A Metrolinx mandate to commence construction in Small's Creek in order to expand the GO network has faced plenty of resident pushback -- and now the transit agency is drafting a restoration new plan for the east-end Toronto green space.

Work in the Small's Creek area began earlier this year as part of the GO expansion project, which would add a fourth track along the Lakeshore East and Stouffville lines. Construction plans called for the removal of many trees, as well as the creation of a retaining wall. Residents expressed concerns about potential damage to the natural ecosystem and during a February City Council meeting, and a motion passed unanimously requesting that Metrolinx investigate alternative processes that would have less of an impact on the ecosystem.

At the time, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster wrote in an open letter that an alternative plan was not on the table, saying that "it is evident that the original approach continues to have the least impact on the ravine." But now, Metrolinx is now engaging in consultations with the surrounding community to revamp their restoration plans for what trees, shrubs, and other vegetation will be restored into the area.

In the original restoration plan, created in 2020, 268 trees were identified for removal, 205 of which were invasive species, Metrolinx says. They were to be replaced with 262 native trees and 932 shrubs. But the new working draft now identifies approximately 200 trees to be removed, with up to 2,000 trees expected to be planted as replacements.

"By working together through meaningful engagement, the goal will be to finalize the plan and move forward with vegetation restoration after construction is complete," Teresa Ko, Metrolinx communications senior advisor, wrote in a recent blog post.

The dirt walking path that currently exists will be destroyed by the construction work, but Ko says that "at the request of community members, plans to reconnect the path are progressing."

The Friends of Small's Creek, a resident group advocating for the area's environmental protection, shared their excitement over being able to have a say in the transit agency's plan. Previously, the group has expressed interest in creation of a boardwalk connecting the ravine from east to west, with seating, lookouts, and places to stop.

"Excited to have a seat at the table and explore all the possibilities that allow Metrolinx to work within their safety and construction parameters but while creatively restoring what has been lost," the The Friends of Small's Creek tweeted on Monday.

Four vegetation restoration workshops are set to take place, at which Metrolinx hopes to finalize the restoration plans and land on a solution for the walking path. The dates of these workshops have not yet been announced.