Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat

Sights & Sites: Peg Thoen

Peg Thoen spends her days working downtown in the RBC HR Group. For the past 13 years she's been leading the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat Stewardship team, and is very thankful that so many people want to join the team and help to care for this amazing space. Peg is also an amateur photographer, with many photos taken in the Butterfly Habitat.

I asked her the question: What is the most interesting, unusual or beautiful sight to see in one of our ravines or forests?"

Many would say the most interesting sight at Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat is the beautiful downtown Toronto skyline … people come from far and wide to take pictures from the park and the lakeshore with the skyline background. Thousands walk, bike, rollerblade through the park on a daily basis. And I do take my share of photos with the background in mind …. To me, however, I marvel every time I walk to or through the habitat in awe that this area was very much a wasteland a mere 15 years ago. The story of how this strip of valuable Lake Ontario shore line was put back in the hands of the public is remarkable.

The area caught my attention even before I moved to Toronto from Saskatchewan … when I traveled here on business I always watched from the airport limo on the Gardiner Expressway for the motel strip and the Seahorse Inn and thought, how quaint is that? Then when I moved here and bought a condo in the neighbourhood I watched the transformation of the site formerly known as the Motel Strip into a community.

I watched as my view west along the lakeshore which was clear to Mississauga in 1997, slowly filled up with neighbours and many condos…. The scary, swamps and wastelands which the motels occupied were taken up with new neighbours, retail and most magical of all … Humber Bay Shores Park and the Butterfly Habitat.

It happened slowly at first .. the fill came in as the lakefront was reclaimed from private motel ownership and the trails, fish habitat and paths were created. And all of a sudden we had a park which wasn’t terrifying to walk through, neighbours, and a community.

I noticed an invite to a wildflower planting in 2003 when the Butterfly Habitat was being completed …. I came down to get my green thumb fix as I had given up my garden when I moved to condo life. And, I’ve been coming back ever since.

It really is a magical place … it’s called the ‘butterfly habitat’ and it’s truly a buzz when the butterflies are out and about - Monarchs, admirals, azures, swallowtails, viceroy - but it’s so much more than that … many birds and wildlife call this home… Red Necked Grebes, Mink, Beaver, snakes. I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with the incredible story of the monarch butterfly as this is a staging area for the south migration every fall as they make their way to Mexico.

The park is full of amazing spots … the home garden with unique sculptures, ‘milkweed alley’ along the settling ponds where you can often catch monarch larvae feeding … the butterfly rocks, alphabet rocks and the many wildflowers we have cultivated and cared for with a dedicated steward group over the years.

It’s especially magical in the summer when birds and butterflies are plentiful, but winter, spring, summer or fall, there is always much to see and enjoy - many magnificent boulders to perch on to watch the world go by.

Photos at the top of this post courtesy of Peg Thoen.

Posted on: October 28, 2015
This post is part of Sights & Sites, a series that celebrates our amazing ravines & forests and the people who care for them.