Yesterday afternoon, I ventured out to Chester Hill Lookout. I first learned of this observation point, located in the east-end of Playter Estates north of the Danforth and west of Broadview overlooking the Don Valley, through an Instagram post. The views offered by this location of downtown Toronto to the south and west are amazing. I must go again on a clear day or night.
- The National Post notes that Toronto city council voted against naming a stadium after the late Rob Ford.
- blogTO notes that Humber Bay Shores wants to run a private neighbourhood bus service, for want of a TTC presence.
- Andrew Hunter, former Canadian curator at the AGO, calls for a decolonization of art galleries across Canada.
- Joanna Lavoie describes the concrete sculptures of Duane Linklater newly installed across the Don valley.
- At Torontoist, Dennis Duffy reports on the 19th century criminal gangs once populating the Don Valley. Seriously.
- Doug Ford is running for mayor in 2018, hoping to continue Rob's legacy. (Doug was the more functional of the two.)
- Toronto has cracked down successfully on a property owner in Cabbagetown using their buildings for Airbnb.
- The Lower Don Trail is scheduled to reopen later this month, one year later than originally scheduled.
- The LCBO will be the authorized seller of marijuana in Ontario. I think I largely support this: regulation matters.
- In Toronto, the new Port Lands plan imagines a new island, Villiers, at the mouth of the Don.
- Brexit means, among other thing, that the EU is no longer supporting the UK on the Chagos. The Economist reports.
- VICE notes that people on Mauritius fear extensive fish farming will also boost the shark population offshore.
- The Independent notes that tides and currents have created a new sand bar-cum-island more than 1 km long off of North Carolina, Shelly Island.
- The National Post notes that sub-Arctic Vardo Island, in Norway, has moved on from its fisheries to become a NATO outpost set to watch Russia.
- Carmela Fonbuena reports for The Guardian from Thitu Island, a Filipino-occupied island uncomfortably near a Chinese base in the contested South China Sea.
- Torontoist notes that, between climate change and development, Toronto faces serious flood risks in the future.
- Ben Spurr notes in the Toronto Star that, come September, Metrolinx will oversee 3% fare increases on GO Transit and the UP Express.
- I am unsurprised to learn, again from the Toronto Star's Ben Spurr, that the TTC has won an award recognizing it as the best public transit agency in North America.
- Fatima Syed notes that Brampton, with its newly hired urban planner, is in search of a new identity.
I decided to walk at least part of the way home from an evening meditation session at Broadview and Danforth, over the Prince Edward Viaduct at twilight. I love this bridge, with its majestic arcs over the Don Valley below, and its colour-shifting Luminous Veil.
blogTO's Derek Flack reports on the plans for the construction of a massive retail centre in east Toronto, by the mouth of the Don in the East Harbour area.
The plans for what's known as East Harbour have been in the works for some time, but only recently has the full scale of the project come to light in the wake of supporting documentation filed with the city. It reveals that beyond the transit and commercial priorities of the development, the retail component is going to absolutely huge.
Well, to step back for a moment, everything about this project is huge. Set upon some 60 acres of land, it would represent one of the largest master developments Toronto has witnessed. The proposed transit hub would integrate GO train lines, a streetcar route, and possibly a relief subway line if we ever get such a thing built.
Right now, there's 11 million square feet of office space proposed for the site, spread over a number of towers. Yes, that's right. This isn't more condos. On the contrary, this is the place where developer First Gulf hopes that residents in places like the East Donlands and Bayfront will come to work, eat, and shop.
Global News' Adam Miller and Christina Stevens report on an apparent fuel spill that has been contaminating the Don River for weeks. Hasn't enough been done to that poor waterway already?
The City of Toronto is working to determine the cause of a foul-smelling fuel spill in the Don River downtown, while a local water protection charity is criticizing the lack of government action several weeks after the spill was reported.
Bill Shea, director of distribution and collection for Toronto Water, told Global News the city was informed of the petroleum spill in the river near the Gerrard Street overpass two weeks ago by a local resident, which prompted staff to contain it while they investigate the source.
Shea said some type of petroleum product had poured out of a large two-metre diameter sewer near the overpass and officials suspect it originated from a nearby area of hazardous “brownfield” land.
“The petroleum product that’s in that brownfield is leaking into our chamber,” he said.
“It’s a contaminated site that’s known to the [Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change], it’s private property and the property owner is responsible for monitoring the levels of contaminate in that site, in this case petroleum.”
By the time Facebook's Mark and I got to the Evergreen Brickworks in the middle of the afternoon last Thursday, there in the Don Valley, a snowstorm had popped up. Quite soon everything began closing down: the fair had shut down, snow was starting to block the paths, and the driver who would be taking us back to the TTC would find it very difficult to take us to any destination.
Torontoist's Andrew Reeves writes about the protection of the lower Don Lands.
The projected cost to protect the 356-hectare Port Lands rose to $1.25 billion last month, part of the massive Waterfront Toronto-led revitalization of the largely industrial lands east of downtown Toronto.
While developing the city’s lakeshore with a host of recreational, industrial, residential, and retail opportunities has taken centre stage in the agency’s efforts to improve Toronto’s strained relationship with its waterfront, protecting large swaths of land from the devastating impacts of flooding has always been a crucial (if subtle) cornerstone of the plan.
But a due diligence report released on October 20 by Waterfront Toronto suggested that more than 283 hectares in the Port Lands, Riverside, Leslieville, and the Unilever site are at risk of flooding from the nearby Don River. What’s more, the land cannot be developed until proper protections are put in place, they argue.
A previous cost estimate put the protection work at $975 million, an estimate that was “less informed” than the latest projection, Waterfront Toronto writes. Now, the agency says the discovery of “flowing sand” and “compressed peat” in the area will require additional environmental risk measures, enhanced erosion control, and previously unaccounted for groundwater and soil treatment.
The Toronto Star's Jennifer Pagliaro describes a proposal for investment in the Port Lands' anti-flood infrastructure that is quite expensive. At least Lake Ontario is not threatened by sea level rise consequent to global warming.
The cost to flood-protect the Port Lands in eastern Toronto, transforming 715 acres into developable land, has risen from $975 million to $1.25 billion.
“Flood-protecting the Port Lands would unlock its great potential for development, for more parks, more public space and for providing room to support the city’s population and it’s job growth,” said Waterfront Toronto CEO Will Fleissig at a news conference Thursday. “This is a transformative opportunity for our city.”
The cost estimate was confirmed by a due diligence report from tri-government agency Waterfront Toronto released Thursday. The study found the probability of the actual cost being $1.25 billion or less is 90 per cent. It is very unlikely the project will costs less than $1 billion.
The increased cost is mostly due to the additional need for soil excavation, soil and groundwater treatment and issues related to flowing sand and compressible peat, which complicates soil excavation and how the land is filled for development.
The three levels of government have already been negotiating cost-sharing of the project, which was made a priority for the waterfront agency 14 years ago.
Neither the federal nor provincial government has committed to fund the flood protection of the largely government-owned land. All three governments did put up $83 million to redo the area around the old Essroc quay, which is a large part of the overall project.
CBC News' Chris Glover reports on the philantrophic donations set to create a megapark in the Don Valley. The park appeals, but I'm unsure as to the broader soundness of this method.
Mayor John Tory introduced six donors Tuesday who have given a combined $3.5 million to help the city develop the first phase of Don River Valley Park — a move the Toronto's mayor says could be a "big blueprint" for developing parks in the future.
Philanthropist Andy Chisholm — along with his wife Laurie — is investing in a public park for the first time, and he couldn't be prouder.
"My wife has always been a strong advocate, with myself, of these natural spaces and this felt like a good way to invest in that," Chisholm said.
The other major investments come from Frances and Tim Price, the Jackman Family, Judy and Wilmot Matthews, Senator Michael Meighen and his wife Kelly, and Trans Canada Trails.
[. . .]
The private money will help convert the largely untapped stretch of urban valley between Corktown Common and the Evergreen Brick Works into a seven-kilometre network of hiking and cycling trails.
The private donation drive could mark a shift in the way Toronto's wealthiest families donate.
Traditionally, hospitals and cultural and educational institutions have received the lion's share of private money.
The Toronto Star's David Rider reports on a new municipal initiative to create a better park in the Don Valley that leaves me a bit concerned.
The sprawling Don Valley ravine is getting a boost from private-sector donors to help transform it into more inviting and accessible parkland for Torontonians.
Mayor John Tory and Evergreen, the charity that turned a former brick factory into the valley’s environmental and educational showpiece, will reveal at 11 a.m. Tuesday the donors who have pledged millions of dollars toward the project.
Tory’s office said Tuesday the city has, since 2012, spent $18 million to help turn the Lower Don Trail into “a signature parkland at the centre of the city stretching from Corktown Common to Pottery Road.”
Improvements have included new entry points to the ravine, widened trails, the Belleville underpass, Pottery Rd. bridge, Bayview multi-use trail and art installations. Next spring, the city will add “way-finding signage” to help people navigate the valley.
In 2014, city council told parks staff to work with Evergreen to raise third-party funding for more improvements and community engagement. Tory will announce the results of those efforts.
Dennis Duffy at Torontoist wrote this weekend's Historicist feature at Torontoist, looking at how the Don Valley Parkway was perceived (arguably misperceived).
There’s an old Catholic saying: Christ called us to the Kingdom. We answered with … the Church!
Not every public project turns out quite the way that it is planned. It’s hard to understand—at a distance of half a century—just how optimistic and even joyous a cocoon of rhetoric encased the Don Valley Parkway at its birth. Telling that story illustrates how one day’s Utopia can devolve into another’s Waste Land. That telling can reveal how the thinking behind that devolution is with us still.
“[V]alleys like the Humber and Don are not spoiled by arterial highways but beautified.” Well according to former Metropolitan Toronto Chair Frederick G. Gardiner anyway. Robert Caro writes in his Pulitzer–prize winning biography of Gardiner’s American role model, Robert Moses, that his subject “wanted the parkways to be broader and more beautiful than any roads the world had ever seen, landscaped as private parks are landscaped so that they would be themselves parks, ‘ribbon parks,’ so that even as people drove to parks, they would be driving through parks.” This attitude was typical of the mid-20th century, as people were increasingly driving to get to work, but also for pleasure. Taking a road trip became a vacation. Driving without a destination was an introspective journey and symbolized freedom and hope. These days, driving crammed on to busy, crumbling roads in Toronto, it’s hard to imagine that back in the 1940s, people spoke glowingly of the beauty of parkways and wanted roads through natural areas—including the Don Valley.
Although Moses’s pro-parkway views are well known, the DVP came about through the result of a popular referendum. Call it a New Year’s Day hangover, call it being misinformed: the fact remains that on January 1, 1946, Toronto voters handily approved the Don Valley Traffic Artery. However bizarre the rhetoric of the time may seem to us today Parkway as beautification? Parkway as park?—that’s what Toronto voters so enthusiastically embraced. We can see now that the DVP marks the post-war automotive age’s high-water mark in Toronto, an era that would falter with the 1971 cancellation of the Spadina Expressway.The cultural and urban planning gurus of the earlier era that brought us the DVP proclaimed the virtues of automotive parkways and limited-access transportation corridors.
Roy MacGregor's long article in The Globe and Mail about the Don River's history and rehabilitation is well worth reading.
The Don, however, was not always “heavily polluted and laden with scum.” First Nations traders found it a perfect encampment, the waters clean and the game plentiful. There was a time when the prisoners at the nearby jail protested because they were being fed too much fresh salmon from its waters.
Prof. Bonnell, in her research, discovered that the Don Valley was considered a paradise to early beekeepers. In going through the records of the Ontario Beekeeping Association from the late 1800s, she found that the valley was often sown with clover to produce sweeter-tasting honey and that the beekeepers were the first group to raise concerns about the health of the watershed.
“They were interested in environmental change because it was in their economic interest to do so,” she says. “They were among the first to speak out against insecticide poisoning. They spoke out against roadside spraying.”
But by then, of course, the Don River was quickly becoming a lost cause.
York had become Toronto and was spreading rapidly. The river was the perfect location for early grist and timber mills, then tanneries, brick works, chemical factories, oil refineries and the growing city’s increasingly busy port.
It stands today as the most urbanized watershed in Canada, with 1.2 million people living within it and roughly 90 per cent of the catchment area having residential, commercial or industrial development.
“Over the past 200 years,” Prof. Bonnell writes, “almost all of the significant wetlands within the watershed have been drained or filled to support urban development. The six tributaries of the lower river have mostly disappeared, buried by fill or encased within sewage infrastructure.”
The river and valley were once considered prime locations for such structures as the colony’s first parliament buildings, but gradually it became a place for necessary structures that the establishment might prefer a distance away. In a time of fears over cholera and malaria, the hospital was relocated from the city centre to the Don. An asylum followed, then a shelter and reformatory for the poor and vagrants – “idiots,” as well. The Toronto Jail and Industrial Farm (better known as the Don Jail) opened near the asylum.
“Linked to perceptions of the Don Valley as a ‘space for undesirables’ was its reputation as a frontier of sorts,” Prof. Bonnell writes, “a place that harboured and facilitated a certain degree of lawlessness.”
While excavating the memory of an old tablet, I found some photos that I had taken last October. They were taken as part of an expedition with a friend to the grounds of the Rosedale Heights School of the Arts, located on the opposite side of Bloor Street East from the Castle Frank TTC station, the same expedition that saw me post these photos of the grounds. Once you venture further from the school, a staircase leading down the sharp inclines of the Don Valley to an oddly soggy baseball field on the valley's floor, and great view of the Bloor Viaduct from unanticipated angles.
Torontoist's Catherine McIntyre has a great photo essay, with photos for Josh Allsopp, noting the history of degradation and revival of the Don River.
In 1969, the Don River was declared dead. A solemn procession made its way along College street, guiding the Don’s remains—buckets of polluted water—in a green Cadillac hearse to its final resting place. The funeral, arranged by the nascent environmental group Pollution Probe, attracted dozens of bereaved citizens who bade the river farewell that cold Sunday in November.
Forty-seven years later, nearly 1,000 people gather to pay their respects to the Don. But the mood is distinctly different on this particular Sunday. This is not a day to mourn, but to celebrate Canada’s most urbanized watershed. Once deemed contaminated beyond salvation, through years of concerted conservation and advocacy, the Don has been resurrected.
For the past 23 years, hundreds of Torontonians get together and paddle a 10.5-kilometre stretch of the Don River, from Leslie and Eglinton to the Toronto Harbourfront, and cherish what was once lost.
The Manulife Paddle the Don is one of myriad fundraising efforts to help restore the river and its surrounding watershed to the healthy ecosystem it was before intense urbanization nearly decimated it.
The degradation of the Don Valley Watershed is entwined with Toronto’s origin story. John Graves Simcoe, Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant-Governor, chose to establish the city—then the Town of York—west of the Don, largely because of the valley’s abundant timber and for being “admirably adapted for a Naval Arsenal and Dock Yard.”
- The Boston Globe's The Big Picture shares photos from this year's Boston Marathon.
- blogTO reports on the proposal to make the lower Don valley a new park.
- D-Brief notes the impending emergence of cicadas.
- The Dragon's Gaze links to the potentially cataclysmic consequences of very large impacts on early Venus.
- The Map Room Blog considers the process of mapping Pluto.
- Shadow, Light & Colour shares adorable photos of turtles at the Brickworks.
- Spacing Toronto is skeptical of the Special Investigations Unit.
- Speed River Journal's Van Waffle reports on the success of a men's knitting retreat he organized.
- Torontoist suggests Parkdale has become an independent coffee mecca.
- Towleroad notes James Franco's statement that he's a little bit gay.
I really liked Alex Bozikovic's article in Friday's issue of The Globe and Mail. This is a tremendous vision.
What if Toronto had a massive park ready to be born? A 480-acre green space on the edge of downtown with dramatic topography, a rich mix of plant and animal life and deep links to the history of Toronto?
It does: the lower part of the Don Valley. And after a century of neglecting and abusing that space, it is time for Torontonians to bring it back.
City officials and Evergreen, a non-profit group, have been working for months on an ambitious goal to transform a stretch of the valley, from Pottery Road down to Front Street near the river’s mouth, into a massive park.
You probably don’t know that landscape well. Most Torontonians don’t. We’ve seen it through car windows on the Valley Parkway, from the Bloor Street subway, from the windows of a GO train – but rarely from within. Though the upper Don Valley is relatively green and well used by locals, this part has been a dumping ground, a waste sink and a transportation corridor for more than a century. The potential for regeneration is awesome. But we have to learn how to see it.
To help that process, Evergreen brought together landscape architects and other professionals for a design charette in October. During a rainy two days at the Brickworks, a consensus emerged: that with better access and changes to the infrastructure in the valley, the city could gain a tremendous public space, insurance against the effects of climate change and a healthier river valley.