Waterside Marsh is a 1-hectare wetland situated in the last major section of the Bartley Smith Greenway to be rehabilitated, between Major Mackenzie Drive and Rutherford Road. It is currently accessible by an informal east-west trail between Waterside Crescent and Glenside Drive. Historically, this was a mill pond – the original dam and water control structure are still in place, though in a poor state of repair. Since being abandoned, the pond gradually filled up with sediment and was taken over by bulrushes, through which the West Don slowly made its way. The entire floodplain in this area has also been colonized by a variety of non-native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.
However an ambitious regeneration plan for the marsh and valley lands was initiated in the fall of 2006 by Toronto and Region Conservation, aimed at creating a more diverse mosaic of interconnected aquatic and terrestrial habitats that will better attract and sustain resident and migratory wildlife. The river has now been diverted into a defined channel, while the online marsh has become two offline wetlands where new colonies of native wetland vegetation will be established. The wetlands will continue to serve the valuable functions of moderating stream flow and trapping sediments during wet weather, and absorbing pollutants and excess nutrients in the runoff from the surrounding urbanized areas. Immediately to the south of the marsh a new bridge has been installed across the river, and an observation platform will follow. An official opening ceremony for the restored marsh is planned for Saturday 5 May 2007.
Unlike the Keffer Marsh further south, which was opened in 1997, Waterside Marsh is directly adjacent to residential developments. This presents exceptional opportunities for community involvement in continued valley restoration and education about local wildlife ecology. Although much of the “heavy lifting” has now been done, several years of planting campaigns will be needed to improve stream cover, control bank erosion and increase the diversity of woodland trees and meadow shrubs. With the establishment of formal north-south and east-west trails, a transformed Waterside Marsh will be integrated intoVaughan's recreational trail system and surely become known as an area of outstanding natural beauty in the heart of the city, for the enjoyment of all.
Maps and plans featuring the Waterside Marsh project can be found here.