Ashbridge’s Bay Shoreline Cleanup Project

Written by: Christine Drader, First Nations Conservation Technician

On September 1st, our team took part in our final shoreline cleanup event at Ashbridge’s Bay in Toronto. This event was cohosted with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and we were joined by staff and Indigenous youth from the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT).  

Our event started with a traditional water blessing culminating in an offering to Lake Ontario as a vital source of food and freshwater. Our staff were honored to have taken part in this private ceremony. We’d also like to acknowledge that we were meeting on the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Huron-Wendat peoples. We also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit. Toronto is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples, and we wanted to ensure these peoples had the opportunity to participate in our Indigenous shoreline cleanup events.  

As with our other events, we put up a tent dedicated to outreach on the species local to the area—in this case the Toronto region. This time however, our tent was accessible to many members outside the Indigenous community/cleanup. Throughout the day, we were able to speak to 60 members of the public about our wonderful Toronto reptile and amphibian species, as well as our Adopt-A-Pond conservation efforts and citizen science initiatives, Turtle Tally and FrogWatch. We also gave away 47 reptile and amphibian ID guides and brochures about these programs. If you’d like to learn more information about them, please visit Toronto Zoo | Adopt A Pond – Citizen Science or download our Adopt-A-Pond app for FREE on the Google Play Store or Apple store.  

Our indigenous youth from Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT) learning about Adopt-A-Pond and local reptile and amphibian species outside our Outreach tent.
Our indigenous youth from Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT) learning about Adopt-A-Pond and local reptile and amphibian species outside our Outreach tent.

After an initial introduction and outreach talk, our volunteers were given personal protective equipment and cleanup materials, generously supplied by the TRCA. Although windy, it was a beautiful day on the beach! Like our other cleanups, cigarette butts represented the largest proportion of trash items collected.  

The NCCT youth collecting a large bag of garbage from around Ashbridge’s Bay.
An example of the smaller trash items collected: cigarette butts, bottle caps, and Styrofoam.

Ashbridge’s Bay is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, one of five freshwater lakes that make up the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are a source of drinking water for 10 million Canadians and account for more than 20% of the world’s freshwater. Keeping both the water and surrounding land clean is vital to Ontario’s wildlife as well as us! This ecosystem is particularly sensitive to microplastics due to a process called biomagnification. These microplastics can be ingested by wildlife and enter the food-chain, which greatly affects top predators (that includes us!). Due to the proximity of the Great Lakes to large industrial centers and their role in the transportation of goods, there is a high proportion of plastic (specifically small pellets called nurdles) in the Great Lakes waterways. This is why it is vital to properly dispose of plastics and other wastes, to prevent it from entering these beautiful aquatic ecosystems.  

One garbage bag collected! 13 to go!

Overall, we were able to clean up 14 bags of trash, weighing 60 pounds! We were very thankful to our youth volunteers for creating this positive impact on the beach. Volunteers were rewarded with Indigenous food by Ojibway chef Doug Sewell from WenuEat (https://wenueat.com/). Sewell, the chef behind Native Tongs, provided our cleanup crew with Indigenous tacos made with sustainably-sourced elk.  

Our staff serving a well-earned lunch, courtesy of Doug Sewell from WenuEat.
Delicious Indigenous tacos made by Doug Sewell from WenuEat.

Thank you so much to everyone who volunteered their time. And thank you to the Native Candian Centre of Toronto, Toronto Region Conservation Authority, the Province of Ontario via the Great Lakes Local Action Fund, and Parks Canada for making this event possible.  

  • The NCCT is a wonderful membership-based, charitable organization located in the heart of downtown Toronto. They offer a wide range of programs and services based on Indigenous cultural traditions and teachings. You can view their website for more information at https://ncct.on.ca/.  
  • The TRCA is one of 36 conservation authorities in Ontario, created to safeguard and enhance the health and well-being of watershed communities through the protection and restoration of the national environment and the ecological services the environment provides. You can learn more about them and how you can get involved in other projects at https://trca.ca/ 

Although our shoreline cleanup projects have come to a close, the month of September is #cleanupmonth in Canada. National CleanUp Day, Earth Day, and World CleanUp Day are working with grassroots organizations and community members to clean up green spaces, urban landscapes, and waterways across Canada. You can learn more about this effort and where to find more cleanup events at https://www.nationalcleanupday.org/canada. Or if you would like to organize your own shoreline cleanup, or find one that is happening in your community, check out https://shorelinecleanup.ca.