Cottonwood Flats Slab City

 

Slab City in Cottonwood Flats

The strangest thing in Cottonwood Flats is what my fellow Don Valley explorer Rudy Limeback calls “Slab City.” That’s as good a name as any that I can think of, so I’m going to run with it. Slab City is a series of concrete and asphalt slabs piled about 5–7 feet high that runs along the bank of the Don River in Cottonwood Flats. A very short portion of Slab City is visible in this view from Bing Maps as the jumble of big square rocks near the middle of the frame. I don’t know anything about the origin of the slabs, or when or why they were placed along the river. I do know that their placement predates my first bike ride around the site sometime in the late 80s. They are all reinforced concrete and some have a layer of asphalt on top of them, so I’d speculate that they were part of a bridge deck at one point. The Leaside Bridge was rebuilt in the 1960s and is close enough that this site would have been a convenient dumping ground. That’s just conjecture, though. A more fanciful conjecture is that they’re the remnants of the Bayview Ghost. Note that I don’t actually believe this to be the case, but wouldn’t it be awesome if it was? Check out the short gallery of Slab City below the fold.

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Cottonwood Flats

Overview of Cottonwood Flats

Cottonwood Flats [PDF] in the Don Valley is no stranger to industrial degradation. Before being used as a snow dump by the city, the site was home to a series of mills and factories beginning more than 200 years ago (here’s an interactive map of Cottonwood Flats, Crothers Woods, and adjacent areas). I remember tooling around the trails on my bike and navigating around the big sloppy pile of dirty ice and garbage that still towered overhead in the middle of the valley floor as late as June some years. Recognizing that it’s not really a good idea to use a site that drains directly into the Don River as a dumping ground, the city finally ended its use as a snow dump in 2009. It has since been renaturalizing and there is supposed to be a new management plan that I haven’t been able to find online.

As you can see from the picture above, Cottonwood Flats in winter is very much a reflection of Toronto itself at this time of year: flat, barren, and relentlessly brown. With the DVP just across the way, the Bayview Extension at the top of the hill, and two railways nearby, there’s no mistaking this for a bit of pristine wilderness in the middle of nowhere. At first glance it seems like little more than an overgrown field beside a noisy highway, but the site’s edges, especially along the river, are filled with winding paths that carry you to a variety of interesting nooks and crannies. In the last few years, it’s also grown to be a much more popular destination for cyclists, families, and especially dog walkers. I’ve seen more people on my two recent visits this winter than I ever used to during the summer. Read below the fold for the first of two short galleries (or second of three, if you include the one from a couple of weeks ago) looking at a few of the interesting sights.

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The Star fesses up

Kathy English, the Star‘s public editor, dedicated her column today to addressing my complaint about headline switching on its website.

In her column, English reported that the journalist who wrote the story had misunderstood the council vote and only realized her error after the story went live on the Star‘s website. The reporter and her editor updated the online story and headline without noting the significant change in the article. I’m not sure if that’s any better than my original thought on seeing the flip-flop, which was that the Star had prepared two headlines and accompanying stories in advance and had simply posted the wrong one. Neither option is an excuse for not posting a correction on something like this.

Clarifying that the Star‘s corrections policy does apply to the web site, English wrote:

The Star’s accuracy and corrections policy applies to all content on all platforms. It says that errors, in print or online, must be corrected clearly, promptly and prominently. It also states, “Building trust in the digital world demands that the Star is seen to be transparent.”
[…]
In recent months, I’ve grown increasingly concerned about the Star’s level of transparency about online errors, having come across far too many examples of the newsroom “fixing” stories without acknowledging mistakes.

I’m quite surprised to discover that the Star‘s corrections policy holds the website to the same standard as the print edition, and can only assume that its requirements are disregarded by a significant proportion of Star writers and editors. I’ve lost count of how many silent corrections I’ve seen on the Star‘s website. I may laugh at spelling mistakes and nonsensical sentence fragments, but getting a story plain wrong and then not owning up to it is just too much.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that online media should be held to the same standard as any other media when it comes to accuracy. When an error is made, a correction should be noted and published. Both online-only publications like Slate and traditional broadsheets like the New York Times adhere to this standard for web content. Locally, Torontoist started doing it in January 2008 under then Editor-in-Chief David Topping and remains one of few, if not the only Toronto media outlet that reliably appends public corrections to articles that originally contained errors ranging from misspelled names or misstated dates all the way up to mistaken facts. It’s kind of sad that four years on, major media in this town is still catching up.

Cottonwood Flats ice curtain

Ice curtain around the Don River

There’s an interesting sight on the Don River north of Pottery Road. Just across the river from Cottonwood Flats, a series of icicles dripping from the hillside create an ice curtain that curves for about 200 metres along the river bank.

Ice curtain around the Don River

Although a few of the individual icicles can be traced to water channels that trickle down from the top of the hill, most seem to sprout from the hillside just a few metres above the river:

Ice curtain detail

Given the extent and uniformity of the ice, my guess is that most of it comes from groundwater seeping into the river at this location.

A cafe for the ages

Meallenium Cafe

On Yonge Street at Aylmer Avenue, the Meallenium Cafe serves up food for the ages. Or aged. Or something. The name may seem a little anachronistic given that we’re currently twelve (or eleven, depending how you count) years removed from the millennium celebrations, but keep in mind that we’re barely 1% of the way through the current millennium. The name will be fresh for at least another 300 years.

One name that was instantly anachronistic was anything that referred to Y2K. Most perplexing of these to me was the Y2K Bar & Grill on the Danforth which not only first appeared well after Y2K, but persisted until just a couple of years ago:

Y2K Bar & Grill

The Star tries to make up its mind

[January 28 update: the Star‘s public editor addressed my complaint in her column today. Here’s my reaction.]

[January 26 update: the Star finally prepended a correction to the article yesterday, more than a full day later. I’ll have more to say about it in a couple of days.]

Although the Star is somewhat notorious for its editing mistakes, it’s not often that you see the same story covered under two completely contradictory headlines. But such was the case today when a story about a raise for town councillors in Whitchurch-Stouffville first appeared and was later updated:

Town council votes itself a giant raise. Or not.

Half an hour later:

Town council votes itself a giant raise. Or not.

I didn’t have a chance to read the first version of the story, but it’s clear that at least a couple of the early commenters on the article saw a story about a 43% raise. Based on the headline alone, a correction should be appended to the online article. No such luck. It’s worth noting that the URL for the story also changed, from:

http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1120332–whitchurch-stouffville-council-votes-itself-43-per-cent-raise?bn=1

to:

http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1120332–whitchurch-stouffville-councillors-back-down-on-massive-pay-raise?bn=1

Both URLs currently take you to the same version of the story, but that’s only because to the Star‘s chosen content management system, this is also a valid link to the story:

http://www.thestar.com/FakeNews/article/1120332–the-toronto-star-cant-get-its-story-straight?bn=1

A lot of minor corrections are fixed silently and go unnoticed, but an error on this scale requires some sort of acknowledgement.

I’ve written an email to the Star‘s public editor, Kathy English, in the hope that this kind of situation may be addressed in the future.