Chingaucousy Park

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Donald M. Gordon Chingaucousy Park is on the north-west corner of Bramalea Road and Queen Street in Brampton and contains an eclectic assortment of ways to entertain yourself.  There is also plenty of free parking on site.  This 100-acre park was formally known as the east half of Lot 6 in the 4th concession east Chingaucousy Township.  Chingaucousy township is named after an Ojibwa chief named Shingaucose.  The chief fought with the British in the War of 1812 but then went on to broker peace with the Americans and his tribe.

Lot 6 was granted to Richard Bristol in 1820 for service in the War of 1812.  Ralph Crawford bought Lot 7 to the north in 1823 and it was around this time that Lot 6 started changing hands as two 100-acre half lots.  Robert Crawford bought the east half, where Chingaucousy Park is today, in 1873.  The historical county atlas below shows the location of the Crawford properties relative to the young town of Brampton.  Chingaucousy Park is located on the property outlined in red while Robert Crawford’s other 200 acres are marked with orange. We followed a creek that feeds into the Etobicoke Creek north as far as Ralph Crawford’s Property.

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William Crawford owned it two years later and finally James Crawford worked the land.  In 1925 Herb Crawford and his wife Elsie bought it from Herb’s father James.  Like most pioneer farms the first house was a log cabin.  It was located about where the base of the ski hill is today. The log house had been replaced with a wood frame house in the 1850’s but by 1925 it was in poor condition.  The frame house also lacked the modern convenience of a furnace.  Herb and Elsie decided to replace it with a new one.  They started with a picture of a house that they clipped out of the newspaper.  Elsie was a dressmaker by trade and her experience with sewing patterns came in handy.  She sat down and drew up the plans for the house.  The Crawfords did as much of the construction as they could and contracted the rest.  They used their horses and a large scoop to dig out the basement, completing it by hand.  They sold a field of alfalfa to pay for a carpenter to come by train on a weekly basis to work on the house.  He was paid $10 per day.  By the spring they were ready to hire bricklayers and so they sold off a field of wheat to pay them.

The house is a two-story vernacular farmhouse with architectural influences of the Craftsman style.  This style emerged in the early 20th century with a movement toward craftsmanship and things handmade compared to machine made.  The house has front gable that crosses almost the entire roofline.  The porch is only partially as wide as the house.

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Like most pioneer families that lived off of the land there was an orchard near the house. The trees appear to be well tended as does the entire park.  It was closed for renovations for a season while the ski chalet was replaced and other buildings were modernized to create a consistent look to the park facilities.  The ski hill was also closed for a winter while a new belt lift was being installed.

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Looking for new income, and taking advantage of the spread of the personal automobile, the Crawfords built a gas station in 1933 on the property along the Queen Street frontage. In 1939 a new barn was needed and so Elsie went to work once again and designed the barn.  Today, the barn has been converted into a petting zoo for children.

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In 1970 the City of Brampton was designing the community of Bramalea with highrise residential surrounding the Bramalea City Centre shopping mall.  The city wisely chose to buy the 100-acre farm from the Crawfords for use as a large city park for all the new people they planned to put in the community.  The Crawfords dug a pond behind the barn for the use of the livestock.  When the city took over managing the property they created a second pond.  These two ponds provide habitat for a wide variety of waterfowl.  With a fresh layer of ice on the pond, the little island stands out in the middle.

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The petting zoo is housed in the barn but today many animals were in outside pens. Sheep, goats and alpaca were mixed in one pen while horses and asses were in another.

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The greenhouses provide an opportunity to see tropical plants and there is a wedding chapel as well.

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The greenhouse provides a wealth of colour during the otherwise drab winter months.  The warmth and humidity caused both my glasses and camera to fog up badly.

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A BMX and skateboard park along with mini-put, children’s playground and splash pad provide additional options for entertainment.  The winter months see the reflecting pool converted into a skating rink.  Tennis courts, curling and an outdoor track mean that you can’t experience it all in a single visit.  In the summer months a few rides are provided for the children.

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Mount Chingoucousy rises 69 feet off of the otherwise flat farmland.  The mount was created in the 1970’s using earth removed from the basements and underground parking garages that were dug during the development of the surrounding area.  The longest run is 617 feet and there are two runs.  Tubing and skiing are both allowed and a modern ski chalet with Wifi is provided as well.  At the base of the ski hill, as can be seen in the cover photo, are a series of beach volleyball courts.  Brampton’s mini version of California.

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A tributary of Etobicoke Creek flows almost straight north on the historical atlas above. When Bramalea was developed it was common practice to create concrete channels for the waterways to flow through.  Brampton had a history of flooding in their downtown core and putting Etobicoke Creek in a deep channel outside of town had solved the problem. Most of the creeks in the city were treated the same way.  The waterways became linear parks and the Chingaucousy Trail runs for about 8 kilometres north from Victoria Park Arena.  Some sections of the creek have been left in a natural condition and alders are common.  Wetlands have been created in Maitland Park to help purify stormwater runoff and provide wildlife habitat.

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Google Maps Link: Chingaucousy Park

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The Necropolis

Sunday, March 19, 2017

In the early years of the Town of York there were only a few places to bury the dead.  The Military Burying Grounds or your local church cemetery.  If you weren’t affiliated with one of these, were insane or a criminal, you would have a problem.  The need for a common public cemetery became an issue that reformers took up. William Lyon Mackenzie used his newspaper, the Colonial Advocate in Dec. 1825 to call for the creation of a city cemetery for York.  $300 was raised through public donation with no donation over $1 being accepted.  The first burial in the new cemetery took place on July 18, 1826.  The cemetery took on the name of the Potter’s Field and within 25 years it was getting full with 6,700 burials having taken place.  The problem became that the location on the north-west corner of Yonge and Bloor was no longer in the bushes outside of town. The land was now prime space for development and the cemetery was closed with the intention of moving all the remains to either Mount Hope Cemetery or the newly opened Toronto Necropolis. The word Necropolis is Greek for “city of the dead”.

The Necropolis opened in 1850 on 18.25 acres of land beside Riverdale Farm where there is free parking on Winchester Street.  It became a new public cemetery and to date has taken in over 50,000 bodies.  The buildings were designed in 1872 in the Gothic Revival style. When the crematorium was added in 1933 it was the first one in Ontario.  Many of Toronto’s prominent citizens are interred at the Necropolis and together their stories bring life to the place.

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When the Rebellion of 1837 was over, several people were arrested and charged with treason.  Samuel Lount was a blacksmith who had served a term on the council for the Province of Canada.  When his friend William Lyon Mackenzie was putting together followers for his rebellion against the Family Compact he recruited Samuel Lount to help. Peter Matthews had served in the war of 1812 under Sir Isaac Brock and he too was enticed to join the rebellion.  With the failure of the rebellion, the authorities decided to make an example out of Lount and Matthews.  They were both convicted of treason and in spite of 35,000 signatures requesting clemency, they were hanged on April 12, 1838.  Having died as criminals they were denied burial in Christian cemeteries and were placed in the Potter’s Field with a common marker.  Theirs were two of the bodies that were moved to the necropolis.

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William Lyon Mackenzie was born in 1795 and was a Canadian politician and journalist known for his leadership in the reform movement in Canada.  Aside from his Colonial Advocate, Mackenzie also got involved in politics becoming Toronto’s first Mayor in 1834. By 1837 Mackenzie was getting anxious for reform and started an open rebellion.  Starting from Montgomery’s Tavern near Yonge and Eglinton on Dec. 5th he planned to march into Toronto and take over the Bank of Canada.  The rebels failed and many were arrested. Mackenzie went into exile in the United States until 1849 when he came back to Canada. He died in 1861 and was buried in the public cemetery that he had advocated for.

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Following the War of 1812, there was an ongoing fear that another conflict with the United States was possible.  A series of cross-border raids by Fenian supporters thinking to conquer Canada and hold it ransom in exchange for a free Ireland led to a movement to unify the British North American Colonies for their common defence.  Buried in the Necropolis is William Tempest who died in 1866 in the Battle of Ridegway.

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George Brown was born in 1818 and moved to Toronto in 1843.  The next year he began to publish his reform newspaper The Globe.  It became the Globe and Mail in 1936 and today is one of the city’s largest newspapers.  Brown was also a prominent politician who was instrumental in Canadian Confederation.  He participated in both The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences in 1864 and in 1867 was one of the Father’s of Confederation.  He ran in the first general election in Canada but lost to Sir. John A. Macdonald.  Brown retired to his publishing industry until his death in 1880.  A dismissed employee came into his office and during a struggle, shot Brown in the leg.  He later died from an associated infection.

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Edward (Ned) Hanlan was raised on Toronto Island and as a schoolboy, he would row himself across the harbour each day to and from school.  Hanlan became a professional sculler in 1874 and by 1877 had won the Canadian Championship.  He took the American and English titles in 1878 and 1879 respectively.  These victories led Ned to try for the world championship in 1880 which he won easily.  This made Ned Hanlan the first Canadian athlete to win a world championship and gain international attention.  Ned held the world championship for five years between 1880 and 1885.

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The Hanlan family had arrived on the island in 1862 as one of the first permanent residents.  When a violent storm hit in 1865 their house was washed into the water where it floated to Gibraltar Point.  The family just re-established themselves and began to put together an amusement park.  In 1878 John Hanlan built a large hotel on the west tip of the island looking north toward the city.  This end of the island soon came to be known as Hanlan’s Point.

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When the World Trade Centre was destroyed and The Pentagon attacked on September 11, 2001, the President Of The United States declared war on terror. As early as October 2001 military personnel were secretly deployed in Afghanistan.  Canada deployed more troops on an official mission in January 2002.  On the night of April 17, 2002, the Canadian forces were conducting exercises on Tarnak Farm near Kandahar when an American bomber mistook their practices for an attack and dropped a laser-guided 500-pound bomb on the Canadians.  Four men were killed including Ainsworth Dyer.  They were the first Canadians killed in combat since the Korean War.

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The cemetery is still taking new burials and one of the more recent is of Canadian medal and coin designer Dora de Pedery Hunt.  Dora was born in Budapest in 1913 and completed her studies in sculpture in 1943.  Arriving in Canada she took a job as a housekeeper to support herself.  After getting a job teaching sculpture she was able to devote her time and talents to designing medals and coins.  Her designs for some of the 1976 Olympic Coins brought her to international fame.

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Beginning in 1990 Dora de Pedery Hunt’s design for the Queen began to be used on Canadian Coins.  She was the first Canadian to design an effigy of Queen Elizabeth II for a coin in Canada.

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The Necropolis contains the remains of those who are remembered for a legacy that is recorded in the history books.  Among them lie the remains of those whose stories are only remembered by their families, or perhaps not at all.  The stones tell a story of infant mortality and death in childbirth.  Cholera and Spanish Flu epidemics have also taken their victims.  The stone below is an example of tragedy striking a family.  Hannah Horsman passed away 6 days after giving birth to a son named Albert.  The unfortunate little boy didn’t survive his first year.

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50,000 people are laid to rest in the Necropolis and each one of them has their own story to tell.  These are just a few of them.

Google Maps Link: The Necropolis

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Camp Of The Crooked Creek

Saturday, March 10, 2017

Starting in the 1920’s The boy Scouts had permission to use a piece of property in Scarborough for camping exercises.  After buying the land, the Scouts carried on there until 1968 when the site was taken over by the Metropolitan Toronto Conservation Authority and added to Morningside Park.  The buildings were removed but evidence of the camp must still exist.  To see what could be found we made our way to the original entrance off of Plover Road. There are a couple of free parking spots on Plover Road or in the neighbourhood.

In 1907 Gen. Robert Baden-Powell started taking groups of boys to Brownsea Island in the UK and The Boy Scouts were born.  Scouting began in Canada at about the same time.  The Canadian General Council of The Boys Scout Association was incorporated by an act of parliament on June 12, 1914.  The camp location was ideal because of the hilly terrain, winding creek and abundant wildlife.  Being only 15 miles from Toronto it also meant that day trips for hiking and wiener roasts were even practical.  The Toronto Council made regular trips here and eventually decided to purchase the property so that they could erect buildings on it.  In 1936 the Lennox family sold approximately 100 acres to The Boy Scouts Association for their campground.  A set of gates with a wide arch was erected just off of Plover Road.

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When it came time to name the new camp a contest was opened up for all the Scouts in Toronto and the name Camp Of The Crooked Creek was chosen.  A chapel was provided for non-denominational worship services for the Scouts while on their weekend camping trips.  A small wooden altar and a number of benches were scattered in the clearing seen below.  It’s too bad they were removed because they would have made a great place for an outdoor educational program to be taught.

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Tree roots form an informal stairway as you go up and down the hill between the location of the chapel and the creek below.  Before the 1950’s everything the Scouts used in the valley below had to be carried up and down this hill.

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The most obvious remnant of the old campground is this bridge over the creek.  Only, the creek isn’t here anymore, it is to the left in the picture below.  The cover photo shows a side view and reveals where the creek used to run under the bridge.  Most of the wooden handrails have rotted and fallen off of the bridge but the concrete and steel construction will remain for years to come.

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Eroded embankments show where the crooked creek used to run.  There are half a dozen of these sandbanks along the section of the creek through the old camp.  When the conservation authority took over managing the area they decided to move the creek to reduce flooding and erosion.  The creek was widened and straightened and the former stream bed filled in leaving these eroded hills stranded from the creek that created them.

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Every year the creek was dammed with rocks to create a swimming hole.  Storms would sometimes breach the dam and the boys would set about repairing it.  The old swimming hole was lost when the creek was re-routed and today the creek is so spread out that there is no place where you can wet more than your feet in the water, short of sitting down. When the water levels are low there are plenty of places where the creek can be crossed on foot. When the water level turns the creek into a barrier, or for the less adventurous, the other side of the old campground can be accessed through Morningside Park.

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When Hurricane Hazel hit Toronto in October 1954 the campground was flooded. Fortunately, the campground was vacant at the time but in other parts of the city 81 people lost their lives.  This prompted the conservation authorities across the city to start to buy up land that was in flood plains which they later turned into parkland.  In keeping with this, in 1961 the camp was designated as a conservation school.  It operated in this capacity until 1968 when it finally closed.  That was when the creek was given a makeover including all the riffles added to ensure the water would be oxygen rich to support life.

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The main playing fields were on the east side of the creek.  Today the former playing fields are taken up by a parking lot and picnic sites.  The road through Morningside Park passes through an area that the Scouts had named Big Bear Swamp.  The road is built over a section of the swamp that has been filled in.  Invasive Phragmites are growing along the edge of the swamp.  These tall reeds are allelopathic which means they release toxins into the soil that prevent the growth of competing plants.  Each phragmite seed head can contain at least 2,000 seeds but they also spread from extensive rhizomes underground. Some of these rhizomes can be 30 metres long with a new plant growing every 30 centimetres along the length.

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Near the Big Bear Swamp is an extensive patch of skunk cabbage.  They produce their own heat to melt through the frozen ground so that they can bloom early.  The outer leaves form a spathe which protects the delicate flower as the bud emerges from the ground.  The pungent odour emitted from the flower attracts small insects that go inside the spathe to pollinate the flower.  These first flowers of spring actually never open and contain none of the colourful petals we associate with flowers.

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The old access way off of Plover Road descends the hill along the side of a small ravine.  It makes a switchback as it curves back toward the old bridge in the ravine below the chapel. This road allowance was created in the 1950’s when the Scouts needed a new way to get their supplies to the bottom of the ravine.  Prior to this, a local farmer had delivered things to the valley with his tractor.

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For additional reading and lots of historic photos the following web page is an excellent resource:  Camp of the Crooked Creek

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Google Maps Link: Morningside Park

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Kew Gardens – The Beach

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Kew Gardens and Kew Beach have a long history of entertaining those who were looking for an escape from the city.  Joseph and Jane Williams moved to the area of the beach in 1853 and set up a garden farm north of Queen Street.  The following year they were selling their Kew Farms Vegetables to the markets in the newly named city of Toronto.  Williams took the name for his farm from Kew Gardens in London, England which had just opened in 1841.  In the mid-1860’s Williams gained the lands below Queen Street all the way down to the lake.  At the time Queen Street was almost impassable with stumps still stuck in the middle.  Much of Williams new property was swamp and, along with his three sons, he began to clear it.  I went to see what the property looked like today.  There is some free street parking in the neighbourhood.  I parked on Leuty Avenue right beside the beach to begin my exploration.

As Joseph cleared the land he cut up the wood into cords and shipped it by his own barge to Toronto to sell.  In 1879 he opened the Canadian Kew Gardens as a beach resort.  He took on summer boarders and built camping houses and set up tents for guests.  Food and lawn bowling, as well as swimming, and picnic lunches, were provided for entertainment.  The garden still retains a section that has been left natural and has many older trees, although perhaps not original ones.

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Kew Williams was the grandson of Joseph Williams and when he got married in 1902 he gave his wife a new house built at Kew Gardens.  The Queen Anne style house has a round veranda and cupola.  Stone for the house was collected from the bottom of the Bay of Quinte by Tom, Joe and Johnny Williams in a process known as stone hooking.  All three of Joseph’s sons made a living off of Lake Ontario working as sailors.  When the city bought Kew Gardens in 1907 they paid 43,200 for it.  One condition was made by Williams and that was that there should never be a road passing through the property.  Within a year they had removed or demolished all the original buildings on the land except for this house which they kept for use by the gardener.

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In 1916 the city built a library on the northeast corner of Kew Gardens.  It was one of three built in the English Cottage style, High Park and Wynchwood being the other two.  It was one of the city’s first libraries to allow the public to have direct access to the books.  It also features a fireplace on the second floor.  Although the residents generally refer to the area as The Beach the library uses Beaches.  Perhaps in reference to the three beaches, Woodbine, Kew and Balmy that made up the early communities.

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The city of Toronto made a huge contribution to World War One with over 70,000 men enlisting.  As the war progressed the number of widows and fatherless increased.  Doctor William D. Young lived in The Beach and began to take care of the sick and needy free of charge.  It is said that wealthier patients helped cover the cost of treatment for the poor through the use of Victory Bonds given to the doctor.  It is also said that the good doctor paid for coal and food for those who were in need of help.  When he passed away in 1918 it was a tremendous loss to the community.  Two years later a drinking fountain was installed in Kew Gardens in honour of William Young.

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In 1930 the city enlarged the current beach and added wooden groynes to reduce erosion on the beach.  In 1932 the boardwalk was added although it has been replaced more than once and has also been lengthened and widened.

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The Leuty Lifeguard Station was built in 1920 and has been a fixture on the beach ever since.  It was designed by the same firm that designed Sunnyside Bathing Pavillion, Palais Royale and the Prince’s Gates at the CNE.  They also built the Cherry Beach lifeguard station to the same design although it has since been modified.  The beach used to be crowded with private boathouses and commercial buildings where you could buy food.  The city has slowly removed most of the structures on the beach to help stabilize it.  It is said that this lifeguard station has been involved with saving over 6,000 lives during the years that it has stood watch at the foot of Leuty Avenue.  It was recognized as a historical site in 1993 and has been carefully restored.

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The Leuty Boathouse was built in 1932 and stood closer to the water until 1954.  Hurricane Hazel damaged the building and it was moved to its present location north of the beach. The gables and other architectural elements were removed when it was restored after the hurricane.

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Lake Ontario was very clear as I walked out a short finger pier that was made out of chunks of stone.  In the 1970’s the city built stone groynes into the lake to help retain the sand on the beach.  The longshore drift in the lake carries sand from the Scarborough Bluffs west along the shore and deposits it to form the various beaches that extend as far as Mississauga. Efforts to stop the erosion of the bluffs have reduced the amount sand arriving at the beach.  Groynes are needed to keep the beach from being reduced as sand is carried away and not replaced.

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The beach has an interesting art form on it.  These 41 evergreen trees hang upside down to represent the great north above us.  They hang in precarious balance to remind us of the balance of nature and how precarious it can be.

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Two of the stone groynes along the end of Kew Beach have been broken apart.  Others in the distance stand well above the water line.

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Kew Gardens is used for all sorts of community events including the jazz festival.  When the bandshell needed to be replaced in 1992 it was named after Alex Christie who played a major role in local politics.

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The little community of Norway grew up at the crossroads of Woodbine and Kingston Road.  A toll booth existed here and as early as 1837 there were already 80 residents.  The community was named after its supply of Norway Pine and soon had a hotel, brewery and a general store.  In 1850 three acres were set aside for a church and cemetery.  The first church was replaced in 1892 with the brick church we see below.  Many members of the Joseph Williams family were laid to rest here.  When Dr. Young was buried here in 1918 they lined the streets to get into the church.

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In the corner of the gardens, along Queen Street, is a memorial to the soldiers from the area who fought in the two world wars.

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There’s plenty more to explore in The Beach on some sunny day in the future.

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Imperial Oil Lands

Saturday, March 4, 2017

J. C. Saddington Park sits between Mississauga Road and the mouth of the Credit River.  To the west of Mississauga Road, south of Lakeshore, lie the 73 acres of brown space known as the Imperial Oil Lands.  There is parking on at the end of Mississauga Road at J. C. Saddington Park, as can be seen on the Google Earth map below.  Key points from today’s exploration are also marked on the map.

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Thomas Nightingale opened a brickyard on the west side of the Credit River in the 1880’s. The addition of a stone crusher increased production to the point that by 1900 there wasn’t enough local labour to run the brickyards.  A series of bunkhouses were constructed and Italian workers were brought in to meet the demand.  The archive photo below shows the Port Credit Brickyards in their prime.

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After the First World War, the clay was becoming exhausted and the yards started operating at a loss. By 1929 the brickyards were closed.  This brick was found on the property of the old brickyards where it was made, perhaps over 100 years ago.

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In 1933 the Lloyd Refining Company purchased part of the property to build a modern refinery capable of producing 1,500 barrels a day.  The refinery changed hands a few times including 1937 and 1946.  In 1955 the property was purchased by Texaco and their Canadian subsidiary McColl-Frontenac began operating the refinery.  In 1959 the name was changed to Texaco Canada Ltd.  Petrochemicals were produced here beginning in 1978 but by 1985 it was starting to be decommissioned.  The oil tank farm was removed first and by 1987 it was fully closed.  Only one small building remains on site along with a storage shed.

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The property has sat vacant for a couple of decades now and is highly contaminated from its years as an oil refinery.  As of March 2017, Imperial Oil is selling the property to a developer who plans to develop a waterfront park, mid-rise condos and affordable housing on the site.  Today the property is home to a large selection of wildlife.  Coyote scat is everywhere and rabbits and squirrels provide food for them as well as the hawks.  A white tailed deer was casually feeding just inside the fence from Mississauga Road.

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Roadways and concrete pads mark the locations of the former tanks and buildings.  The property is marked as no trespassing because of the numerous hazards that exist throughout.  This story is presented to preserve the site as it exists at this moment in time.  Soon it will change forever and this chapter will be lost.  Choosing to explore here is solely your responsibility.  A large man-made pond covers a section of the property and may feature in redevelopment plans for a central park within the community.  The pond is currently full of pipes that have started to break apart over the years of abandonment.

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The lower corner of the pond still has the dam and flood control devices intact.  Two sluice gates could be opened by turning handwheels.  The cover photo shows a closer look at the mechanics of the system.

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Outflow from the pond was transferred to a series of settling ponds to remove solids from the water.  From here it was carried through a concrete pipe and released into the lake.

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We made our way to the end of the concrete pipe that discharged the water from the pond on the Imperial Oil Lands.  The round concrete pipe has been encased in a concrete shell to protect it from the effects of the lake.

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The Waterfront Trail takes the name Imperial Oil Trail as it passes along the lake side of the property.  We followed it west to where you are forced briefly to follow the road.  That wasn’t such a bad thing as we were treated to a broad-winged hawk sitting on a hydro wire.  These birds usually winter in the south and I wonder if this one was noticing the -20-celsius wind and wishing it hadn’t come back yet.

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Ben Machree Park has some interesting wood carvings by Jim Menkin.  Jim has converted dead tree stumps into art with his chainsaw in many parts of Ontario including Orangeville and Mississauga.  This park features three wood carvings named “Sirens of Homer’s Odyssey”.

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We returned along the Imperial Oil Trail east toward the mouth of the Credit River.  Just east of the concrete drainage pipe from the oil lands is a lengthy finger pier extending out into Lake Ontario.  This pier provides great views to the west looking toward Rattray Marsh.  To the east, you can see the Ridgetown with the city of Toronto in the background. The ship is partially sunk at the mouth of the Credit River to provide shelter for the marina.  Our post on the Ridgetown contains its fascinating history.

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In the 1940’s Port Credit ended at Lake Street, of all places!  Today it extends out into the lake in the form of J. C. Saddington Park.  This park is built on a decommissioned dump that was in use from 1949 to 1970. A pond has been created for recreation and fishing and benches positioned around for relaxation. The pond has a thin layer of ice on it from the past two days of cold weather and a light dusting of snow.  A sliver of the moon can be seen above the trees in the middle of the picture.

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Three historic buildings stand in the corner of the parking lot. Dating from 1922 to 1923 the Port Credit Waterworks pumping station was a major advancement in the infrastructure of Port Credit.

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Swans, Canada Geese and several species of ducks were all to be seen in the lake today.  Of interest was the fact that they have gone back into pairs after spending the winter in groups.  Spring must be coming soon…

A 1973 Toronto Archive Aerial photo of the oil lands can be accessed here.

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Google Maps Link: J. C. Saddington Park

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Devil’s Falls

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Devil’s Creek plunges 12 metres over the side of the Grand River cliffs and joins the river on its way toward Lake Erie. There are stories of smoke that used to be seen coming from a cave on the cliffs just north of the creek.  Parents told their children that a devil lived in the cave to keep them from exploring the dangerous cliffs.  In no time the little creek near Cambridge had taken on the name Devil’s Creek (Google Maps link).

Devil’s Creek Trail runs for 1.6 kilometres along the lower section of the creek.  Devil’s Creek is only 2.8 kilometres long and starts near Devil’s Creek Pond.  It is fed by springs making it a rare example of a cold water aquatic environment in an urban setting.  There is parking in a small park along Blair Road for those who want only a short walk to the falls. Devil’s Creek Drive has street parking and allows for a visit to Grandview Pond and a longer walk to the falls.  Grandview Pond is spring fed but also accepts a large amount of runoff and storm water.  It fills up quickly but drains into Devil’s Creek to keep it running all year long.  Unlike a deeper lake, sunlight reaches the bottom of the pond.  The vegetation that this supports gives shelter to small mouth bass, painted turtles and leopard frogs.

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In 1998 The Devil’s Creek Trail was completed north of the CPR tracks.  The trail follows the CPR tracks through extensive wetlands.

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Work was completed on the next section of the trail during the winter of 2001/2002. Winter was chosen so the impact on the local environment would be lessened.  A boardwalk was constructed to carry the trail above the creek as it passes under the railway tracks.  The concrete bridge over Devil’s Creek replaces an earlier wooden trestle, of which the pilings can still be seen between the boardwalk and the concrete as you pass by.

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Both sides of the trail are marked as environmentally sensitive and hikers are asked to remain on the main trail.  Thirty rare plant species and the Jefferson Salamander are being protected in these woods.  Eastern Skunk Cabbage grows in wetlands and the woods along the trail support a large colony of plants.  Skunk Cabbage is one of only a few plants known for its thermogenesis properties.  It can produce temperatures from 15 to 35 degrees celsius above the surrounding air.  It literally melts its way through the frozen ground and often blooms through the snow.  The leaves do not surface until later in the spring.

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In the 1970’s the surrounding area was developed for a subdivision and the section of Devil’s Creek between the CPR tracks and Bismark Street was straightened and widened. This channel ran through a park where manicured lawns extended to the water’s edge. The creek was shallow and without shade, it was too warm to support fish.  By the 1990’s it was deemed that this section was a high priority for naturalization.  Devil’s Creek once again was given a curved path with several deeper pools to provide colder places to shelter brook trout.  Riffles were added to make the water gurgle over small rocks and pick up oxygen from the air in doing so.  A streamside pool was also added as a breeding place for frogs and newts.

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Riparian zones are patches of plant growth along the edges of a flow of water.  They provide shade and habitat for land and aquatic creatures alike.  The root systems help provide erosion control by stabilizing the stream banks.  Native trees and shrubs were planted through this reach, including Purple Flowering Raspberry, Staghorn Sumac and White Pine.

Devil’s Creek begins its decent toward the Grand River just before the bridge on George Street.  The creek flows over this small ledge of dolostone and then is forced into a short concrete channel as it flows under the bridge.  The 12 metre falls is immediately on the other side of the bridge.  This little waterfall was once the site of a footbridge that has since been washed away.  The trail on the right leads to an abandoned set of wooden stairs leading to a fence and a former access to the subdivision beyond.

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Devil’s Creek, and the Devil’s Creek Trail both pass under George Street before coming to their respective ends just beyond.  Devil’s Creek ends in a 12-metre cascade down to The Grand River below.  Devil’s Creek Trail ends at The Grand Trunk Trail which connects to several other trails in the neighbourhood.

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Devil’s Creek has cut a narrow channel through the limestone cliffs over the years.  From the crest of the waterfall, you can see down to the Grand River below.  The cedar trees pictured below are clinging to the side of the cliff above the falls.

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The limestone bluffs along the edge of the Grand River were formed 350 to 500 million years ago when this area was under the warm tropical Michigan Sea.  They run along the west side of the river while the east side has the Galt Country Club which is at river level.

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The Devil’s Creek waterfall empties almost directly into the river after spilling over the cliffs.  The white water curling away from the edge marks the confluence which is otherwise lost when the river is flooding and dirty.

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As you drive along Blair Road, returning to the 401, there is an unusual stone barn known as the Slit Barn.  It was built by William Young sometime around 1840.  This three bay barn was built in the traditional Scottish style but from the rear also incorporates elements of the Mennonite bank barns favoured by the German settlers in the area.  The three rows of slits were designed to provide ventilation so that the grain would not rot in storage.  The slits are three times as wide on the inside of the barn as they are on the outer wall.  This increases the amount of light in the barn while keeping the rain to a minimum.  The only other example of a stone barn with ventilation slits that we have featured so far was found at The Hermitage.

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Other stories in The-Devil-Made-Me-Do-It series: Devil’s Punchbowl,  Devil’s Pulpit, Devil’s Well

Our all-time top posts are featured in this special review.

Google Maps Link: Devil’s Falls

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Beltline Railway – Kay Gardner Beltline

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Toronto was experiencing a building boom in the 1880’s and land speculation was rampant.  A plan was put forward to develop a commuter railway to service new communities that would be opened for development.  By 1892 the rail line was up and running with 44 stops and one grand showpiece station.  However, a recession slowed the growth of the city at that time and the riders never arrived.  After only 28 months the passenger service was suspended and the line was used mainly to service industrial establishments for the next century.  The original line has since been cut into three sections, severed by Mount Pleasant Cemetery and Allen Road.  The archive picture below shows one of the period flyers advertising the railway.  The picture includes a sketch of the train crossing the bridge on Yonge Street.  This bridge is one of two originals remaining on the line and is featured as our cover photo.

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Previously we explored both the northern section and the southern one.  Links to both of these are provided at the end of this story.  Much of the history of the railway is contained in the two previous stories and therefore I won’t cover it again here.  I parked on Newgate Road near Elm Ridge Drive to investigate the middle section with the plan to hike the 4 kilometres from Allen Road to Mount Pleasant Road.  This section of trail passes through Forest Hill which it was designed to serve in the days before personal automobiles. The trail was hard packed with ice and snow and the sunshine and mild temperatures were starting to melt everything.  Footing was slippery today but most of the year there is a hard packed gravel surface.  Although I saw plenty of evidence that the trail is used by dog walkers I didn’t see any other pedestrians until I reached Eglinton Avenue after which it was quite busy.

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Along the trail are several places where someone has been leaving seed for the birds and squirrels.  As a result, the squirrels have no fear of people and sit up to see what treats you may have.  In the wild a grey squirrel has a very short lifespan living for only 11 or 12 months.  In captivity, they have been noted as living up to 20 years.

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This is one of my favourite trails in the heat of the summer.  There are many places where the trees stretch over the trail from both sides making the trail well shaded.  It also has a grade of less than 4 percent which is typical for railways. Therefore there are no hills to climb in the heat of the day.  This is a multi-use trail and a speed limit of 15 kilometres per hour has been set so that cyclist won’t impact the enjoyment of dog walkers and people out for a casual stroll.

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The trail is well used by people walking their dogs but, unfortunately, there are many who do not clean up after their pets.  Both sides of this trail are covered with dog faeces to the point where you can hardly step between the piles in some places.  In colder climates, it can take up to a year for dog faeces to decompose, longer if the animal is eating primarily meat.  From an environmental standpoint, it is better to buy “flushable” poop bags rather than nonbiodegradable ones that sit in a landfill for years.  Either way, please remember this stuff doesn’t melt along with the snow.

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The Eglinton Avenue bridge over the Beltline railway has been replaced with a modern concrete structure when the road was widened.  This was the site of the Eglinton stop on the railway and the artwork on the underside of the bridge portrays some early railway scenes.

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Some of the stops on this early commuter service can still be clearly seen along the trail. There are places where there is an open space on either side of the tracks where a walkway or set of stairs provide access to the adjacent community.  Many of the stops on the railway were simply whistle stops and the train only stopped if passengers wanted to get on or off. The first one of these south of Eglinton is the site of today’s Robert Bateman Park. A renowned Canadian Artist, Robert Bateman spent his childhood exploring the beltline before it was reclaimed as parkland.  The picture below shows one of these former stops on the railway.

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Kay Gardner was a city councillor who in 1990 lobbied the city to buy the abandoned beltline lands for use as a linear park.  In May of 2000, the park was renamed Kay Garner Beltline Park in her honour.  The railway has been stripped of most of the clues to its former use.  A typical railway right of way is 100 feet wide.  This strip of land can be seen running between the two fences that border the trail.  In some places the rail bed can be seen as a raised berm and in others a cut embankment reveals the rail bed.  The picture below displays both.

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Since opening the trail the city has been busy restoring the strip of land.  Newly planted trees line the rail berm near Avenue Road.  Each new tree has a green treegator bag around the base.  These bags serve as water reservoirs for the transplanted trees.  They help reduce the shock to the tree and each bag holds 15 gallons of water.  They need to be filled about once per week.

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The trail crosses over the Davisville Subway Yards before it reaches Yonge Street.  When the TTC opened its first subway line in 1954 it ran between Union Station and Eglinton. The Davisville yards were the main carhouse and maintenance shops for the subway cars.  The first two subway cars were delivered to the Hillcrest Complex but after that, new cars were delivered to the Davisville yards via the Beltline Railway.  A temporary interchange was built on the north side of the Yonge Street beltline bridge.  These yards were used to store all TTC subway trains between 1954 and 1966 when the larger Wilson Yards were opened.

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The rail bridge on Yonge Street is one of two original structures remaining on the line.  The other one is located over Dufferin Street.  From 1970 until the 1990’s this bridge was closed to pedestrian traffic.

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The trail continues east from here across the top of Mount Pleasant Cemetery.  Turning south the trail reaches Moore Street which was the site of the elegant Moore Park station.

Other Sections of the Belt Line:  Moore Park in the south and York Belt Line Trail in the north.

Google Maps Link: Kay Gardner Beltline Trail

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