Location: Cedarvale Ravine/Nordheimer Ravine and Yonge Street
Duration: about 2.5 hours, 12k
Weather: Partly sunny, 0C and a chill north wind
The route started from home at Avenue Rd/Eglinton, and proceeded west along Roselawn to the Allen, then south across Eglinton down Everden into Cedarvale Ravine. I kept going south through the ravine to St. Clair, crossed that and then went down through Nordheimer Ravine to Boulton Drive, then south to Boulton Parkette, across Poplar Plains Road and back north to Cottingham, and then east along that to Yonge. From there I went north up Yonge to Manor Road, and then back west through the Chaplin Estates neighbourhood to Avenue Road, and north to get home.
I like walking through Cedarvale and Nordheimer, in any season. Today was a bit tough as there was a lot of ice on the paths, so the footing was tricky. Nevertheless, it always feels like an escape from the city into the countryside, as you walk through the trees and beside marshland. In spring and summer it’s alive with red-wing blackbirds, and in the fall the autumn colours are fantastic. In winter, there’s an outdoor ice rink in the park, and when there is snow there’s sledding on the hills. Whenever I walk through these parks, I can’t help but think that but for the persistence of many people, Toronto would have lost them back in the 1960s.
Torontonians today may not have heard of the Spadina Expressway, but they will have heard of the Allen Expressway and may have wondered why this road ends after just a few kilometres at Eglinton Avenue. The answer is that the Spadina Expressway was planned to continue the Allen Expressway south, through what is today the park system of Cedarvale and Nordheimer Ravines, and onwards south along Spadina Avenue all the way to the Gardiner Expressway down by the lake. That would have created a ring road around downtown Toronto, along with the Gardner to the south, the Don Valley Expressway to the east, and the 401 to the north.
While this plan seems terrible when looking back from today, I am sure that at the time to those who planned these roads, it made a lot of sense. Cars were symbols of freedom in the 1950s and 1960s, representing the ability to go where you wanted, when you wanted to. Cities around the world were building ring roads around city centres, and doing so in Toronto would have seemed like a modern approach in keeping with contemporary urban planning. Nevertheless, by the 1960s people were beginning to realize that cars, and the roads they required, came with costs. Toronto had seen many of its heritage buildings pulled down and replaced in the 1940-1970 period, and the thought of losing vibrant downtown neighbourhoods along Spadina along with the parklands and natural environments of the parks galvanized a response led by a new generation of urban thinkers such as Jane Jacobs.
I am grateful that these advocates were so passionate and vocal, and were able to carry public opinion. The trails and parks that we have today are amongst the jewels of Toronto, and are literally the lungs of the city. Walk through them and enjoy them, and never take them for granted.