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The Humber Pond Revitalization Project

The Humber Pond plays a key role in managing runoff water from Humber College's north campus before it reaches the Humber River. The Humber Pond Revitalization Project is an innovative, collaborative initiative to improve water quality in the pond while increasing natural habitat for wildlife, providing new social gathering spaces for our community, and creating an outdoor classroom and living laboratory space for students.

Context and Vision

The pond sits just west of Hwy 27 along the West Humber Trail and is quite large - about 8700m2. It's estimated to have been built not long after the college opened to collect overflow stormwater from the Humber College North campus. By channeling excess water into the pond, some of the sediment swept up in the runoff would have a place to settle before clearer, calmer water moved into the West Humber River. The pond also served an important landmark for visitors entering the Humber Arboretum from the east.  

In the years since it was built, however, knowledge about how to build ponds and water systems to be sustainable has improved. During the same time period, water quality in the Humber Pond and associated wildlife habitats have steadily degraded. As a result, all three of the Humber Arboretum's partners - Humber College, TRCA, and City of Toronto's Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division - came together to turn a sustainability challenge into a solution by re-imagining the space as an outdoor classroom, living laboratory, and social gathering space, while simultaneously cleaning up the water quality and restoring native plants and wildlife habitat.


A view of the current pond

A birds-eye-view diagram of the pond plan



Overall, the Humber Pond Revitalization Project aims to:

  • improve water quality
  • reduce the adverse impacts of stormwater on the natural environment
  • provide wildlife habitat in and around the pond
  • remove existing invasive species and replace with native plants and wildflowers
  • create social gathering spaces for exploration, learning, and enjoyment 
  • provide new educational and applied research opportunities for Humber College students and Toronto-area schoolchildren

Phases and Timelines

Phase 1 (complete): 

Re-construction of the pond to improve water quality and wildlife habitat. This included the construction of the step pool conveyance channel, sediment forebay, shoreline restoration, and porous treatment berms. This phase began in the spring of 2019 and was completed mid-September 2019.

Phase 2 (in progress):

The construction of the treatment wetland, installation of trails and benches, final grading of the site, and planting of native trees and shrubs. 

Phase 3 (pending funding)

Creation of an outdoor classroom and social gathering space on the pond's island (design anticipated to be created by the end of 2020 with construction beginning in 2021).

The project team consults the plans

Experiential Learning and Engagement

Students assist in a wetland planting

Outdoor classroom and living laboratory space

The Humber Pond Revitalization Project will create opportunities for student involvement from departments across Humber College. Examples include:

  • Landscape Technician program: Humber’s students will create landscape designs for a social gathering space and outdoor classroom on an island on the pond. They will also be involved in planting native species and maintaining the planted area as part of their curriculum.
  • Early Childhood Education students will use the site as an outdoor classroom area
  • Sustainable Energy and Building Technology students will incorporate the pond into their studies, including learning about the energy impact of treating stormwater.
  • Civil Engineering Technology students will study the long-term impacts on water quality. They will also use the site as an outdoor classroom and living laboratory.

The space will also be used as part of the Humber Arboretum’s school programs, which incorporate education about the natural world connected with school curriculum.

Community Gathering place

The design for the Humber Pond features benches, resting places, and lookouts for community members. It will be a place for community members to relax, explore, and enjoy.

Students, staff, and the local community will have the opportunity to get involved in the project through community terrestrial planting events through City of Toronto’s Forestry division, aquatic community planting events through TRCA’s Education and Outreach Team, and citizen science initiatives. Stay tuned to this page and the Humber Arboretum’s social media for updates and your chance to get involved!


How Do You Revitalize a Pond?

Replace the Outgoing Culvert (Complete)

In the spring of 2018 the City of Toronto replaced the culvert where the water flows from the pond out to the West Humber River and repaired the trail over the culvert. Although it was finished first, this area represents the last stop for pond water before it joins the river's flow, and may be used as a location for water testing to check for impacts of the project on water quality. 

A new metal culvert under a trail
After - At the time of this photo, sod was still being laid around the newly installed culvert and repaired trail


Create a Step Pool Conveyance

Currently water enters the pond through a covered culvert. The new design will feature a series of descending pools that will slow water runoff and capture some sediment before it even reaches the pond. The pools will be open to the air and sun, creating additional habitat while offering a visually engaging feature - sort of like a natural water filtration waterfall. 

A old metal pipe hidden behind trees
Before - The current outflow culvert does nothing to slow the rush of stormwater.


Add a Sediment Forebay

Once water does enter the pond at the bottom of the step pool conveyance, it will enter a deep settling basin. The basin will capture even more sediment, which will sink to the bottom of the basin leaving clearer water to join the pond's ecosystem.    

Trees on the shore of a murky brown pond

Before - Currently the water in the pond is often murky with sediment.


Regrade the Shoreline

More gently sloping shorelines around the pond will allow a variety of vegetation to take hold and create habitat for fish, mollusks, crayfish, and insects.

Diagram of a graded shoreline
A TRCA diagram showing the layers of a graded shoreline.


Plant Native Species

The newly constructed shorelines will be planted with species that are part of the natural ecosystem of the Carolinian bioregion and have relationships with local wildlife. This will include aquatic plants, native trees and shrubs, and meadow species. Wildlife will also be helped with the addition of shelter features such as logs and stones.

A red-winged blackbird perched on a branch
A Red-winged blackbird sings over the outflow culvert.


Create a Wetland

Part of the meadow beside the pond (known as “The Paddock” due to its history as part of Humber College’s old equine program) will be converted into a constructed wetland, which will naturally filter more water and further diversify the habitat.

A fenced in field at the bottom of a hill
Before - Part of "the paddock" will be transformed into a wetland that will connect to the pond


Protect | Invest | Connect | Partner | Celebrate



Putting Toronto's Ravine Strategy into Action

Toronto’s Ravine Strategy, launched in 2017, is an innovative initiative that brought together community, industry, and government to develop a comprehensive vision for Toronto’s ravine system. That vision is:

A ravine system that is a natural, connected sanctuary essential for the health and wellbeing of the city, where use and enjoyment support protection, education and stewardship.

The Humber Arboretum played a lead role in the development of this vision and the Humber Pond Revitalization Project is one of the first initiatives to put the Ravine Strategy into action, bringing together multiple partners to protect the future health of the West Humber River ravine while creating new opportunities for the community to connect with and celebrate local ecosystems.

Learn more about the ways that the Humber Arboretum is supporting Toronto’s Ravine Strategy.