Wilket 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.)
Advance 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.
The 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.