Latest posts in Notes from the Panther Lounge

Bringing nature (and joy) home to the city

July 27, 2016 | Leave a comment

By Jode Roberts, communications,

What's the Homegrown National Park Project?

• Thirty retired canoes relaunched as pollinator-friendly planters
• Sixty-five keen volunteer Homegrown Park Rangers
• Thousands of milkweed plants welcoming monarch butterflies
Musical parades, outdoor movie screenings and community events — including Homegrown pizza nights!
This award-winning project began four years ago. It aimed to transform Toronto neighbourhoods, one fun, citizen-led step at a time.

Each spring, we recruited and trained residents of neighbourhoods along the former Garrison Creek. With the support of DSF staff, these Homegrown Park Rangers gained skills and confidence. Then we set them loose. They established new pollinator-friendly spaces in their neighbourhoods. They created food- and art-filled community events that engage their neighbours. And they did it all for the sake of bees, butterflies and other essential critters.
Ranger Aidan's community canoe project landed thousands of pollinator-friendly canoe planters. Ranger Marc's rain garden project transformed 11 front yards into flood-busting rain gardens. Rangers Anjum, Georgia and Gillian helped swap pavement for pollinators along Palmerston Square. That inspired the adjacent school to hatch its own exciting greening plan. And Ranger Michael began a "butterflyway" of pollinator patches through his Cedarvale neighbourhood.
This year, the Homegrown National Park Project will focus on:
• Greening Toronto laneways (like this and this)
• Growing our canoe garden fleet
• Creating more butterflyways through the city
• Hosting more outdoor events — movies, pizza nights and the fourth annual Park Crawl September 25!
This year we're excited to begin bringing the joys of the Homegrown National Park Project to communities across the country through the launch of our national Butterflyway Project this fall. For a sneak peak, check out this video.

For more information about the Homegrown National Park Project, check out and visit our Facebook page. If you want to get involved, contact Jode Roberts at

Cycling in Toronto: A personal reflection

July 21, 2016 | Leave a comment
Photo: Cycling in Toronto: A personal reflection

By Gideon Forman

I'm mostly a walker and runner, not a bicycle rider, but I find myself drawn to cycling nevertheless. Why is that?

I like what it does to Toronto, my city, and appreciate the cyclist's physical presence. The steady pumping of thighs as the rider progresses up Beverley Street, up St. George, at human speed, human scale.

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Stand with Grassy Narrows, one of Canada's most toxic sites

July 4, 2016 | Leave a comment
Photo: Stand with Grassy Narrows, one of Canada's most toxic sites

Participants of the River Run rally 2016 called on the Ontario government to clean up the mercury spilled in Grassy Narrows.

By Faisal Moola

In 1962, a Dryden, Ontario pulp and paper mill began dumping untreated mercury waste into the Wabigoon River, upstream from several First Nations communities, including Grassy Narrows, home to the Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek people. Until 1970, more than 9,000 kilograms of mercury poured into the watershed. Mercury contamination has devastated the local environment and community members' health to this day.

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New revenue tools could make Toronto safer, healthier

June 27, 2016 | Leave a comment
Photo: New revenue tools could make Toronto safer, healthier

(Credit: Matt Jiggins via Flickr)

By Gideon Forman and Scott Leon

This week City Manager Peter Wallace will release a report outlining potential new "revenue tools" that Toronto can use to pay for vital services such as public housing and transit. Among the most promising are a tax on alcoholic beverages and a levy on commercial parking lots. Detractors may attack these tools as cash-grabs, but before they dismiss them they should recognize these new measures could further a goal all of us support: making Toronto safer and healthier.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says a five per cent tax on alcohol sold at outlets such as the LCBO and the Beer Store could generate about $77 million annually. A levy paid by the owners of commercial — not residential — parking spaces would add at least $175 million a year. Combined, these initiatives would provide Toronto with over a quarter-billion dollars each budget cycle to fix community housing and help finance TTC operations.

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When is wildlife no longer wild?

June 15, 2016 | 1 comment
Photo: When is wildlife no longer wild?

(Credit: Nathanael Coyne via Flickr)

By Rachel Plotkin, Ontario Science Projects Manager

I became an environmental activist while working as a summer student at a zoo. As an animal lover, it seemed like a perfect job, and I felt lucky to get it. But I quit midway through my fourth summer, unable to stomach the despair and boredom that greeted me from behind the cage bars every day.

My zoo experiences led me to my first job at an environmental organization, Zoocheck, and onto my current work of over 15 years — advocating for wildlife habitat protection. I've pushed science-based protection measures for all sorts of species — from snapping turtles to right whales to monarch butterflies — but a big focus of my work has been boreal woodland caribou.

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