Looking Up

Since the pandemic started, Peter and I have found numerous green places to walk. We have worn out several pairs of shoes and boots trekking all over the GTA. As we begin to think about spring and new places to go, we are looking UP.

Our city is blessed with 3 great rivers: the Humber, the Don and the Rouge. All of them have tributaries, valleys and walking trails along their banks. We also have parks; big ones like High Park, long winding ones like Cedarvale, animal-inhabited ones like Riverdale. Many community parks have playgrounds and picnic tables. And there are little parkettes everywhere; on street corners and in between houses. There is no end of pleasant places to wander in our great city.

But did you know that Toronto is famous for another green initiative? Yes, this city was the first in North America to adopt a green roof bylaw. Passed in 2009, this bylaw states that any new building over 2000 square meters Must have a green roof. Right now Toronto is estimated to have about 700 green roofs. Of course most are closed right now, but spring is coming up, the pandemic numbers are going down, and we can plan our visits ahead.

Lots of public buildings are getting into the green roof act. Toronto City Hall has a large green roof. There are apparently unique views of the city from the top of the podium, along with terraces, gardens, walkways and seating. The downtown YMCA features a green roof with plants and bushes, and a running track for members. North Toronto Collegiate Institute has a green roof on their new (2012) building, designed to promote storm water management and reduce summer heat gain.

Some institutions have green roofs where food can be grown. Ryerson University runs a green roof urban farm, which is so successful that a second one is being built. The space on the roof of the Native Child and Family Services building focuses on native culture: growing perennials, medicines and the 3 sisters vegetables: corn, beans and squash. (There’s also a firepit for storytelling and a small healing lodge). And that grand old lady, the Royal York Hotel, had a green roof installed back in 2011, where vegetables and herbs are grown for use in the dining rooms.

Libraries have taken on the green roof challenge too. The Toronto Reference Library Board added 2 new green roof areas to the building during their 2014 revitalization project. The roofs worked so well at absorbing rain water and heat that other new library branches, Fort York in 2013, Scarboro and Albion in 2015, and the renovated Bloor-Gladstone branch, all had green roofs installed.

Several green roofs are situated on the top of condo buildings. The lawns and plants are often accompanied by BBQ’s and picnic tables so that residents have an easily accessible outdoor party space, away from the noise of the city. It got me thinking…

Now that we have a “new” house in the city, I am looking up there too. Last summer the grass in our back yard suffered badly. Brown patches appeared and Peter spent a lot of time considering how to manage the grubs that seemed to be eating the grass roots from underground. Is there a place on our roof for some new grass? A few plants? Maybe a couple of chairs? The roof is not flat so we’d have to have cleats on our shoes. And a ladder. Then we’d need some sort of lift to transport our drinks and snacks. Maybe a porta-pottie, with a little sink…

It’s amazing what you can think of when you are stuck inside during this pandemic winter.


PS No picture of our green roof…yet.

3 thoughts on “Looking Up

  1. It was heart-warming to read about green roofs. What I have always loved about Toronto is the forest of trees it lovingly, unstintingly protects and nurtures. Forest Hill really is!
    I drove into Newmarket and felt so despondent about the row housing where Golf Glen used to be. Now I know a golf course is green only in colour, but at least it is a space of air and –trees! Not any more. The row houses on the south side are quite attractive, sort of English in style. The ones on the north stretch out over a vastness of fields that will never feel the touch of rain.

    The Bro and my new sister, Debbie (my ex-husband’s widow) and I were fantasizing about the distant future. It all began with me sharing the news that Canada will be carbon neutral by 2050 (I will be 97). The Bro explained that that does not mean 0 emissions. Then we talked about Smart Cars, electric ones, which led to the speculation that we’d all be transported in our personal Smart Drones, which means that highways would not be needed.

    Imagine all that asphalt –gone! All that earth open to the rain again, perhaps green and growing meadows for our animals friends as well as gardens and crops.

    Yes. I can see it…

    Thank-you for inspiring these reflections, Sue. Happy rambling!


  2. Love this environmental effort to save our planet. Hope you wait until the snow melts off your roof before you start any projects. I wonder if there will be a vegetable garden on the roof???


  3. I have to say that even though I taught about green roofs for years I had no idea that Toronto had so many of them.

    About grass. Finn loves to dig and root in the grass and the ice and snow in our backyard is compacted so strongly I am certain my lawn is going to take a massive beating. I think I’m going to leave the lawn this year. I am wondering though if I should plant my big grass this year. It turns out Finn loves the taste of this big grass, one of his favourite chew toys in the backyard is the stalk from my main plant last year.

    I have a lot of seeds but this year I’m putting them into pots so I can move them around.


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