'Don't Mess with the Don' ravine cleanup expected to draw over 1,000 people

A community group is hosting a major cleanup of garbage in Toronto's Don Valley next weekend that has attracted big interest on social media.

"Don't Mess with the Don," formed by trail users to address the dumping of waste in the Don Valley, is organizing teams of people to pick up trash on Saturday in 12 ravines that connect to the Don River. 

More than 1,100 people have signed up through the event platform Eventbrite. More than 8,000 people have indicated on Facebook that they are interested. The group has held four sessions to train team leaders. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Lawrence Warriner, co-founder of "Don't Mess with the Don," said the response has been unexpected. He likened it to a rock concert.

"It's stunning," Warriner told CBC Toronto on Monday. "It speaks volumes to people's concerns for our green spaces in Toronto."

Talia Ricci/CBC

The event will give people a forum to express those concerns, he added. "I think people are tired of driving down Rosedale Valley Road and seeing so much garbage. I think people are feeling bad about their city."

Warriner said the amount of garbage in the Don Valley ravine system is substantial and the forested, steeply sloped ravines have practically become landfills.

"It's been there for so long and accumulating continuously. People are going, 'I don't know how we even begin to address this.' We are hoping we can move the needle a lot." 

Ultimately, the group would like to work with other interested parties, including the city, councillors, developers and property managers, to develop a conservancy model for the Don Valley, he added.

Last September, the group worked with Greenpeace Canada to clean up an area of the Don Valley underneath the Overlea Boulevard bridge. About 100 people collected a lot of garbage that day, he said.

Cleanup to involve ravine captains, team leaders

As for the cleanup day itself, the event has become nearly a military operation. It is part of Toronto's annual spring cleanup.

Facebook

About 12 ravine captains will oversee about 70 team leaders who will supervise teams of 15 volunteers. The team leaders have been trained on do's and don'ts and areas to avoid.

The group hopes to have about 100 volunteers, or six to seven teams, per ravine. A volunteer co-ordinator will keep track of the numbers.

"We're signing everybody in, signing everybody out, and making sure we know where everybody is at all times," he said. "It's a massive area."

Group members have scouted out the ravines in terms of the amount of garbage and difficulty of slope.

The group has about 4,000 to 5,000 garbage bags, including about 1,000 burlap biodegradable bags. At the main gathering spot, there will be portable toilets, tents and a Toronto Water truck.

All of the garbage will be brought to a central collection point, where Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation is expected to pick it up.

Lawrence Warriner/YouTube

The group has invited Ontario Environment Minister Rod Phillips to attend the event, but his office has not yet confirmed attendance.

No date yet for provincial anti-litter day

According to the April 11 budget, the government is planning to organize an official anti-litter day. The date has not yet been confirmed.

"I just pray their litter strategy is as comprehensive as it needs to be to address end use and single use and amount of consumption we have and what it produces. It can't be just, 'Oh, we need more garbage bins,'" Warriner said.

The meeting place for "Don't Mess with the Don" is the parking lot for E.T. Seton Park off Thorncliffe Park Drive. The entrance road is next to 71 Thorncliffe Park Drive.