History of Beach Metro News: 1995

Imagine a 60m vacuum machine in constant motion, sucking up sand one metre wide and 25cm deep from the lake between Ashbridges Bay and the Scarborough Bluffs 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the next 50 years.

Beach Metro broke the story in April 1995 that an application by Bedrock Resources Inc. of Leamington had been made   to the Provincial Government to take sand from an 11km swath on the lake bottom, 1.5km offshore, for use in concrete. Bedrock’s application had already been under review for five years. Had it gone through, the Ministry of Natural Resources would have received a royalty of 50 cents per ton, almost double the rate for trucking aggregates.

An anti-dredging alliance was led by Michael Leibson, a local musician-composer. East Enders were surprised to find local politicians knew as little as the general public. Scarborough Councillor Harvey Barron said he first heard of it when one of his constituents gave him a copy of the Beach Metro article.

‘Sign the Pledge, Stop the Dredge’ was the slogan. The story received national media coverage.  Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall and all the local politicians in Ward 10 and in southwest Scarborough came onside. A writing campaign to the Premier emphasized opposition and concerns about pollution, environmental damage and constant  noise that would be caused by  removing 54 million tons of sand from the lake bottom. At the request of the Ministry of Natural resources, Bedrock held a seven-hour open house at the Balmy Beach Club to explains its side.

Even though by year end the project had been scuppered by the Ministry,  the battle was not over. “We  still have to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again,” said Leibson. A key component in the Ministry’s decision was a report  from the Toronto Medical Officer of Health saying that the proposal could cause contaminants to be released into the surrounding water, which could affect the quality of drinking water, sewer outfall operations, general water quality, and fish and the aquatic habitat.

Another major story concerned  the fluted column gracing the reflective pool halfway down the hill at the R.C. Harris Filtration Plant. It had been stolen during the previous year. City staff  were able to replace the column with one of poured bronze using original drawings from  the 1930s as a guide. Security at the plant was beefed up.

The future of the  Greenwood Racetrack lands was still in dispute. While most residents wanted the site  to become parkland, this was becoming increasingly unlikely as the city did not have the money to purchase the 100 acres for an area it considered already well-served with parks.

The Battle of Benlamond raged on as angry Beachers fought to preserve what they claimed was a uniquely beautiful part of the city. They opposed plans to construct ten semi-detached houses on land to the rear of  and between 47 and 57 Benlamond Avenue. The builder’s original plan had been culled back from 64 condo units to comply with ravine bylaws and 47 and 57 Benlamond  were designated as historic sites. The new plans were approved by the  Committee of Adjustment, prompting residents to launch an appeal at the OMB, but this was dropped when the city withdrew its support. The fate of the development would now go to arbitration.

City Council began discussing plans for demolishing the east end of the Gardiner Expressway. It was originally built to meet up with the proposed Scarborough Expressway, which was cancelled in the 1970s.

In the provincial election on June 8, the NDP government of Bob Rae was replaced by the Mike Harris Conservatives.  On the local scene the NDP’s Frances Lankin was re-elected despite strong Tory and Liberal challenges.

In 1995 there was a mini baby boom at Toronto East General Hospital. By September births were up 140 over the previous year.

Len Stanley retired as the man in charge of Kew Gardens. Known as the ‘King of Kew’, he was responsible for the 90 acres of land south of Queen from Ashbridges Bay to Nursewood Road, and had lived in  the Gardener’s Cottage for 14 years.

Gord Brown of Kingswood Road auditioned for Jeopardy while honeymooning in Hollywood. He passed the 50-question written test, the practice game, an interview, and appeared on  the show. All went well until Final Jeopardy, when he was wiped out after misspelling the Polish currency, zloty.

Cathy Sherrard became the first woman elected  chair of Toronto Hydro, with the responsibility of setting Hydro’s polices, rates and budgets. The Willow Avenue resident had worked at Hydro since becoming a commissioner in 1987.

Justine Blaney, 22,  of Pickering Avenue was the second recipient of the YWCA’s Young Women of Distinction Award. She was famous for her groundbreaking court victory in 1987 that allowed girls to play hockey in boys’ leagues.

Mary Campbell and Barbara Myrvold

Mary Campbell and Barbara Myrvold had a second publishing success with their book A Historical Walking Tour of the Beach. The book was launched with a walking tour of the area led by former mayor and Beach boy John Sewell. While out of print, it is available for loan, along with their The Beach in Pictures 1793-1932, at local libraries.

1995 was a year of transition at Beach Metro News. At the end of 1994 Brenda Dow retired as Advertising Manager,  and office coordinator Dianne Marquardt stepped up to the plate. Bill MacLean, who had been working part-time, came on full-time as a writer and ad rep. Melinda  Drake joined the paper as a part-time office assistant.  Something clicked, as seventeen years later they are all still here.

What did not work out as well was the man hired to replace editor Joan Latimer, who retired in December 1994  after 22 years of building the paper. What followed was a controversial ten months as a beloved community newspaper seemingly became an imitation of an in-your-face sensational tabloid.  Readers, carriers and advertisers regarded the paper as their own, and made it clear they were not happy. By November the negative phase was over and the board of directors took great care hiring the next editor.

This was Carole Stimmell, and as 1995 ended a new era began. Beach Metro News was back on track.


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