It’s been half a year since I picked up from Toronto, the big city, and moved to the more affordable pastures of Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge (“the Tri-Cities”). I’ve covered less than a tenth of what I walked in the T dot, but it’s given me enough time and distance to reflect on how these two regions differ, how the metroscapes have changed.
Toronto was founded as the Town of York in 1793, and has since been a focal point for development as the capital of Ontario, and an economic epicenter of the country. Waterloo County (the predecessor to the Regional Municipality of Waterloo) was settled around the same time, but Kitchener served as the administrative a rural seat for the area. It would be the mid 19th century before they became towns, and the 20th before they were cities.
As such, Toronto has deeper rooted intersections between the natural and built environments. This time piece is critical; the natural environment gets a lot more protection and attention in development planning than it ever did. New development is mostly prohibited where there are wetlands, waterways, floodplains and valley slopes, mostly to protect people or their property from flooding and erosion. But Ontario’s regulatory regime only became strong in the wake of Hurricane Hazel and it’s devastating effects in 1954. Even then, it was mostly focused on waterways and floodplains until encompassing valley slopes and wetlands towards the turn of the century.
This has created a swath of legacy development in Toronto, where houses and commercial/industrial operations had either buried and filled in ravines, or significantly encroached on them before regulation in place. The Tri-Cities on the other hand were more rural in character for some time, took longer to develop, and did so at a lower density and scale. This left more relatively more natural areas intact or unadulterated, at least until more robust protection of ravines was in place.
That’s development. Then there’s infrastructure, which is given more priority and leeway to encroach into or near natural areas. It’s still shaped by the same increasing environmental standards over time, but depending on how important that infrastructure is and how much demand there is for it, there may be more money available to make it happen. Toronto’s capital status and greater population and larger economy put it under greater pressure to provide sufficient roadways, highways, subways, railways; ways across and through natural areas. That hasn’t occurred to the same intensity in the Tri-Cities, but it’s there.
The key is that this infrastructure happened earlier in history, and at a larger scale. Massive infrastructure filled in ravines, or led to the complete burial of creeks. By today’s standards, it’s either not worth the cost of the infrastructure required to cross a natural area, or it’s avoided altogether.
Each metroscape also has one major difference: land availability.
There are historic shots of mid to upper parts of Toronto on either side of Yonge Street that seem unreal; the city was still quite rural in the mid-20th century. But by the 70’s and 80’s, new development was punching up to the city’s north border along Steeles Avenue.
Walking in the Tri-Cities in 2020, there are still plenty of rolling farmer fields and freshly carved woodlots on the frontier of development. There are approximately 47 km² of land that are considered “greenfields” within the current urban boundary. This is ignoring development outside of KWC proper, in places like Breslau, the Stockyards, and Mannheim, and it’s entirely possible that these borders could change with annexation. The pressure will only continue to grow as the Tri-Cities grow, and more people like me flock from the GTA in search of more affordable housing.
So the effects are obvious to me when I go exploring the respective metroscapes. Toronto has more natural spaces that have been covered up, constrained, engineered, fractured and/or half restored. This can often make them more interesting; they may be mysterious from an aerial perspective, and hold more surprises when explored in person. Add this to the fact that Toronto has a lake shore and the Tri-Cities does not, and there’s a clear difference in variety.
These unique metroscapes exist in the Tri-Cities too, but significantly modified natural spaces are fewer and farther between. It’s a bit of a double edged sword. Finding an unadultered natural refuge in the Tri-Cities is easier to do than in Toronto. Yet when you find it in a choked, noisy, concrete jungle, that’s what makes it more remarkable and more special. And when you find spaces that are modified to some degree by the built environment, it gives them character, and makes them unique.
This doesn’t make my walks in the Tri-Cities less interesting. There is a moment during every walk, something that raises an eyebrow and makes you smirk. It’s a snapshot that sticks with you, and it adds to your self-constructed image of the city.
That’s why I urge my readers and followers to go beyond living vicariously through me. Go explore these places yourself. Find your moment. My role is to be a guide and inspiration for where to start.
2019 marked a milestone in exploring local metroscapes. 2018 was the first full year under the new brand, and when my walk planning was starting to get really organized. So this past year was about covering as much ground as I could; I was in the groove, but I had the inkling that this may be my last year in Toronto. I tried to cover off all that I could, but it’s hard being a father and working full time.
I did not top 2018’s total walking distance, but considering everything going on in my life, I still covered a good amount of ground.
Over 26 walks, I covered 407 kilometres (321 km Toronto / 86 km KWC), a little longer than driving between Niagara Falls and Kingston. This is a decrease of 150 km from 2018.
The average walk was 15.6 km, an increase of 1.7 km from 2018. This is the same distance as walking between Keele and Main Street subway stations in Toronto, or between Conestoga Mall and Mill Stations in KW.
The longest walk was the last one of the year (December 7), coming in at 23.7 km. This was following the proposed ION Stage 2 route, which is longer than the actual route because of the detours.
Most months were an average of 30 km total, the outliers being March (57 km) and June (77 km).
There were 118 Toronto neighbourhoods covered in 2019, 84 of them which were truly walked through, down from 166 and 143 last year, respectively. Half decent coverage of the city, especially Etobicoke and west Toronto-East York North York was a bit of a void. 2 walks went beyond the City of Toronto borders, 3 of them in the Pearson airport area.
As for the tri-city, in which I completed a neighbourhood project for, I covered 41 neighbourhoods, 32 which were truly walked through. Many of them are concentrated along the regional north-south spine, as this happened to be the features I explored. 1 walk went beyond the borders of the tri-cities, when following the Grand’s west bank technically took me through North Dumfries.
Note: A watersheds project for Kitchener – Waterloo – Cambridge is still in progress, so this only reflects watersheds for Toronto walks. This section will be updated once KWC Watersheds is completed.
Last year, I was able to cover all 7 watersheds in Toronto. This year, I technically walked through all of them again, but fewer of my walks traced watercourses.
I covered 9 first-order rivers and creeks of 4 main watersheds (Lower / West Etobicoke, Lower / West / East Humber, Lower / West / East Don, East Highland).
10 second-order or lower streams were followed (Black, Lavender and 4 tributaries, Mud, Curran Hall, West Hill and tributary).
1 lost river was traced: Russel Creek, which drained straight into Lake Ontario.
Looking ahead to 2020
2020 will be a big year for exploring the metroscapes of the tri-city. I have lots of opportunities to go beyond the spine I’ve covered so far, and hit the far reaches of each city. In total, I have almost 500 km of walk plans. This includes:
16 in riverine systems
6 in hydro corridors
3 along rail corridors
2 along highways
In addition to that, I still have some unfinished business in Toronto, so I may fire down to the T Dot a couple times to try and cover more ground. This includes checking out some new stuff, such as Garrison Crossing and the new East Don Trail.
Aside from the walks, I have a lot of project work to do as well, and for starters I will finish and publish KWC neighbourhoods. I also have to get my head around KWC watersheds; it’s a bit of a different beast from Toronto, as it will be a number of subwatersheds of the Grand River.
I also hope to figure out a better mapping solution. I have been using Google My Maps as a primary tool, and MapHub for posting and sharing screenshots (since it’s open source). They’re free, which is the primary reason I’ve used them, but both are becoming limited in the scale and capacity I want to use them. I may move to a GIS tool if I have the time and energy amongst the rest of life’s demands.
My suggestion for Scarborough Waterfront West has been adopted;
The future Leaside South connection has been illustrated;
The Weston North Humber Connection gap was recognized; and,
The Finch Hydro Corridor trail will be kept within the corridor across the Metrolinx Uxbridge Subdivision.
It definitely feels good that I was able to lean on my walking experience and create some change in a major planning document. This will help create continuous trails along the waterfront, Humber River and Finch Hydro Corridors. Furthermore, some of the things I raised were (relatively) small scale details that I’m not too worked about.
That said, I am a bit disappointed that three of my large scale suggestions were not taken up.
The Crosstown Southwest corridor is the biggest disappointment for me, and is somewhat baffling. It is a natural corridor that would be richer than the bike lanes on Bloor. Furthermore, the middle part between Davenport and St Clair is a formally recognized project by the city, and there is about a kilometre and a half of existing trail west of that. I thought filling in the gap in the Stockyards area and continuing the line past Rockcliffe Boulevard to Etobicoke Creek was a good idea.
A trail through Black Creek Ravine also seems like a relatively feasible project, as pretty much all of the approximately 6 kilometre trail would be on existing, publicly owned parkland and open space. The only exception would be a half-kilometre stretch under the Highway 400 / Jane Street interchange, which is still public land, making access negotiable.
North Scarborough has this ginournous gap in north-south connectivity. Once again, there are existing segments of trail and most of the ravine is intact. It may be constrained in spots where wetlands are present and a meander belt is protected for, but I think a link to Scarborough Centre should be worth the effort.
Progress is slow and steady sometimes, and the fate of these potential trails is not sealed. So I will take this as a win, and I hope Torontonians will continue pushing for a better trail network.
A reflection on my walks in Toronto, both in 2019 and as a whole for the past 6 years.
A massive valley with towering apartments on the top of the slope.
The remnance of where a river swept an entire crescent of houses away.
Thick forest followed by a massive train trestle overhead.
A sweeping shoreline leading to a downtown core.
These were the sights along my first walk after moving to Toronto, from Cruickshank Park to the lake. While this was something to occupy myself for the weekend, it started a fascination with how Toronto’s natural and built environments collided.
That said, the walks were aimless and kinda shallow. It wasn’t until November 2017 that it became a brand, and a focused effort to document Toronto’s best walks and biggest opportunities. All in all, from what I could remember back to April 2016, I racked up over 1,300 kilometres over 111 walks.
I thought it worthwhile to take a look back, and make some initial reflections.
2019 in Toronto
2019 was a pretty fruitful year. Despite only completing half as many walks as last year (306 km, or a drive from Toronto to Chatham), I did go further on average (16.4 km; a Lakeshore West GO train ride from Union to Dixie Road). More important than the stats, however, is that I feel like I went on some particularity special walks.
One was certainly the Leslie Spit. Dreary weather can make for a dreary day, but sometimes it makes the colours in the landscape pop a little more. That certainly was the case with the Spit’s brick-laden shores, wetlands in their infancy, tall barren trees and still harbour waters. There’s nothing else like it.
Finally, there was walking the Beltline, which was a bit of coming full circle. It mixed the midtown trail that was an integral part of my last 4 years in Toronto, and the valley that fills faint memories from the first 6 years of my life. It’s objectively beautiful without context, but it was a very spiritual trip for me.
Looking Back and Forward
I can’t pick those three walks and say they were my top 3 for 2019, or that any of them were the best of all time. Even when I have an incident(e.g. heat exhaustion, falling through ice, or getting lost), every walk has its moment. Despite my bitterness with the circumstances I had to leave under, these adventures will stick with me for years to come.
I’m just happy that I’m able to share all of this. Whether it’s looking up ideas for your own walks, referring to older pictures as the city continues to grow and change, or using analysis to further improve the walking environment of the city, I will strive to maintain this website as a resource for current and future Torontonians.
That said, the Toronto section of the site is not going to be completely static going forward. I still have work to do in the Projects section, and I will return to the city on occasion to visit and take care of some unfinished plans.
So this isn’t goodbye Toronto. More like “See you later.”
Note: This post was first published on June 1, 2019 with data available from May 30, 2019. It was updated on June 3, 2019 with the latest data available, and improved graphs. It was updated again on June 5 and July 2, 2019 to reflect new height records.
In June 2017, Lake Ontario rose to a height not seen in the last 100 years of recorded history. The pictures of how this impacted Toronto were dramatic; flooding parks, eroding shorelines, and boardwalks, beaches and the Islands underwater.
Two years later, we broke records again. Once again, it’s a shocking scene.
The height of water in a lake fluctuates naturally. The amount of rainfall flowing into it, and the rate at which it drains through an outlet (if it has one) is a major determinant. However, it can also be affected by temperature, sunlight, formation / melting of snow and ice, and wind.
But how have we hit crazy high levels within the last two years? Rain, and how much and how hard it falls, is definitely a huge factor. But you may be surprised to learn that its less about the rain that falls onto Lake Ontario’s surface and shores or how hard it fell, and more about what’s happening to the east and the west.
This is a look at where water in Lake Ontario comes from, and where it goes.
First, let’s set this up with some historical context on Lake Ontario’s water level (Note 1).
Prior to 2017, Lake Ontario had only gone above a height of 75.7 metres twice in the last century: 1952 and 1973. It has also only gone below 73.8 metres twice during the same period: 1934 and 1936. Otherwise, Lake Ontario has varied in height within this 1.9 metre range from year-to-year, and season-to-season.
Then in 2017, the previous record set in 1952 was broken by 5 centimetres, with the lake reaching a monthly average height of 75.81 metres above sea level. It was dramatic and visually striking, flooding the Toronto Islands and other shoreline areas on the mainland. The capital repair costs to the city were estimated to total $15.6 million.
This year, the high lake levels are repeating themselves. Most days in June 2019 broke Lake Ontario’s previous daily height record of 75.88 m set in 2017. June 2019 also saw a new record average lake height of 75.89 m, or 8 cm above the previous record set in June 2017.
Looking back makes you realize that in Lake Ontario’s history, a couple pairs of high level years occurring in close vicinity is not unprecedented. 1929 + 1930. ’43 +’ 47 + ’52. ’73 + ’74 +’76. Keep the last two sets in mind next time you’re looking at imprints on Toronto’s bridges and culverts. Same story goes for sets of years with record lows.
What causes the changes in Lake Ontario to swing so much? Do I really need to bust out that graphic from your high school science class showing the water cycle? No? Good.
But as I alluded to, Lake Ontario’s water level isn’t affected as much by the rain that falls near the lake. Below is a chart showing the water balances for the Great Lakes.
As you can see, Lake Ontario’s levels are highly dependent on upstream inflow and downstream outflow (79% and 95% of total inflows and outflows, respectively). The remaining 21% of the total inflow is from water fed from rivers and streams, and 5% of the total water is evaporated (Note 2).
Upstream inflows come from the other Great Lakes, which are fed by rainfall and streamflow. So technically, it makes it an indirect impact. But it’s an important distinction to make. A closer look at where Lake Ontario’s water comes from and where it goes will make it clear why.
Ontario: Last Stop Before the St Lawrence
Lake Ontario is impacted by the fact that it is part of Great Lakes-St Lawrence River system. This means it is fed by water from (going upstream):
Lake Erie via the Niagara River;
Lake St Clair, via the Detroit River;
Lake Huron / Georgian Bay, via the St Clair River;
Lake Michigan, via the Straits of Mackinac; and,
Lake Superior, via the St Mary’s River.
Water from Lake Erie flows down the Niagara River, and its mostly unregulated, meaning it flows without anything really holding it back (i.e. a dam). Two exceptions are hydroelectric power plants on both the Canadian and American sides, as well as the Welland Canal. However, the power plants are restricted in how much water they take in; the International Join Commission (IJC) is a bi-national agency that has rules to ensure there is enough water flowing over Niagara Falls, so they look pretty and aren’t a pathetic dribble.
The Welland Canal is another pathway for water between Lakes Erie and Ontario. It isn’t a huge factor either; it’s 8.5% of what flows through the Niagara River (Note 3).
Continuing upstream, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan are technically one lake, as they are hydraulically connected through the Straits of Mackinac and generally sit at the same level. The water from them flows unregulated through the Lake St Clair and the St Clair and Detroit Rivers.
Lake Superior is the one major upstream part of the basin that is regulated. Outflow is controlled via three power plants and a 16-gate dam on the St Mary’s River. However, the outflow of Superior pales in comparison to other inputs to Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie, and even then, any water held back would be a percentage of that outflow.
All that to say Lake Ontario is fed by the other lakes and the rainfall that feeds into them, and there’s really nothing holding it back. So when all of the lakes are up, it can mean a significant cumulative height difference for Lake Ontario.
Outflow: A Balancing Act
Lake Ontario, and all of the water fed into it, flows into the St Lawrence River, and eventually the Atlantic Ocean. But it’s not as simple as draining a tub.
While the eastern end of Lake Ontario is defined as being at Kingston (where it passes both sides of Wolfe Island), there are locks and dams along the way, which widen the St Lawrence River behind them and form ‘lakes.’ These lakes are:
Lake St Lawrence, between Kingston and Cornwall
Lake St Francis, between Cornwall and Melocheville
Lake St Louis, along the west end of Montreal Island.
The key outlet is at Cornwall, between Lake St Lawrence and Lake St Francis, where the Moses-Saunders Dam controls the flow of water. How much water is released is once again determined by the IJC, but unlike the Niagara River, that goal is not making pretty waterfalls. Nor is it just contingent on what is happening to the west. The IJC has to play a balancing act between the height of Lake Ontario and how high the St Lawrence is downstream.
Lake Ontario is 19,000 km² and an average depth of 86 m. Lake St Francis and Lake St Louis on the other hand are…not so big. I couldn’t find the figures I was looking for, but it’s in the ballpark of 400 km² and an average depth of 10-20 m (if you got better numbers give me a shout). But the magnitude speaks for itself; the same amount of water has a disproportionate impact on water levels.
Even if Lake Ontario is really high, increasing outflow to reduce its height by a couple centimetres could send downstream communities underwater. So even if the Toronto Islands are underwater and our shorelines are being eaten away by erosion, it’s a small cost relative to the damage that could occur down in Quebec.
Another complicating factor is that the Ottawa River meets the St Lawrence at Lake St Louis. It is a very large river basin which is also relatively unregulated, and it can significantly alter the height of the St Lawrence at Lake St Louis. If there are already high flows coming down the Ottawa River, this put extra restrictions on the flow out of the Moses-Saunders Dam so that flooding in Montreal and other Quebec communities downstream doesn’t occur or isn’t worsened.
One mitigating factor in all of this is the evaporation off of the lakes. One would think that warm temperatures mean big thunderstorms, and that is a pathway for moisture to be carried out of the lake. Well, it actually it’s quite low.
Just as snow melt starts entering the system and the rain begins to fall, evaporation rates nosedive, and whatever goes through a lake’s outflow is the only output of the system. When you put the plug in the tub while the water’s still pouring in, it’s gonna fill up.
The manner in which snow falls and melts can also have an impact on the system. I reached out to a friend who is more academically trained in earth and atmospheric sciences to expand on these effects of seasonal change on lake levels.
“A late start to spring and extended cold weather can delay local vegetation’s break from dormancy. This has the effect of reducing evapotranspiration rates early in the season. As plants take up water, they remove some moisture from the ground which would otherwise end up in local river systems, and eventually through to the St. Lawerence River.
An extended winter may also delay snow melt timing, resulting in a greater surge of water into the Great Lakes, as opposed to the longer, drawn-out thaw that we are typically used to.
Downstream damming and excessive rainfall are much more significant contributors to lake level issues. Still, evapotranspiration and snow melt play an important part in our water cycle, and all of these factors together may have helped pushed things over the top this year.”
Putting it all together, you get an idea of why 2017 and this year saw crazy high water levels in Lake Ontario.
Extended winter and late spring
Significant spring rain
Significant unregulated flow into Lake Ontario from Lake Erie
Significant unregulated flow into the St Lawrence from the Ottawa River
Restricted outflow from Lake Ontario
And when you put this in chart form, with the lake level put against the rates of inflow and outflow, it becomes clear how restrictions at the Moses-Saunders Dam can play a large part in raising Lake Ontario’s height.
Between April 18 and May 21, 2019, there was an average of 114.85 million m³ more water flowing into Lake Ontario than flowing out each day. Over 34 days, that makes for a total of 3.9 billion m³ of water. If you didn’t account for elevation, that would be enough to cover the city of Toronto in 6.2 metres of water (Note 4). Accounting for elevation however, that’s enough water to flood downtown Toronto, East York and south Etobicoke (up to the old Iroquois shoreline) with as much as 50 metres of water (Note 5).
So, a lot of water. Spread out over the entirety of Lake Ontario however, it rose 70 cm, which is enough to impact the entirety of Toronto’s 111 km of shoreline, and thousands more kilometres of shoreline across the rest of the lake (Note 6).
So what are the odds of this happening again? I can’t tell you exactly. I have delivered simplified numbers here, and don’t have a good enough understanding of inter-year and inter-seasonal effects on basin supply and drain.
So perhaps it’s time to talk about how we manage the inflows and outflows of the Great Lakes. Should we be taking steps to regulate flows out of Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie? Should we begin to deregulate flows out of Lake Ontario and find another way to mitigate flooding in the St Lawrence?
That discussion would be a geographical (upstream and downstream) and impact-based (net natural, social and economic) balancing act. And that’s way beyond a single blog post or a single year of records.
1. Lake height measurements are from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s master gauges (Superior – Marquette C.G., Michigan – 9099018 | Michigan-Huron – Harbor Beach, MI – 9075014 | Erie – Fairport, OH – 9063053 | Ontario – Oswego, NY – 9052030) and are based on the International Great Lakes Datum, 1985. Monthly/annual maximums, averages and minimums available here.
4. Not accounting for elevation, Toronto has an area of 630.2 km² (per StatsCan); taking the volume (of water in lake Ontario) and dividing it by area (of Toronto) equals height (3.9 million km³ / 630.2 km² = 6.2 m).
5. I obtained a simplified line drawing of the shore from BlogTO, eliminated the segment east of Scarborough Heights Park, and converted into a polygon (area is 152 km²). I then employed simplified math to illustrate how much water there is; assuming that this area was a triangular prism, with a height equal to point where the slope starts a significant elevation increases (~130 m above sea level, near Yonge Street and Woodlawn Ave; difference from the lowest point in Toronto of 76.5 metres of 53.5 metres from the shore). The volume of this perfect triangular prism is therefore area * height divided by 2 (152 km² * 53.5 m = 4,066 km³). To reverse-calculate how high the water would be for a different volume of water (e.g. the net flow into Lake Ontario; 3.9 million km³), you can multiply the volume by 2, and divide by the area ([3.9 million km³ * 2] / 152 km² = 51.4 m).
6. Toronto’s shoreline length is calculated based on my previous #shorelineTO work. Lake Ontario’s shoreline length is quoted as 1,020 km, however, this measurement may be subject to the coastline paradox to a greater degree than my measurements in Toronto.
Toronto hosted the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in 2015. Along with hosting such a large sporting event, Toronto invested in several facilities to host the games, to be reused for community benefit afterwards.
There was also one “legacy project” to pay tribute to the games. The Pan Am Path was a proposed 84-kilometre continuous off-road multi-use trail to connect the city, from the northwest Etobicoke, through downtown, to southeast Scarborough. Much of it was along existing trails, but there were a few gaps that needed to be completed:
East Highland – Orton Park Road to Morningside Park
Don Valley – Forks of the Don to Eglinton Avenue
Waterfront – Stadium Road Park to Sherbourne Common
Humber Marshes – Riverwood Parkway to South Humber Park
Weston – Crawford Jones Memorial to Cruickshank Park
So as a legacy to a significant event that happened in the summer of 2015, these projects should be done almost 4 years later…right?
1. East Highland
This segment would connect from the Forks of Highland Creek to an existing trail where Ellesmere Avenue crosses the East Highland Creek. The current detour is following the existing multi-use trail along West Highland Creek south, and Orton Park Road back north to the Gatineau Hydro Corridor.
The City of Toronto’s project site for this connection says that planning did start with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority back in 2014, with construction starting last year, and completion in 2020. However, I walked the East Highland Creek back in July, and the only construction I saw was old construction accesses from previous creek remediation work. That said, I was able to reach out to the city and confirm that construction will start this year, and it is still anticipated to be done by next year.
2. Don Valley
This segment would connect an existing trail along the Gatineau Hydro Corridor, down the East Don River to the Forks of the Don. The current detour is along various streets to Taylor Massey Creek, and along that ravine.
This connection was missing when the Pan Am Path was first announced, but was well under construction, and was completed in June 2015, one month prior to the opening of the games.
The path was created out of Waterfront Toronto’s revitalization of Queens Quay. The former 4-lane industrial boulevard with a streetcar saw itself cut down to 2 lanes, 1 in each direction north of the streetcar right-of-way, and the former eastbound lanes reclaimed as a dedicated cycling trail and wide pedestrian promenade. For a progressive dense community that was forced into amalgamation and dominated by suburban conservative politics, it was a breath of fresh air. It also made a track record for Waterfront Toronto, the tri-governmental agency that made it happen.
4. Humber Marshes
This is a connection I am not very clear on; the gap exists between King’s Mill Park and South Humber Park, requiring users to travel via Riverwood Parkway and Stephen Drive.
However, where exactly you would place a dedicated trail connection is a mystery to me, as welcome as it would be. This is akin to the TRCA’s proposal to extend a trail through the bottom reach of the Rouge River; it’s entirely a wide river channel with wetlands, and the adjacent tableland is taken up by private residential housing. Creating a path would be tricky and expensive, so this might be one acceptable on-street connection.
This segment would make the Humber River Trail continuous by making a connection between Memorial Park and Cruickshank Park, going under the GO Transit Kitchener line. The current detour up the St Phillips Steps, and along Weston Road.
While dedicated space along the driveway into King’s Mill Park may be a bit of nitpicking, it has always driven me crazy that trail users must face off with vehicles on the skinny Old Mill Road bridge. A dedicated connection should be made, as I suggested in my analysis of TRCA’s Trail Strategy.
It may be of lower priority, but an opportunity exists to improve the trail in the vicinity of Eglinton Avenue. Two additional river crossings grade-separate the trail from Eglinton, and avoid the steep climb around Humber Creek.
As with any trails in Toronto, I place a lot of emphasis on ensuring that off street connections are minimized, and grade separations are created where required. Completing the identified connections and filling the other gaps will mostly address both these elements.
One aspect of the Pan Am Path that I cannot knock on is the branding and wayfinding. The city, in partnership with Friends of the Pan Am Path, have made an excellent website with helpful and informative resources, great navigational signs and maps, and a distinct logo.
At the same time, the branding, wayfinding, and general fanfare for the Pan Am Path feels like a bot of a slap in the face when not all of the larger capital improvements have been completed. Almost four years after the games, I feel the legacy should almost be complete.
Perhaps I am impatient; at least 1/5 of the identified connections is complete, and another 2 will be on the way. But the lack of plans for the remaining 2 really fits with a theme of what feels like a second-class treatment of active transportation in this city; lack of maintenance, lack of building, and lack of progress. Perhaps Toronto’s legacy is talking big, and not following through.