The beautiful surprises of East Point Park Bird Sanctuary
Updated: Oct 17, 2021
WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? Four good reasons to get out of the house: Outdoor art in an emerald forest + hidden pond + pastoral meadows + breathtaking view over Lake Ontario. (Note: This courtesy self-guided tour is not included in the 26 urban strolls and 52 mini-walks in the author's Toronto guide.)
The first time I visited the Scarborough waterfront east of East Point Park, I parked on the west side Beechgrove Drive (near the Highland Creek Treatment Plant) and did not notice the large weathering steel sign marking the entrance to the park's bird sanctuary.
The second time around, I saw it, pretty, adorned with small laser-cut birds, near the trees at the edge of the large public parking lot. But the call of the beach was too strong and I put off visiting it. To tell you the truth, I wasn't expecting much, figuring the cliff was nearby and the sanctuary must be tiny.
I was wrong!
East Point Park Bird Sanctuary
The sanctuary operates its charm as soon as you enter the small emerald forest. We go from the tarmac to a green cocoon lined with imposing trees and small flowery meadow clearing. Then, taking the right branch of a fork, you can see the pond between the tall grass... and a superb weathering steel installation, strategically places to better watch the ducks.
This bird sanctuary was installed in 2016 by PLANT Architect Inc. Based in Toronto (the same firm that gave us the beautiful cut-out metal installation near the public library in The Beach neighborhood in Kew Gardens). It is a City of Toronto initiative to enhance and protect bird habitat while increasing public birding activity.
Beyond the pond, more structures await us, each placed to showcase different views. They are beautiful, with graceful clouds of birds. The names of the species of birds that one might see in the park are also cut out into the panels. East Point Park is said to be visited by over 178 species of birds and is also on the migratory path of monarch butterflies. (Mental note to Nathalie: you need to come back in September!)
A short sandy path in front of one of the pavilions leads to the lake. I recommend that you go there to admire the breathtaking view of the lake from the top of the cliff and then retrace your steps to take the trail passing through the bushes to the east.
A 3.5 km pastoral stroll
A completely different world lies at the edge of the forest! On one side, a fenced green strip of tall grass hides the cliff and gives the impression of flowing into the blue of the lake. On the other side, a meadow broken by groves of trees creates a lovely pastoral scenery.
Further on, the greenery closes in on the trail, providing welcome shade in the middle of a heat wave. With a little luck, the breeze from the lake also helps to cool the walkers.
This trail continues for just over one kilometre to the large grassy area of F. G. Horgan Water Treatment Plant. You can walk along the fence bordering the cliff for 300 meters on the grounds of the treatment plant. It does not go further.
BEWARE: Stay on the last section of the trail before you reach the plant! We spotted Cow Parsnip running over for 5-6 meters. This plant has small silky hairs on its stems and very large leaves. In the first week of June, its small white flowers started to open. Not to be confused with nastier giant hogweed, it still is to avoided. Contact of the skin with its sap can cause burns and blisters which will be felt a few days later, activated by the exposure to the sun.
You will have noticed a branch of the trail heading off to the north. It leads in 400 metres to the second entrance to East Point Park Bird Sanctuary, also marked with a weathering steel sign.
Back in the small forest with the pavilions, take the right-hand branch of the fork leading to the parking lot. It runs alongside a gathering of tall, somewhat mystical and mysterious trees.
While you're there
For those who would like to explore the waterfront east of East Point Park, check out my May 23 post. It mentions the Swadish Grill restaurant, offering halal take-out just minutes from the parking lot.
On the way home, we decided to stop at the big Krispie Kreme in Scarborough (4411 Kingston Road, open from 7am to 10pm). It was June 4th. And that's when I learned that June 4th is National Donut Day in Canada! Celebrated by offering the second dozen doughnuts for $1. Sweet!
Nathalie Prézeau is the author of the walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls, which you can get on amazon.ca
or by contacting the author directly: email@example.com.
You can pick up the book at 299 Booth Avenue, the author delivers in Toronto and Canada Post takes care of the other destinations.