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.
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.
Overall, the Humber Pond Revitalization Project aims to:
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).
Outdoor classroom and living laboratory space
The Humber Pond Revitalization Project will create opportunities for student involvement from departments across Humber College. Examples include:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.