This post was originally published on the Jane’s Walk Toronto page. I have revised the blog below to update links and include some new links.
As an arts, walking and fitness enthusiast from Scarborough, I was eager to experience the Pan Am Path Art Relay festival events taking place in July and August, 2015 in the east of Toronto.
The third of the art relay events in Scarborough was focused on getting participants active with a kinetic installation by University of Toronto students. These “Fairgrounds” events on August 4 and August 5 at U of T Scarborough took place in the campus ravine north of the tennis facilities that are part of the new Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.
The launch event on August 4 included musical performances by U of T’s Gagan Singh and the UTSC Band and Choir, a movement break and warm-up by the MoveU Crew, and featured a bike tour with Bruce Kidd, Vice President and Principal of UTSC.
I planned on commuting to UTSC after work on August 5 for the pedestrian event. Regrettably, I missed the First Nations storytelling with U of T Indigenous Elder in Residence Cat Criger, but I did make it in time to join in the nature walk led by the UTSC Sustainability Office and the MoveU Crew. I also noticed some nature walk facilitators with Evergreen t-shirts.
This urban ecology walk included learning about how to identify various types of coniferous trees by the shape, length and clustering of their needles. We also learned to identify certain shrubs, such as staghorn sumac. The distinctive red fruits of this shrub were used by First Nations peoples to make a drink that tastes like lemonade and is rich in vitamin C.
We learned about goldenrod and three types of galls. A gall is a swelling of the plant tissue, often in the stem, that is caused by the plant’s reaction to an irritation or a chemical that comes from a parasitic insect. Different insect species produce different shaped galls, including spherical, elliptical and rosette shaped galls.
We learned about an invasive plant species called dog strangling vine or DSV for short. Now I know the name of the plant that is climbing and twisting itself around a young maple tree beside the gate to my patio. Its seed pods look like green hot peppers or those skinny indoor Christmas lights. For now the DSV is actually propping up the maple tree, but from what I’ve learned, this invasive plant is a trouble maker in the long run and I should dig it up by its roots.
We discussed the importance of milkweed, which is the only larval food source for monarch butterflies. While I was waiting at the shuttle bus stop for the bus that would take me down to the fairgrounds for the nature walk, I met a fellow who mentioned that the former Scarborough home of the late monarch butterfly researcher Dr. Fred Urquhart and his wife and sleuthing partner Norah is in the area. Fred and Norah helped solve the migratory mystery of where monarchs go in wintertime…all the way to some high-altitude forests in Mexico!
This informative and intriguing urban ecology walk also included a brief standing mindfulness exercise. When I closed my eyes on the side of the path in the UTSC ravine, I could feel the warmth of the sun and the gentle breeze, and I could hear the birds as well as a family passing by on bicycles. The Pan Am Path is a multi-use path, after all. I took a moment to be grateful for the opportunity to walk with others and share in learning about, and just being in, nature in the city.
June 30, 2021: If you want to learn more about the Pan Am Path Art Relay from 2015 and the Pan Am Path, I invite you to visit the sites listed below. The first is another of my Jane’s Walk Toronto blog posts from summer 2015, “Walking and Dancing on the Pan Am Path: Experiencing the Art Relay in Scarborough’s Thomson Memorial Park“: