1 Industrial strength Returning the mighty Don to its natural vitality may seem a daunting task when you consider the the turn-of-the-20th-century industrial pockmarks dotting the valley, especially in its lower reaches. But the Brick Works, which has been converted from a quarry where bricks for a growing metropolis were made into a wetland oasis with boardwalks and meadows, is an example of the amazing transformation that can be achieved with a little imagination - and money.
2 Dare to rail These tracks snaking through the valley along Bayview are part of a system of existing rail lines used by GO that go all the way to Union Station and, on a different spur, along the Lakeshore to the foot of Yonge. So why aren't we running those swank new light rail vehicles the city is so hot on along this route and putting the odd open-air stop along the way so city dwellers can get to attractions in the valley like Todmorden Mills and the Brick Works - without taking air-polluting cars? The city isn't so hot on putting public transit where there aren't a lot of people. But we say, "Build it and they will come."
3 A life aquatic Barriers constructed to control flooding have been wreaking havoc with fish habitat in the Don since Nature knows when. Naturalized weirs like this one just upstream from Pottery Road - this used to be a metre-high wall - have been constructed with huge boulders to level off the river's mad rush and allow fish to make their way upstream. Today, suckers, trout and even salmon are spotted in the Don as far north as Finch. But if we're serious about returning fish to the river, more weirs need to be built so fish can get to clean water upstream where they can actually spawn.
4 Putting the "view" back in Bayview Condo and highrise development along the Don is putting more people closer to the valley. We should be providing them with transportation alternatives like a separate, tree-lined bike lane down Bayview. Putting a boulevard in the middle of the avenue and reducing the speed limit from the current 80 km/h would turn this Don Valley Parkway Part II into an attractive natural connecter to the downtown.
5 Roadside ditch There's no getting around the fact that the Don Valley is a major transportation corridor. Hopefully, the parkway's not getting any wider. But plans pushed by Don advocates to install a dedicated bus lane on unused shoulders on the DVP have been slow to develop. The only dedicated bus lane being talked about right now is scheduled to cut through a significant chunk of green - Crother's Woods. That's no good. Something drastic needs to be done to reduce the amount of water-degrading vehicle contaminants making a toxic soup of the river. Perhaps it's time to revisit road tolls.
6 All wetlands The creation of a system of wetlands in the valley has helped provide habitat for water fowl and other birds, including mallards and red-winged black birds. But the marshes are too few and far between to unleash their true ecological power: to hold, filter and purify contaminated water. The more wetlands the better. Ideally, though, we should be building storm ponds to catch, treat and slowly release stormwater contaminants so they can be more easily reabsorbed by the environment.
7 Dump not This snow dump under the Bloor viaduct, one of two toxic slow-release time bombs sitting on the banks of the Don, is washing away in literally one melt a significant amount of the effort going into cleaning the river. Years of dumping have made the soil on this huge swath too toxic to turn into a wetland, but reforestation in the area to provide a more natural connection to Chester Springs Marsh to the south and combat Japanese knotweed and other invasive species strangling biodiversity would be a good start.
8 Bridging the gaps Connecting and improving access to the maze of trails and interesting nooks that animate the Don has long been a challenge. A plan floated a few years ago for a system of trails and 12 bridges to connect the south part of Don Mills all the way to Eglinton in the Charles Sauriol Nature Reserve was abandoned because of costs. Whatever happened to the dream of a connected system of trails from the 401 all the way to the forks of the Don?
9 stairway to transit We're all for connecting the valley to public transit (see Dare To Rail) - as long as we're not sacrificing green space to do it. Under the Redway extension plan, elevators or escalators connected to a bus turnaround underneath the Bloor viaduct are being floated as a way to get people to the Bloor subway line. But stairs, like this set already underneath the viaduct, would be a more eco-friendly way to connect people to surface routes.
10 Mouth wide open The Don is the only river in the world whose mouth is actually a channel, the Keating Channel. So degraded - and chemical-laden - are its narrow banks that the majestic willows they once nourished are toppling over one by one. The good news is that plans are afoot to naturalize it, complete with canoe launch points, and create a wetland where the river flows into Lake Ontario. Whether there's room for the proposed marsh to truly function as an ecosystem in the most polluted section of the river is another question. To this end, remediation of toxic soil in the area is crucial.