Tag Archives: Don River

West Don Parkland

August 31, 2019

It was a perfect temperature for hiking and also for mosquitoes.  We decided to visit the West Don Parklands to explore the west side of the river and found parking on Maxwell Street where there is access under the power corridor.  We followed the West Don River north until we came to private property and were forced to turn back.  The picture below is a capture from the Toronto Archives of a 1960 aerial photograph of the area we explored.  Our trail has been roughly traced in green while the river is coloured in blue.

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Japanese Beetles were plentiful in the field under the meadow that runs under the hydro corridor.  They are native to the islands of Japan and were first found in the United States in 1916 and in Canada in 1939.  Since then they have spread throughout North America.  The adults eat large amounts of foliage and severely damage over 250 different host plants that they feed on.  Although there are treatment programs designed to reduce the impact of these beetles the picture below gives a good indication of why they continue to thrive.

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At the bottom of the hill the West Don River flows over a small concrete dam and through a dissipator.  It is interesting to see the water that flows over the top of the dam and onto the concrete piers hitting them with considerable force and yet arriving at the bottom in a calm pool having dissipated all of the energy it gained through the drop.  The top of this dam has become clogged with branches and logs that have floated down stream and become caught up in the first row of piers.  Some of it has been there so long that it is silted up and vegetation is growing on the top.

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The valley floor has become overgrown with dog strangling vines and wild cucumber vines.  The wild cucumber is native to Africa but has become naturalized in the New World.  Unlike the dog strangling vine, the wild cucumber does not choke out and kill the vegetation that it grows along with.  The fruit are cultivated and eaten in many places such as Brazil where it is used in a meat and vegetable stew.

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The West Don River was running slow and at a very low level.  Just to the north of here G. Ross Lord Dam and Reservoir are used to collect storm water and release it slowly to prevent flooding in the lower reaches of the river.  Therefore, even after a heavy rainfall this section of the river will see a minimal rise in water levels.

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The chicory appears to have had a very good year and the plants and flowers were plentiful.  Chicory has been used for years as an alternative or additive to coffee.  Chicory is used during times of shortage such as The Depression and Second World War by mixing it up to 60% with 40% coffee.  It gives the coffee a slightly woody flavour.  Tender leaves can also be collected and added directly to salads.

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We came to a sign that said that if you find the log bridge to be impassable you should return and take an alternate side trail.  This naturally prompted us to go and have a look to see if the bridge was impassable.  It wasn’t in very good shape but we did manage to cross carefully.

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Once you clear the bridge there is an extended boardwalk that is not in perfect shape but is safe if you watch for the occasional broken board.

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The trail follows the river and leads to the Forest Valley Outdoor Education Centre which is operated by the Toronto District School Board.  The centre plays host to over 17,000 students each year from 170 different schools who come here to learn about and develop an appreciation for nature.  After you pass the buildings on this site you can follow the trail along the river which leads to a place where a pedestrian bridge once crossed the river.

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Orange Jewelweed has been used in traditional medicine for years as a remedy for poison ivy exposure.  The juice from the flower and leaves can be applied to skin that has been exposed to poison ivy and it has been proven effective at preventing a rash from forming.  The one caution is that some people are known to be allergic to jewelweed and can have an even more severe reaction to this plant than the one they may have had to the poison ivy.

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In the 1877 county atlas the property at the south east corner of modern Dufferin and Finch is shown as belonging to Mrs. E Reggett.  To the west of her property Dufferin street ran north on the Gore and Vaughan Plank Road of which there are still remnants in the valley where Dufferin is shown making its curve.  They can be seen at this link.  Interpretive signage in the park indicates that a grist mill was operated in this location but it wasn’t shown on the county atlas, indicating it was a later construction.

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A little farther along the river we came to the location of the former Reggett grist mill.    The ruins themselves appear to be on a fairly small scale for an actual grist mill.  They are also made out of poured concrete which shows that they were built some time after 1900.  The mill has been gone for a long time but the ruins on the river can be seen in photographs that predate the construction of the outdoor education centre.  This suggests that they were not built as part of an educational display but were the actual Reggett mill ruins.

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Two steel brackets extend out of the concrete to mount the water wheel on.  The recess for the wheel is only a couple of feet in diameter which suggests that this was a very small wheel and was not used to generate significant power.

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The water was directed over the wheel or off to the side by moving a board from one channel to another in the head race.  Today the whole system is crumbling and a tree is starting to grow at the fork in the channel.

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We chose to follow the driveway from the education centre back to the road where we could make our way back to the car.  This is an interesting park and it would be cool to see what lies on the east side of the river.  Perhaps one day…

Google Maps Link: West Don Parklands

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E. T. Seton Park

Saturday, December, 8, 2018

E. T. Seton Park is named after Ernest Thomson Seton who was born in England but moved to Canada with his parents in 1866 at the age of 6.  His father was abusive and he spent much of his time in the Don Valley near the park.  He became famous as an author, painter and a founding member of The Boy Scouts of America.  The park that was named after him follows the West Don River south and features an archery range, disc golf and extensive trails.  We parked for free in the lot that is south of Eglinton accessed off of Leslie Street.  We roughly followed the orange trail on the Google Earth capture below as far as the Forks of the Don.

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The north part of the park has a couple of ponds that sit in the valley below the Ontario Science Centre.  Originally the Science Centre was planned in 1961 with an opening in 1967 for the Canadian Centennial celebrations.  The three pods were designed to match the contours of the Don Valley that it was built along.  Opening was delayed until September 2, 1969.  The ice may be thin on the pond but this was no obstacle to the local coyote.

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The fresh snow always looks so nice sitting on the tree branches.  As the morning progressed the brief periods of sunshine caused the snow to slide of the branches and created the occasional brief snow shower and even a nice dump of snow down the back of the neck just for laughs.

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E. T. Seton Disc Golf Course is 18 holes long, each one a par 3.  The course winds along the river in both directions so that yo get to walk the length of the park as you play.  There are disc golf associations that play here but the course is open to everyone who wants to try.  Local rules require a spotter on holes 9 (two-way pedestrian traffic) and 10 (near the archery range) to avoid hitting someone from a tee shot.  The first disc golf course was built 1975 in California.  Today there are over 4,000 courses around the world with there being three free ones in Toronto.  The E. T. Seton Park course opened in 2001 but there is also a course on Toronto Islands and at Centennial Park.

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An old bridge crosses the Don River near where the Upper Mill was in the Taylor Paper making empire.  The Lower Mill was located at Todmorden.  The large parking area just north of the bridge was the site of the paper mill for over 100 years.  The main trial is paved and continues along the east side of the river while a smaller bicycle trail follows the west side of the river.  It passes under the railway tracks.

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Each of the major rivers in the GTA have a split or fork in them.  The West Don River flows through the heart of the park until it reaches the point where east meets west.  The East Don River was formerly known as the Middle Don.  At that time, Taylor-Massey Creek was known as the East Don.  The Forks of the Don can be explored from either side of the river but access to the middle of the forks is only possible by trespassing on the short but active railway bridge above and so we don’t suggest that you do this.

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From the tracks you can see the bridge where Don Mills Road crosses the ravine with the railway in it.  Behind the road is the bridge that carried an old section of Don Mills Road that has been abandoned when the new section opened.

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Two trails make their way up the west side of the West Don River.  The upper trail is known as Catalyst while Beaver Flats is the name of the lower one.  These trails appear to be primarily used by bicyclists and the sharp turns and sudden rises in the trail will require a sharp eye to avoid getting run over.

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I’m not sure if this is intended to be a piece of artwork but we do get tired of seeing tires in our parks and ravines.  They are great places for still water to sit in the summer and create breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

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The Canadian National Railway bridge spans the West Don River ravine in the distance.  This bridge sits on an old set of cut stone piers as well as a newer set that was made of poured concrete.

 

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The CPR bridge is seen in this 1955 photo.  Of note is the system of wires that along the poles beside the trestle.  Today there are only one or two wires and all the accessible glass insulators have been removed.

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The park continues to the south and links up with the Lower Don Trail as well as Taylor Creek Park.  There is plenty more to explore another day.

Google Maps Link: E. T. Seton Park

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Taylor Creek Park

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Taylor-Massey Creek is one of the most significant tributaries of The Don River.  It joins the river near the Forks of the Don and was at one time known as the East Don River and today’s East Don was then known as Middle Don.  The county atlas below shows the extent that the Taylor family controlled the lands around the Don River and Taylor-Massey Creek.  They had a huge share in the early paper industry in York (Toronto) as they had opened the first paper mill in the city at Todmorden.  They eventually owned three paper mills with the upper mill being at the Forks of the Don.  The Taylors also formed the Don Valley Brick Works and were among the leading early 19th century industrialists in the city.  By 1877 most of the original forest cover had been removed but Warden Woods (circled in green) remained with Taylor-Massey Creek flowing through it.  As a point of interest, looking at the property owners on the left side of the map reveals the origin of the name “Leaside”.

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Taylor-Massey Creek joins the Don River just west of the old Don Mills Road.  This morning the ice was just forming on the confluence of the creek and river.  There is free parking in the Taylor Creek parking lot.  From the lot, we made the short trek back to the mouth of the creek before setting out to explore the unmaintained trail on the west side of the creek.  The Taylor Creek Trail forms a maintained path that runs for 3.5 kilometres along the creek.

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Old Don Mills Road is still used as a recreational trail and cars still cross the concrete bowstring bridge which was built in 1921.  The county atlas above shows the road in brown and a previous bridge to this one.  By 1877 it is possible the road was already using a second bridge to facilitate the traffic the paper mill brought.  The road was also the only concession that had been opened and all north-south traffic had to use this crossing.

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Also, near the parking lot are the elevated wetlands.  From this angle the structures look like they are walking along, following each other.  These sculptures turn art into habitat as they each contain a wetland, complete with all the wildlife they support, mostly birds and flying insects.  The water from the Don River is pumped into the wetlands by solar pumps and filtered through the wetland to be returned to the river cleaner than it began.  Each wetland features small ponds, a couple of small trees and wetland grasses.

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In 1994 the creek was assessed as the most degraded of the main tributaries in the Don Watershed.  The Underwriter’s Reach still shows many of the concrete channels that the creek was forced into when surrounding lands were developed for housing.  The Task Force To Bring Back The Don and other groups have put together a 40 step plan that includes restoring this watershed.  Some of this is discussed in our feature on Terraview and Willowfield Gardens Parks which showcase some impressive restoration projects.  In the picture below you can see the roadway that passes through the creek in the park.

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Stairways jig-jag up and down the sides of the ravine to provide access to the park from the communities on the tablelands.  The sets of steps tend to be 100-120 in length and provide good cardio workouts for those so inclined.

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The Musqueam people lived near the mouth of the Frazer River in British Columbia.  They were very accomplished weavers and their cultural heritage has been incorporated into paintings of five benches in Taylor Creek Park.  The benches were designed and painted by members of STEPS who as an organization attempt to revitalize public spaces and connect communities.  The final designs on the five benches incorporate elements from Musquean, Ojibwa from Southern Ontario, Northern Oaxacan (Southern Mexican), and South Asian culture.  There is other artwork in the park that includes a spiral mural in the parking lot that we couldn’t see due to snow cover.

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The benches were painted as part of the celebrations for the Pan Am games that were held in Toronto in July of 2015.  Also created for those games was the Pan Am Path which runs for over 80 kilometres through the city.  On one end it connects Clairville Dam and on the other Rouge Beach Park.  There is a second branch that runs to Centennial Park in Etobicoke.  The Alder Stairs are one of the connection points on the Path and the bench featured above is found at the top of these stairs.

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The ravine formed by Taylor-Massey Creek is cut through the side by another ravine that is separated from the trail by a wetland.  The ravine in the centre of the picture runs up the north side of Glenwood Crescent.

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The bridge on O’Connor Drive was built in 1932 as an extension of Woodbine Avenue and has the formal name Woodbine Bridge.  Later, O’Connor Drive was formed by piecing sections of unconnected road together, mostly under the guidance of Frank O’Connor, founder of Laura Secord Chocolates and the O’Connor Estate.

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Having made our way up the less travelled side of the creek we crossed back to the paved trail.

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Taylor Creek Trail continues past this point but we left it for another day.  That part of the trail continues onto a property owned by the Massey family hat operated a huge farm equipment manufacturing plant in Toronto and lends their name to the creek along with the Taylor family.  There is an old mansion waiting at the other end of the trail.

Google Maps Link: Taylor Massey Creek

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Flynntown – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Last week we visited the former community of Oriole at Sheppard Avenue and Leslie Street and made a short excursion north that only made it as far as Newtonbrook Creek.  To pick up where that hike left off, we took advantage of free street parking on Alamosa Drive and Gatehead Road where there is an entrance to the park.  The next community north along the river was known as Flynntown and was located around the intersection of Leslie and Finch.  Like Oriole, it formed around the mill sites that were prominent along the Don River in the first half of the 19th century.  It too was a name applied to a postal district in much the same way that we use postal codes today.

The 1877 county atlas below shows the area of the hike with the section of the East Don River that we covered being outlined in blue.  A small tip of German Mills Creek is coloured leading to the right near the top of the map.  We started at the former property of William Dunton where we looked for the remains of the saw mill built by Phillip Phillips. Old Cummer Road has been coloured in black and we followed the short piece that runs on an angle from the stream up to where it meets the grey line marking the new section of Cummer Road.  Cooper’s grist mill is shown where the new road meets the older section.

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Near the bottom of the hill when you enter the park off Alamosa Drive you will find a set of tennis courts.  Near the courts, beside the river, is a pole with life saving equipment on it.  That marks the spot where Philip Phillips built his saw mill in the early 1800’s.  The wood for the mill was rough hewn by hand indicating that it was prepared before the mill went into operation.  After the saw mill was up and running the wood produced displayed the obvious signs of being cut with a blade or wheel.  The houses and barns closest to the mill would have been constructed with wood that had been prepared at the saw mill.  The picture below shows the remains of what is most likely part of the wooden crib for the old mill dam.  The only other place we have seen the wooden crib preserved is at the Barber Dynamo.  One of the mill mapping sites reports that these are actual timers to the saw mill.

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Tree Swallows are highly social birds and can form flocks of thousands around their nesting sites.  They breed in Canada and the United States but spend the winter in Mexico, the Carribean and throughout Central America.  Their genus name is tachycineta bicolor which comes from the ancient Greek for “moving quickly” and the bicolor from their two coloured markings.  The males have much brighter blue-green upperparts while the females tend to have duller colours.  The female needs to hide on the nest for two weeks before the eggs hatch and another three before the young ones are ready to leave the nest.  The brighter male likes to be obvious as he dive bombs intruders to protect the nest.

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Following the trail north of Finch Avenue brings you to the intersection of Old Cummer Road and the century-old bridge across the river.  The single-lane bridge was replaced when the surrounding farms were developed for housing.  In 1968 the new portion of Cummer Road (grey on the map above) was opened and this became Old Cummer Road and was closed to through traffic.

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The road north of the closed bridge has been largely overgrown and the former pavement has all but vanished.  Cummer operated a saw mill and a woollen mill on the river near his home but it closed in 1857 and all traces are now lost.

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Crossing under the new Cummer Road bridge, the trail quickly follows a pedestrian bridge to the east side of the Don River.  We chose a small path that led along the west side but after crossing a drainage ditch the trail quickly vanished.  Our intention was to find any evidence of the mill site or dam that was shown on the county atlas.  The mill appears to have been somewhere near the new bridge and no trace exists.  The concrete dam we found on Cooper’s property would have been built here long after the mill had closed and would have replaced a wood crib dam.  The mill pond shown on the map has been drained.  The cover photo shows the dam from the downstream side while the picture below shows the upstream side.

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This dam looks more like an electrical generating dam than one used to store water for mill operations.  A large building stood  near the end of the dam but all traces of it have vanished today.  What remains is an old utility pole that has a large transformer attached to the top along with several old light sockets.  A second electrical pole is leaning into the trees a little farther upstream.

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Returning to the main trail, we crossed the Don River and went up the east side to explore the dam from that vantage point.  Near this place, German Mills Creek empties into The Don.  German Mills Creek flows for about 10 kilometres as a left tributary of the East Don River.  It gets its name from the community of German settlers who, in 1796, became the first pioneers in Markham Township.  The settlement of German Mills fell apart after only a few years but the name has been preserved via this creek.  The bridge across the creek has been here for a long time and formerly provided access to the mills and other establishments in the valley.  Today this little bridge supports the traffic along the hiking trail that follows the former roadway.

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The picture below shows German Mills Creek and the confluence with the East Don River as seen from the old bridge over the creek.

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The Don River is interwoven with the early history of Toronto and York County and there will always be more to explore another day.

Google Maps Link: Flynntown

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Beechwood Wetlands

Sunday, April 23, 2017

In 1826 The Taylor Family moved to the property that today we know as Crother’s Woods. Beechwood Drive is the road that led to the homestead they built and for decades was one of only a few places where you could travel across the Don Valley. Parshall Terry owned the property that became known as Terry’s Field and was the next property north of the Taylor property.  To check out this 11-hectare area I took advantage of free parking on Beechwood Drive just off of O’Connor Drive.

Around 1900 the Taylor family purchased Terry’s Field to make bricks from the clay that had been located there.  They already had an extensive industrial empire to which they kept adding.  The colony was offering a bounty for the first industrialist to open a paper mill and the mill at Todmorden had opened although it did not win the title.  That went to the paper mill in Crook’s Hollow.  The Taylor Paper Mills were a success and they eventually operated three of them.  The one at The Forks of The Don was the most northerly of the trio with Todmorden being at the south.  The Taylors opened Sun Valley Bricks which operated in the valley into the 1930’s.  This was in addition to the Don Valley Brick Works which they managed just south of Todmorden.  Later Domtar opened facilities here that left the land contaminated when it closed in the 1980’s.  After removing truckloads of soil and most of the buildings the land was deemed safe for use again.  Toronto Police Services is using the only remaining facility to train their canine units.

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Near the site of the old Taylor house stands the crumbling remains of an old kiln.  This likely predates anything else remaining on the site.  The cover photo shows the kiln from a little different angle.  As can be seen from the picture below the kiln is crumbling on one corner and it is surprising that the city isn’t taking steps to keep people off of the kiln.  There is also a couple of trees growing on top of the structure.  I believe that it should be restored and given a proper interpretive sign as it may be the best example of an old kiln in the city.

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The river shows many signs of its past usage including a narrow pond which is likely the remains of a 19th-century mill raceway.  Outfalls line the river including two that come directly from the North Toronto Sewage Treatment Plant which was opened on August 1, 1929.  There is also evidence in the river of a past dam, the crib can be seen below the water in this picture.

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Beechwood Avenue is now closed to through traffic but formerly curved to meet the CNR tracks just before it reaches the river.  The Lower Don Recreational Trail runs parallel to this section of roadway.  Directly in front lies the Beechwood Wetlands and to the right, Cottonwood Flats where the city dumped snow until 2004.  Sun Valley, former home to Sun Brick Company and the Sun Valley Land Fill lies beyond in Crothers Woods.

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Beechwood wetlands was built in 2002 and 2003 in a joint effort by the Task Force To Bring Back The Don, Toronto Region Conservation Authority, Toronto City Parks and several others.  The used heavy equipment to recreate the landscape and eliminate the damage done by years of use as an industrial site.  Volunteers planted 6500 native trees, shrubs and wetland plants and maintained them twice a week for the following year to ensure they got off to a good start.  The wetlands are now home to frogs, snapping turtles and various wetland birds and are considered one of Toronto’s most successful restoration projects.

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The Red Admiral butterfly makes a migration north each spring to recolonize most of North America.  It will have two cycles per year, one in March which spends the summer in Ontario.  A second brood is hatched in October that flies south to spend the winter months in south Texas.  Red Admirals have a red/orange band that encircles both wings and prominent white spots on the front of each forewing.

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The Lower Don River has cut through layers of shale that can be seen near the waterline and perhaps this is what was being burned down in the kiln.

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After the buildings were demolished piles of construction rubble were dumped along the side of the river.  These piles in many places have become habitat for the various species of wildlife that inhabits the parkland.  Throughout the concrete slabs can be seen the wrought iron reinforcing bars that were used prior to tied rebar used today.

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The Canadian National Railway line cuts through the property and the winding nature of the Don River required the railway to build two bridges.  The bridges are nearly identical in construction and the railway is still active.  The former Beechwood Road crossing has signals and caution should be exercised when making your way from the Cottonwood Flats into Crother’s Woods on the other side.

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The other side of the Don River can be accessed via a footbridge just beyond the train bridge.  Therefore, there is no excuse for crossing the river on the rail bridge like I observed several people doing.  There’s a sign by the rail bridge that gives a number to call if you are feeling suicidal.  I wonder if they too saw someone taking their bike across?  A mountain bike park has been set up along the trail near the rail bridge. There’s even a small place where you can step out of the weather for a moment.

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Sun Valley and Crothers Woods still have areas that I haven’t explored.  Perhaps one day…

Google Maps Link: Beechwood Drive

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Crothers Woods

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Crothers Woods has at least three access points, each with parking.  There is one parking lot at the Don Valley Mountain Bike Trailhead on Pottery Road (map link at end) just before the bow-string bridge over the Don River.  This parking lot sits on the old road allowance for Pottery Road, a section of which was abandoned when the Bayview Extension was built in 1959.  From the trailhead, the path leads north following the side of Bayview Avenue until it reaches the northern tip of the park where there are a couple of parking spots.  To the right along this trail is an area known as Sun Valley.  It was home to a small brick making company called The Sun Brick Company which operated until the late 1930’s.  The property had been home to the Taylor Family who built their homestead here in 1826.  The family owned the Don Valley Brick Works and Todmorden Mills where they ran one of their three paper mills. When the clay for the bricks was nearly exhausted the town of Leaside purchased the pit for a landfill.  Over the next few decades, they dumped garbage up to 25 metres deep in the pit.  It has now been capped with clean fill and is being restored as a meadow at this time.  The Terry Family home has been moved to Todmorden Mills where it is being preserved.  The picture below shows the home, that once stood in today’s Crothers Woods, as it appeared in the summer of 2014.

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Following the trail into the woods leads to a slight diversion, the abandoned CPR tracks. The first train to roll across the tracks here was a freight train in 1891.  That train continued south along the Don Valley and into downtown Toronto.  Along the way, it passed over the Half-Mile bridge.   The first good snowfall of the season sits largely undisturbed on the tracks in the picture below. Due to the fact that the snow had fallen without much drifting the rails and ties can be clearly seen in spite of the fact that there is about a foot of fresh snow.  This is one of the few local abandoned railways that still has the rails and ties intact.  It is likely that Metrolinx, who owns the railway corridor, will incorporate it into some future passenger line.

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An active set of tracks belonging to Canadian National Railway runs parallel to the abandoned CPR ones as the Don Valley made a suitable access to the city.  Two freight trains passed along the other tracks while the lower ones were being briefly explored.

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Crothers Woods is one of the most bike friendly parks in the city.  Bikers are encouraged to use the trails although pedestrians still have the right-of-way. Winter biking has its challenges and a bike is normally fitted out especially for the season.  Fat tires and wider frames are matched with enclosed gears that prevent freeze up.  The tires may be inflated to as low as 5 pounds pressure.  A group of winter bike enthusiasts was using the park to get some exercise and enjoy their custom cycles.    It is always nice to see others who find a way to enjoy the winter weather.

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Crothers Caterpillar had a manufacturing plant in Crothers Woods until 1979.  Built by George W. Crothers it produced heavy equipment, primarily for the mining industry.  The plant backed onto the railway and the factory buildings on the site were removed by 1991. The site has recently been partially repurposed as a Loblaws store and parking lot.  There is a trail head here as well that was the starting site of the group of fatbikes we had seen earlier.  There is also lots of parking available in the back of the parking lot near the trailhead.

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The loading ramp from the former Crothers Caterpillar plant still stands along the abandoned railway track.

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A lone hydro pole stands in the woods where it once was part of the Crothers Caterpillar plant.  What was an open field 30 years ago has grown back in quite well!

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In 1929 the city built the North Toronto Sewage Treatment Plant on the edge of Crothers Woods.  It processes the effluent from North Toronto and Leaside.  Personal experience indicated that the sewage system covers in North Toronto are mainly dated 1928 with a few from 1929.  The cover photo shows another view of the treatment plant.

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Crothers Woods was a farm for about 100 years before it spent the next century as an industrial site.  Today it still retains some areas of Carolinian Forest consisting of beech, maple and oak.  There are also a few butternut trees which are locally rare.  Crothers Woods has been designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) because it is a home to some rare undergrowth plants.  It is also a good place to see common spring flowers like trout lilies and trilliums.  The east ravine wall contains some climax forest which is the historical normal vegetation that exists in a stable condition in this part of the country.  New growth forest has taken over much of the rest of the 52-hectare park.

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An extensive set of stairs leads from the corner of Redwood Road and Millway Road down to the sewage plant.

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There are plenty of remnants from old land usage in the ravine.  A lengthy penstock runs down the hill behind the treatment plant while these concrete structures stand a little farther along.  They say that old relics from the Crothers Caterpillar plant are still dug up on occasion in the woods.

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Crothers Woods also includes the Beechgrove Wetland which is a successful restoration project.  The wetlands, Sun Valley and an abandoned road await a visit in the spring when the wetlands will be teeming with life.

 

Google Maps link: Crothers Woods

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Terraview & Willowfield Gardens Parks

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The headwaters of Taylor-Massey Creek were originally found in the area of Sheppard and Victoria Park Avenues. The area of the headwaters was approximately 150 hectares until the construction of the Toronto Bypass (401) was completed in 1964.  In order to reduce complications with the widening of the highway in the 1980’s, it was decided to divert the headwaters into Highland Creek.  As a consequence, the creek developed a new smaller source.  Now 18 hectares of natural springs mix with the polluted runoff of the sixteen lanes of highway that passes overhead.

When this area of Scarborough, known as Maryvale, was developed in the early-1950’s it was common to take the watersheds and re-route them through concrete channels. Taylor-Massey Creek begins in a collection of pipes and emerges from a headwall in the top of Terraview Park.  From there it used to proceed south in a curved concrete channel all the way to Ellesmere Road and beyond.  The parkland around these concrete channels was underused and the water in the channel often ran with ten times the city’s allowable levels of E-coli.  The picture below shows the concrete channel that the creek still flows through in the Warden Power Corridor south of the two parks.

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In 1992 the Metropolitan Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority created the Don Watershed Task Force to develop an ecosystem approach to managing the entire watershed.  At the time The Don River was one of the most polluted in Canada.  When 40 Steps To A New Don was published in 1994 it identified Terraview and Willowfield Parks as a concept site to prove the plan for regeneration.  Any benefits to water quality that could be made at this end of the watershed would benefit the entire system. The  aerial photo below shows the concrete channel as it passes through Terraview Park and under Penworth Road where it continues through Willowfields Gardens Park.  This picture was taken from the 40 Steps To A New Don final report.

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The plan called for the removal of the channel and renaturalization of the creek bed. Wetlands were developed because they act as a natural filter for suspended particles and contaminants.

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The soccer field at Terraview Park has an underground filtration system designed into it. Now that it has been in operation for nearly 20 years there is some data and a cost/benefit analysis is being conducted to see if other such systems should be constructed.  Oil and water separators and sediment pools are used along with French drains and storm water retention facilities are all part of the design.  Today, the water is still not as clean as the city bylaws require and a sediment pool at the headwall where the water enters the park needs to be expanded or replaced.

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When a concrete channel passed through the mowed lawns of the former parks there was little wildlife to be seen.  Today the two contiguous parks provide a welcome habitat in this part of the city.

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Tamarack is a species of Larch tree that is native to Canada.  Although they have needles and cones like an evergreen they lose their needles every fall.  The needles take on a beautiful shade of yellow before they fall off the tree.

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Along with the usual sets of swings and slides, the park also has a splash pad.  Water from the pad is filtered before it is let into the pond on its way out towards Warden Woods.

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After leaving Terraview Pond the creek flows through a section of new growth as it heads south.  The sides of the new creek channel have armour stone on them in places where erosion is likely but there has been no attempt to keep the new shrubs and trees from growing in the channel.

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South of Penworth Road Taylor-Massey Creek flows through a natural channel and into the newly created Willowfield Pond.  Where a lifeless concrete channel once existed a new aquatic habitat has been created.  Herons can be seen here in the summer hunting for lunch while ducks and geese find food among the marshes on the shore.  Muskrats have also been seen in the pond.

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Northern Red Oak, along with thousands of other trees and shrubs, have been planted in the two parks.

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Willowfield Pond has been designed with the local schools in mind.  There are observation stations where outdoor lessons are taught.  Students also monitor the water quality and help with planting programs.

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Water flows from Willowfield pond into a peat bog which also acts as a final filter to remove contaminants before the water makes it’s way toward the Don River.

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Water is still discharged directly into the creek but the local residents have removed their downspouts from the collection system.  By allowing the water to flow onto the lawn more of it is absorbed and slowly released into the creek which reduces flash flooding.

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There is plenty of work left to be done at these two parks.  Sections of the parks that were intended to be planted with Carolinian Forest have yet to be started.  Phase III of the project was never implemented.  It called for the hydro corridor to be naturalized as well. The concrete channel was to be removed and the area around the new stream was set to be densely planted.

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The renaturalization of these two parks won an award in 2002 from the Canadian Society of Landscaping Architects.

Google Maps link: Terraview Park and Willowfield Gardens Park

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