The City is preparing to study the Lower Don area as a follow-up to the 2013 Lower Don Trail Master Plan. The updated plan will provide a framework that will reflect the guiding values and guiding principles for recreation planning in the Lower Don Valley. It will also identify improvements in this area that are consistent with these guiding values. This plan is proposed to be collaborative, to enable Indigenous rights and treaty holders to lead Indigenous public art and Indigenous stewardship and programming in the Lower Don River valley lands.
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Phase 2 project is delayed, and the completion date is anticipated to be late summer 2024. The project site is complex, narrow, and located between Don River and a rail corridor, which has resulted in some challenges with getting materials and equipment in and out of the site. Additionally, a section of the site experienced erosion from the nearby river (a geotechnical review for a solution is underway) and some of the required permitting and approvals from other infrastructure located nearby took longer than anticipated.
Construction is active on the Lower Don Trail. All trees permitted for removal have been removed with some exceptions. Existing site features including asphalt pavement, Metrolinx fences at the railway side, and pedestrian guardrails at the riverside (for safe travelling) have been removed in several sections throughout the entire site. Heavy construction equipment vehicles travel across the site. The construction contractor will start excavating the foundations and preparing the site for slope path construction at the Riverdale Bridge area and staircase construction at Dundas Bridge.
The trail should not be used by the public at all, as it is unsafe.
The City closed off the main entries to the Lower Don Trail phase 2 site and these entries are at Pottery Road, Riverdale Bridge staircase, Queen Bridge staircase and Corktown entry. Additional barriers are also located within the closed area at the Bellville Underpass, and the red pedestrian bridge. The trail closure is intended for pedestrians and cyclists. The City has been monitoring and reinforcing the closures daily.
Bayview Multi-use Trail is the alternate trail for everyone during Lower Don Trail Phase 2 construction.
Trail construction has started with the early stages of site preparation work, which is taking slightly longer than anticipated due to the irregular topography of the site and approvals and inspection for the permit conditions. The trail was closed in May so that the contractor could access and set up the staging area and set up the tree protection and sediment control required for the permits. Due to the few entry/exit locations along the trail, 4 km of the trail is closed to the public to allow for the contractors to start work in an area that encompasses both south and north of the mid-access point (Riverdale Parks East and West into the trail and vice versa). While it is possible to briefly open the very small area at the south end of the trail, from Queen Street to Corktown, the closure would be hidden from the entrance and confusing as pedestrians and cyclists would need to turn around and detour. Additionally, construction will move to this area in the near future. In mid-June, other construction activities like excavation will start and create unsafe conditions, even during the weekends when construction work has paused.
The Bayview Multi-use Trail is available as an alternative route for the entire distance of the closure and is parallel to the trail.
From May 2, 2023 to summer 2024, the Lower Don Trail will be closed from Pottery Road to Bala Underpass at to Corktown Common, including the Riverdale pedestrian bridge and Queen Street bridge stairs, for Phase 2 construction. Signs with a detour map are posted at all trail access points. The Bayview multi-use trail, west of the Metrolinx Railway, is available as an alternative route.
The pedestrian bridge connecting Riverdale Park West and Riverdale Park East is open to the public but will not provide access to the Lower Don Trail during construction.
The start of the Lower Don Trail Improvements Phase 2 is currently delayed due to the need to re-tender and obtain final permits required by the new contractor. This includes trail improvements along the 2 km section of trail from Belleville Underpass to Corktown Common, as well as two significant infrastructure projects to improve access to the trail at the Dundas Bridge and the Riverdale Pedestrian Bridge.
During the improvements, the Lower Don Trail will be closed from Pottery Road to Corktown Common, including the Riverdale pedestrian bridge and Queen Street bridge stairs. Advance signage with detour maps will be located online and on the trail.
Trail construction is anticipated to be complete with the trail open for spring 2024.
Due to a number of factors, including shifting priorities and policy updates, The Lower Don Trail Master Plan Update was put on hold in 2020.
The new policy and initiatives that will influence the future planning for this area include:
A meeting took place on September 17, 2019 to present the public with information on the Lower Don Trail Master Plan update.
On July 19, 2018, a meeting took place at Riverdale Library and where several stakeholders provided input. The design to date was well received and comments received are helping the project team move further into detailed design. Comments to the project team can best be integrated into the design prior to August 20, 2018.
A new ramp is planned that will provide easier access to the Lower Don Trail from the Riverdale pedestrian bridge. The ramp will extend off the north side of the bridge, with a switch-back down to the trail. It will complement the existing staircase on the south side of the bridge.
The position of the ramp is between the rail (Bala Metrolinx line) and the Don River. Based on the constrained site width (between rail and river) there is only one turn to the switch back. The switchback is in the northward direction and has a vista lookout at the turn around point. The existing stairs will remain (south of the bridge).
The sloped path gradient is consistent with the accessibility guidelines for paths of a max five per cent. There is a resting area, with an accessible bench at the turnaround.
The ramp will meet existing grade and integrate with the adjacent four metre wide trail in the existing location.
The width of the ramp is proposed to be a minimum of three metre and significantly wider at the turn around (six plus metres). The maximum height of the ramp where it connects to the bridge is approximately nine metres, and the distance between the access from the bridge and the outward edge of the turnaround is 113 metres.
The materials to be used will be similar to those used in recently constructed projects in the valley. These are called the Lower Don Valley Palette:
On February 15, 2017, a special meeting was held with the Community Disability Steering Committee.
A site visit took place on June 2, 2015 at Riverdale Bridge.
On May 27, 2014, a public meeting took place at St Simon the Apostle Church at 525 Bloor St. E.
Project partners provided the following feedback:
The ramp needs to service as many users as possible, including:
The following projects are currently underway.
The top of bank in Riverdale Park East is often visited year-round for its iconic sunset view and popular tobogganing hill. The viewing area at the top can be expanded and site furniture can be added.
The entrance to the Crothers Woods Trail at Pottery Road, east of Bayview Avenue, is sometimes used as an informal parking lot. However, the area often floods and could be naturalized as wetland. Add a Crothers Woods trail kiosk and clear signage.
Informal trails run around the top of the north face of the Don Valley Brick Works (the perimeter of the former quarry). Because of the risk of erosion and damage to the Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA), use is discouraged and no formal trails are possible. Study additional measures to discourage access to this area by users seeking views or shortcuts.
Governor’s Monument is one of the highest profile sites around the Brick Works, attracting hikers and sightseers because of its views. Repair to resolve current drainage problems and function as a public gathering space, potentially accommodating public art.
Currently a set of wooden steps link the Pottery Road trail to the rear of Todmorden Mills. The stairs serve an important connection between Todmorden Mills and the neighbourhoods north of the Danforth.
The existing stairway from Wellesley Park to the Rosedale Valley Road/Bayview Avenue intersection represents a key portal into the valley. However, it is not connected to any sidewalks or trails at the upper end of the slope and has low visibility. The stairway itself needs to have its accessibility features improved.
Part of Phase 2 Lower Don Trail Improvements. A sloping path (ramp) providing a more accessible pedestrian and cycle connection from the Riverdale Pedestrian Bridge the Lower Don Trail below.
Part of Phase 2 Lower Don Trail Improvements. A staircase to connect with the trail and meet accessibility standards.
Part of Phase 2 Lower Don Trail Improvements. Wherever possible increase width of the trail.
The following projects are not yet funded and may require additional planning and vetting through consultation and engagement. Excluded from this list are mid- and long-term future projects that would require a more detailed review during a future update to the Master Plan.
Location: Cullen Bryant Park on Taylor Drive, north of O’Connor Drive
The current steps from Cullen Bryant Park to the Taylor Creek Trail are located at the rear of the park and not visible from the street.
Location: Coxwell Ravine Park, between the Don Valley Parkway and O’Connor Drive.
The ongoing reconfiguration and natural restoration of the Coxwell Ravine Park and the removal of its parking lot will provide opportunities for several improvements.
Location: The Forks area, where Don Mills Road crosses the Don River.
When viewed at the city-wide scale, the Forks area is one of the most important nodes in the trail system. With the completion of the East Don Trail and Ridge Train, five major trails will converge at the Forks (where the Don River splits in three). There is also car access and a recently-reconstructed parking lot in the area.
Reconstruction of the node area is already being studied by the City, which has produced preliminary designs.
Location: The end of Beechwood Drive.
The relative scarcity of entry points to the Lower Don Trail system, especially north of Pottery Road, means that each portal needs careful design to welcome visitors. One of the least visible portals to the trail occurs where Beechwood Drive descends into the valley and under the Don Valley Parkway, also providing access to the Toronto Police Dog Services Building. Improvements for Beechwood Drive and the area could include beautification, rest stops and an additional public parking facility. In addition to this, a possible future relocation of the Toronto Police Dog Services Building would open new opportunities for Parks facilities in a rare site within the valley that is already fully serviced with water, sewers and electricity.
Location: Between Redway Road and the North Toronto Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The current design of the stairway from Redway Road to the rear of the North Toronto Wastewater Treatment Plant is basic and lacking in accessibility features. Furthermore, there are no formal trail connections from the base of the stairway into the planned Ridge Trail system.
Location: Proposed “Snow-Drop Park” site, between the Belleville rail corridor, the Don River and the Bayview On-Ramp.
One of the landmark opportunities in the Don Valley is the creation of a new public space, dubbed Snow Drop Park, on the former snow dump site south of the Bayview On-Ramp. The space, approximately 4.5 hectares, is by far the largest opportunity to add new parkland in the vicinity of the Lower Don Trail. Bordered by the railway on one side, the Bayview on-ramp on another, and the Don River on two sides, it is inaccessible by foot or bicycle. Vehicular access can occur from the Bayview on-ramp. The first steps is to study the feasibility of remediating the space, which likely still harbours pollutants from snow deposited there and from its earlier history as an industrial site, as well as opportunities for accessing it. Following remediation, considerable design work and possibly naturalization will need to happen.
Location: Chester Springs Marsh, between the Don River and Lower Don Trail, south of the Prince Edward Viaduct.
The City has already conducted a study into potential ecological enhancements and a lookout space at Chester Springs (a bend in the river a little south of the Prince Edward Viaduct), although implementation has not yet been approved.
Location: The lower portion of the Riverdale Farm site, adjacent to the end of historic Winchester Street.
The less-visited lower portion of the Riverdale Farm site includes a number of ponds, some of which require natural restoration. Remnants of the former Riverdale Zoo are still visible in this area. There is an opportunity to carry out restoration work, while also improving trail accessibility and adding historic interpretation.
Location: The Lower Don Trail through the length of the Narrows.
Mud and silt build-up are chronic problems in certain segments of the trail, particularly in the Narrows. This typically occurs in the spring following serious flooding or ice jams.
Location: Along the Lower Don Trail, just south of the Bayview/DVP On-ramps, just west of the Metrolinx line.
Helliwell Hill Wetland is a wetland restoration project located between the Lower Don Trail and the DVP/Metrolinx tracks. This restoration project was initiated in 1997 by the City of Toronto and the Task Force to Bring Back the Don, with the cooperation of TRCA. Since initial restoration efforts, the wetland is in need of upgrades to improve function, increase protection and improve the interpretation of the site within the landscape.
The following projects are now complete or on-going since the 2013 Master Plan, some with additional phases identified for consideration:
Location: Cottonwood Flats, between Don River and Don Valley Parkway
Location: Adjacent to Don River, north of Pottery Road
Location: Crothers Woods, north of Bayview Avenue, west of Don River
Location: The Forks area, where Don Mills Road crosses the Don River
Location: Pottery Road crossing of the Don River.
Location: East side of Chorley Park.
Location: All along the Lower Don Trail.
Location: Don Valley Brick Works site.
Location: Don Valley Brick Works site.
Location: Don Valley Brick Works site.
Location: Trail underpass below Belleville rail corridor.
Location: Intersection of Rosedale Valley Road and Bayview Avenue.
Location: Northeastern corner of Riverdale Park East.
Location: Northwest of Riverdale Park East.
Location: Trail underpass below Bala rail corridor, adjacent to Corktown Common.
Location: From Pottery Road south to Belleville Underpass
Location: Park driveway connecting Thorncliffe Park Drive to E.T. Seton Park.
Location: Natural trail adjacent to hard surface switchback trail, on the east side of Chorley Park.