The study area consists of a somewhat degraded regenerating natural area within an urbanizing setting. To summarize, the following environmental functions and conditions are present on the site and should be considered not only for the routing and development of the Brooklin Lions Wilderness Trail but also for the management of this portion of the East Lynde Creek valley, assuming that it will be maintained as a public natural area.
a) Existing vegetation provides breeding habitat for
a variety of common birds adapted to field, thicket and forest edge
b) East Lynde Creek is considered a warm water fishery. It provides spawning grounds and functions as a migration corridor for several number of fish species.
c) East Lynde Creek is a dynamic mature stream system that will continue to undergo flooding during storm events, and will continue to change its course over time.
d) The valley is part of a north - south wildlife movement corridor
e) Two regionally rare plant species are present.
f) The storm pond provides breeding habitat for at least three species of amphibians as well as other aquatic organisms.
g) The highest density and diversity of butterflies is present in the northeast portion of the study area
h) Most of the vegetation is in an early stage of succession that has developed on former pasture land. Over time, an increasing area of the site will transform into thicket and woodland.
i) The existing vegetation communities contain a very high proportion of invasive non-native plant species that limits the density and diversity of native plants and animals.
Installation and public use of the trail should not impair any of the environmental functions, although some minor impacts may be inevitable. It is also important that the trail be interesting and an aesthetically pleasing experience for the would be user. Most of the existing vegetation is not highly sensitive since it is has a high native component. Consequently, the trail route is not highly restrained by sensitive vegetation but the rare species should be avoided and all native trees in good health should be retained. Even the low quality thickets do provide some value as nesting habitat for thicket nesting breeding birds.
Wildlife is sensitive to human presence and it is therefore important that trails do not give public access to all areas or there will be few animals left. For example trails should not circle the entire pond. By leaving one side without human access, animals will have some refuge there. Similarly, substantial portions of the riparian meadow and thicket should also be avoided by the trail to leave some relatively undisturbed wildlife habitat.
Presently there are some unofficial trails that follow the creek and are used by fisherman or children. As the area becomes more accessible with a well maintained public trail, it is likely that spontaneous trails will develop, increasing access and also resulting in increased litter. Signage, and blockage of unofficial trails may be needed to discourage their use.
The Town of Whitby standards for the proposed trail are that it will be asphalt covered and 2.4 m wide. Some of the existing soil on the footprint of the trail will need to be removed down to a depth of about 30 cm, for a gravel base. The siting of the trail needs to consider the dynamics of stream so that it is not likely to be undermined by a shift in its present course. Some secondary loops are also proposed which would be 1.5 m wide and covered by wood chips. The following recommendations are made regarding construction and maintenance of the trail:
a) Grass mowing should be kept to a minimum. A mowed grass strip
should be no wider than one mowers width on either side of the main
path, if required. A mowed strip is not needed on secondary trails.
b) During construction, efforts should be made to avoid affecting areas beyond the working easement. This includes temporary storage of construction materials or fill.
c) The main trail should not cross the creek as the structure would be highly susceptible to damage by flooding or ice scour.
d) Secondary trails could be installed along two of the long bends of the creek. Secondary trails should not be developed through all bends as this would give too much access through the natural habitat.
e) If spontaneous trails develop, they should be blocked off with branches or other means, to discourage use of these by the public.
f) Lighting of the trail should be avoided if possible as it will cause avoidance by more sensitive wildlife.
g) Garbage pails should only be placed along the trail if there is a commitment by Town of Whitby to have them emptied regularly.
Next: Vegetation management