4: Site conditions: natural environment

Natural environment: terrestrial

  • The overall vegetation composition is largely non-native and ornamental but still provides habitat. There are some known invasive species.
  • The site is an island of urban greenspace providing a unique habitat for terrestrial species because of its varied vegetation and proximity to the lake.
  • The site provides habitat for mammals that are adapted to urban environments and shorelines (e.g. gray squirrels, raccoons and American mink).  
  • Birds are attracted to the vegetation on site and the proximity to the lake for foraging and nesting, and to the buildings for nesting habitat. See Protected Species panel for more details.
  • The site also supports a high abundance of insects.
Map of tree canopy coverage.
The map provided shows the existing tree coverage and naturalized areas (softscape) of Ontario Place that provide habitat to terrestrial species of wildlife and vegetation.
A butterfly landing on a purple flower.
Monarch butterfly
A bird's nest with blue eggs.
American robin nest

Natural environment: aquatic

  • There are a variety of aquatic habitats on site including open water, and more sheltered areas such as the lagoons and channels. 
  • The site provides waterfowl staging areas for numerous species such as geese, ducks and swans. 
  • This near shore area of Lake Ontario supports a variety of warm and cool water fish species throughout their life stages.  Examples include brook stickleback, largemouth bass and northern pike.
  • The shoreline provides habitat for reptiles such as northern map turtle and snapping turtle.  
  • Through the redevelopment process, there are opportunities for enhancement of fish habitat around the site through habitat structure placement, shoreline enhancements and other approaches. 
Ontario Place site map depicting the aquatic habitat associated with the island’s shoreline (Marine Basin Shoreline and Habitat, Open Water Shoreline and Habitat) and internal waterway system (Basis Habitat and Back Channel Shoreline), including a Toronto Region Conservation Authority constructed wetland habitat.
The map provided shows the types of aquatic habitat associated with the Ontario Place islands’ shoreline and internal waterway system, including a Toronto Region Conservation Authority-constructed wetland habitat (see pink area of map).
Northern mapping turtle resting on vegetation above the water line.
Northern map turtle and snapping turtle. Photo by Morrison Hershfield

Natural environment: protected species

Barn swallow
Barn swallow

Endangered Species Act

  • Barn swallows (threatened) are protected under the Endangered Species Act and are found nesting on buildings on site. 
  • Chimney swifts (threatened) were identified foraging at the site, but the survey work identified no suitable roosting or nesting habitat. 
  • Along the site’s shoreline there is coarse rock, suitable for cover and refuge habitat for the American eel (endangered). 
  • No Species at Risk bats have been observed to date.
  • No Species at Risk trees have been identified to date.

Migratory Birds Convention Act

  • Ontario Place is a known migratory flyover area, provides nesting areas for Cliff Swallows and may offer suitable nesting habitat for other migratory bird species. 

Natural environment: soil and groundwater conditions

  • Ontario Place is a constructed island situated on Lake Ontario. The fill used to create the island was taken from other projects within Toronto.  It is of poor quality with some potential low-level contamination.
  • The site has a shallow groundwater table. Groundwater flows towards the shoreline of the island. It is protected under the Credit Valley – Toronto & Region – Central Lake Ontario (CTC) Source Protection Plan.
  • Environmental investigations have been undertaken to better understand the subsurface conditions. They found that the fill generally consisted of approximately 10 to 25% construction debris content. No underground storage tanks or other metallic items, or remnants of previously demolished infrastructure were identified. 
  • The government will apply best practices to address any contamination on site and work with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation & Parks to meet statutory requirements consistent with the science and intent of the Record of Site Condition process.
A picture of a man operating a soil sampling instrument

Natural environment: floodplains

The below map shows the lands at Ontario Place that have been subject to recent flooding (wave overtopping and spilling). Shoreline repairs and flood mitigation are a major component of the site upgrades to be implemented that will help to prevent future flooding and water damage to the property.

Ontario Place site map depicting land subject to recent flooding, including flood hazard limits, wave overstopping, and flood hazard assumed shoreline.
A group of people standing together wearing safety gear in a gated off area that has been flooded. They are next to large construction equipment.
Recent flood repairs
High water levels and a flooding event from a marina.
Recent flooding on site
A gated off flooded area, adjacent to the cinesphere and a bridge.
Recent flooding on site

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