Cycling Infrastructure Parks Toronto Walking

The ravine run around

While trail closures frustrate pedestrians and cyclists, the city spends millions of dollars to speed up road work

IMG_2475-001Wilket Creek trail closure, September 2017

Last week,  my wife and I went for a walk through the Toronto Botanical Gardens, Edwards Gardens, and Wilket Creek Park, all part of Toronto’s wonderful and extensive ravine system. The ravines are one of Toronto’s greatest assets, and many are connected by multi-use trails, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to experience nature, close to home. Some trails, like the Lower Don, are also important commuter routes for those who walk or cycle to school or work.

Unfortunately, several of these trails are closed for long periods for construction, and they do not get the same attention that roads and highways get.

The Wilket Creek Trail, between Edwards Gardens and Sunnybrook Park, has been closed since Spring 2017, and will remain closed until Spring 2018. The Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) is repairing damage caused by erosion, and restoring the local ecosystem. The same trail was closed two years ago for similar construction work.

The pedestrian detour on Leslie Street is straightforward, and does not deviate too far from the route. However, Leslie Street is busy and motorists drive at high speeds, so it is not a good safe route for cyclists. To the City of Toronto and TRCA’s credit, at least, the detours are well mapped and construction notices are signed well in advance. (I’ve experienced trail closures without any warnings or suitable marked detour routes.)

IMG_2476-001Advance warnings and a detailed detour map on the Wilket Creek Trail

Further south, the Lower Don Trail between Pottery Road and the footbridge at Riverdale Park will re-open on September 23, 2017, fourteen months late. That work was done to replace an underpass at a disused rail corridor owned by Metrolinx.

As Metro reporter David Hains points out, that re-opening was re-scheduled several times between July 2016 and August 2017 — unexpected soil conditions and wet weather were blamed for the delays.  Pedestrians and cyclists were directed to use either Broadview Avenue or Bayview Avenue to get around the closure; both are busy roads, and Broadview Avenue is at the top of a steep grade from the Don Valley.

Other major closures included the Humber River Trail under Highway 401 near Weston Road, which was closed for several months in 2016 so that trail users would not be in the way of construction vehicles. The suggested detour, a 3 kilometre long circuitous route, followed Wilson Avenue, a busy suburban road.

This year, the Etobicoke Creek Trail under Highway 401 in Mississauga is also closed for two years for bridge work. There are no safe alternatives for crossing Highway 401 in that area.

Humber.jpgThe circuitous and dangerous 2016 Humber River Trail detour at Highway 401. Source: MTO.

The long and dangerous closures of major pedestrian and cycling routes can be compared to the way road repairs are prioritized. Mayor John Tory announced $3.4 million to speed up construction on the Gardiner Expressway in 2015, when the elevated highway was reduced to two lanes in each direction from three. In August, Tory announced additional funds to speed up watermain and streetcar track construction on Dundas Street between Yonge and Church Streets, perhaps not coincidentally a route many city councillors drive to get to City Hall.

If only there were some additional money and attention given to projects affecting pedestrians and cyclists in Toronto. It would also be nice to ensure any detours were well signed, and made as safe and comfortable as possible.

4 replies on “The ravine run around”

honestly, as someone who knows these projects, there are no better routes. Can’t take another route in the park; it costs too much environmental damage. And of course you can’t take a route through private property, the sidewalk or arterial road. Best thing we can do is put up signs, just like any other construction in the city. Good news is, these multi-million budget construction serve thousands of homes (arterial large sewers are usually in the ravine due to gravity) and cars (in the case of that MTO ramp). They may not write blog articles in appreciation, but the benefit is there. These projects near nature trails also take a very long time due to the many many environmental precautions we have to take. From bats to trees to fish, we have to protect them all. This is the nature of building a surging City WHILE protecting the environment; slow, expensive and you still can’t please everyone 🙂

Thanks for the comment; you raise some good points about the difficulty of working in Toronto’s ravines and the difficulty in creating easy detours. But at the same time, the Lower Don Trail work has been delayed many times, and without any political acknowledgement or action. There is still the problem of what amounts to unsafe detours on busy roads, especially the MTO work.

When a road work takes place, typically, there might be a lane reduction, or a nightly closure. When work happens around trails, though – it’s a full closure, and I suspect usually done without enough creativity to minimize the impacts on pedestrians and cyclists. That will require an attitude change.


This isn’t exactly the same as the issue you address, but it perhaps points to the same low level of attention that these ravine trails get. There is a short break in the Humber River trail that forces the rider/walker to leave the trail and the river valley at St Phillip’s Road/Weston Road, go up Weston Road a couple of blocks, and then go down a side street to rejoin the trail. The gap is visible on the map of the Humber River Detour you provide.

This trail was a Pan-Am route, and there was a promise to close the gap at the time of the Pan-Am games. That promise appears to have been long since forgotten.

Thanks for the article!

The re-opening of Wilket Creek Park did not occur in spring 2018 and it looks like it will be another year as a second reach is being rebuilt. I have been using the alternative Don Mills Trail as a cyclist. The trail has no proper signs and the south end has a volunteer-made exit that comes out the south end of OTT Financial (formerly Wrigley’s). A civic-minded person has been keeping the access clean and passable, removing undergrowth better than if the City had been doing it. You can enter from Scarsdale Road at York Mills, Bond Avenue, Lawrence Ave E., or Overland Drive (Barber Green). The only signs are fancy metal “Don Mills Trail” with no useful information on the trail from the Parks Department who only say “No Winter Maintenance”. It provides a useful parallel to the Wilket Creek Trail. From the north enter of Wilket Creek follow Lawrence to just east of Leslie at teh traffic light and continue south to the end, exiting via the guerilla exit on the west side near the south end. This is a route that will eventually cross the CP track and go under Eglinton in ET Seton Park as a result of the development Don Mills Crossing, The developer will be paying for it.

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