. Jon Burnside, Coun. Mary Fragedakis and Coun. Paula Fletcher, are supportive of the initiative and they plan to meet soon to discuss the issue.
The group has also created a petition on Change.org to push for a “restorative plan” and funding from the city to fix the widespread dumping of waste to the trails. Close to 2,000 Torontonians have signed the petition so far.
“A lot of people don’t know this garbage is here. And when they find out they go, ‘I can’t believe a part of Toronto looks like this,’” Warriner said.
“We have to treat it better … we can do better.”