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E-BLAST: A Walk Through Don Valley North’s Ravines

With the weather we’ve had this week, it feels like we’re already in the thick of summer. One of my favourite things to do to beat the heat while still enjoying the sunshine is to head down into Don Valley North’s incredible system of ravines. Walking along the trails by the East Don or up along Newtonbrook Creek, you really feel like you’ve gotten away from the city. Our ravines are an incredible asset to our neighbourhoods and our city, and one we must protect.

Last week, the Don Valley North team embarked on a hike through our entire ravine network to check on the various projects underway and make sure everything is in order along the trails. The team started down at the Betty Sutherland trail at Sheppard and Leslie, and hiked all the way up through the East Don Parkland to Steeles and Leslie before making their way down the Duncan Creek Trail. Today, I want to share a few updates on what the team saw and the work happening to preserve these treasured spaces for generations to come.

Betty Sutherland Trail

The Betty Sutherland Trail is at the southernmost point of our ward, and continues down past the highway over towards Don Mills Road and York Mills Road. It’s named for a former North York & Metro Toronto Councillor and member of an early version of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. Betty Sutherland was deeply devoted to protecting our greenspaces and creating better recreation opportunities for the people of Toronto, and this trail is a wonderful testament to her legacy.

Typically, this trail is frequented by hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists. You may notice that it’s a bit quieter than usual in this part of the ravine these days. The trail is currently closed where it dips below the 401. The Provincial Ministry of Transportation is doing rehabilitation work on the overpass, and the closure is slated to be in effect through to 2026. Below are photos of the signage currently in place along the trail:

I know this closure has created a significant disruption for thousands of pedestrians and cyclists who frequent this trail. Last June, I moved a motion at City Council to call on the Province to explore more solutions to this closure, as trail users are currently being pushed out onto major streets. This is significantly more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians alike. Unfortunately, City Council has not seen any substantial progress from the Ministry of Transportation on this issue over the past year. Rest assured that I am monitoring this closure closely, and I hope that our Provincial partners will take greater action to mitigate this disruption to our trail system.

East Don Ravine

Next, let’s head up to the East Don Ravine. Our portion here in Don Valley North spans the entire length of the ward, running from Sheppard all the way up to Steeles. There is a major project going on at the south end of the East Don Ravine near Sheppard and Leslie that has closed a small portion of the trail, from Sheppard up to just north of Marowyne Drive.

The main purpose of this work is to replace and install new sewer connections to service the surrounding area. You may remember me writing about the need for greater sewer capacity along Sheppard Avenue East a few summers back. With all the development happening along this corridor, it was essential that the work be done ASAP. Work commenced in September 2021 and is expected to wrap up at the end of next year.

Whenever a major project is undertaken, the City looks to see what other work can be bundled in. This not only saves us money, it also ensures the shortest possible disruption for the community. In this case, that includes the removal of an old concrete weir and, more importantly, the stabilization of the river channel. Erosion has taken its toll on this portion of the Don River, and the riverbed needs to be stabilized to both protect the river itself and prevent the new sewer system from becoming exposed to the elements. The project team recently shared some great pictures of the work underway:

Recent photos of the work in the East Don Parkland, including the application of topsoil (left) and laying the asphalt base layer along the multi-use path (right).

The project is progressing nicely, and I look forward to the community enjoying the results of this work once it’s complete.

Newtonbrook Creek & German Mills Creek

As you head north along the Don River, it forks off into Newtonbrook Creek (south of Finch) and German Mills Creek (north of Finch). Both of these creeks are currently the subject of Geomorphic Systems Master Plans (GSMPs), which is a fancy way of saying the City is studying both creeks and developing long-term plans to protect them from erosion and other ecological challenges. I wrote about these studies in detail this past fall, if you’d like a refresher.

The DVN team walked along both of these creeks to make sure everything was in order. Unlike the other projects that close off portions of the ravine, the GSMPs won’t impact your trail access. They may recommend work down the road that requires some trail impacts, but for now you can continue to enjoy unfettered access to these stretches of our ravine system.

Duncan Creek

The team ended their hike by walking along the newly rehabilitated Duncan Creek. Neighbours will remember that this portion of our ravine system was closed a few years back to complete a major restoration project. It’s wonderful to see Don Valley Northerners enjoying the new-and-improved trail.

There is one final piece of this project, and it’s one that you can take part in. The City is hosting a tree planting event in Duncan Creek Park on Sunday, June 16 from 10 AM to 12 PM. This event is taking place as part of Pollinator Week, and it’s a great chance to learn more about our local ecosystems while helping keep our city green. You can learn more about this event at the link below:

A photo from the DVN Team's walk through the ravine.

No matter what part of the ward you live in, our extensive network of ravines, trails and parks is never far away. If you’re out for a hike or a bike ride and notice any issues, never hesitate to reach out to my office and let us know. Don Valley North residents are often the first to notice problems in our ravines, and by sharing those with me and my team we can make sure staff start working to fix them straight away.

As we continue to move into the warmer months, be sure to get the family out and enjoy all our Don Valley North greenspaces have to offer.


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