We propose using the entire CP Don Branch as the connecting backbone for existing features of the Don River Valley Park.
Don River Valley Park. In 2016, John Tory, Evergreen Brickworks and others made a big announcement about the formation of a huge park in downtown Toronto. It’s the “centrepiece of the city’s ravine system, this area is a ‘backyard’ to more than 250,000 residents and another 60,000 as part of the growing residential developments in the West Don Lands, East Bayfront, Central Waterfront and Downtown.” Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic there has been a significant use of Toronto’s parkland and it’s clear Toronto doesn’t have enough green space in its urban core. The addition of the CP Don Branch land to the park would not only significantly expand the park but also ensure the contiguity and access to the existing space.
Conservation is the right direction for the Don Valley. In 1969, Pollution Probe held a funeral for the Don River. It was a toxic dump from years of industrialization, mills, rail yards and slaughterhouses. Since then citizens working through groups with the City have made incredible progress of de-industrialization, Todmorden Mills Wildflower Preserve, Chester Springs Marsh, Helliwell’s Hill wetlands, Crothers Woods to name a few. Additionally there are multi-billion dollar projects such as the Portlands, Villiers Island, the stormwater diversion project aiming to improve the quality of the river and lake water. Without conservation efforts the development value of the Portlands and Lever site would be dramatically less. Intensification of downtown density requires improving natural infrastructure that makes the area livable. Hence $400 million of Federal money going into the Natural Infrastructure Fund.
Metrolinx’s proposal to use the Valley for parking trains is on the wrong side of a decades long trend.
Tourism is (was) a $90 Billion industry in Canada. Now is the time to invest in conservation oriented tourism development. International tourism’s earliest return looks like 2022 giving the three levels of Governments enough time to focus on a “quick to market” tourism product. Tourism jobs are fast to rebound and support local middle class jobs in restaurants and hotels, but Toronto doesn’t tell its story very well. The official Toronto museums do not include any history pre- 1787. The lack of presentation and interpretation of First Nations history for visitors to Toronto results in a biased understanding of the development of this city. The CP Don Branch is uniquely situated, touching and connecting key features of Toronto’s history;
• The 11,000 year old Anishinaabe Trail
• The 4,000 year old Withrow archeological site
• The Group of Seven’s Studio, a National historic site
• Riverdale Farm (barn from 1858)
• Evergreen Brickworks (1889)
• The spectacular Half Mile Bridge above the valley (1928)
The CP Don Branch is the right investment in a critical piece of tourism infrastructure that addresses an embarrassing gap in Toronto’s historical narrative.
Why the name “Wonscotonach”?
Wonscotonach was documented as the Anishnaabemowin place name for the Don River and likely translates to “burning bright point.