Popular Don Valley walking and cycling trail just closed for a year

Looking to run or cycle down the Don Valley to Riverdale Park? Time to find an alternate route, as the Lower Don Trail is closed south of Pottery Road right now, and will be for at least a year. Part of the closure also includes the bridge over the DVP connecting the Riverdale Parks.

Signage has been posted on the Don Valley Trail indicating the extent of the closure.

“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,” it reads.

“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 closure, though, is part of an exciting revitalisation project for the area called the Lower Don Trail Master Plan that has been ongoing for years.

The Don Valley  is an important natural and recreational area in the city, offering residents and visitors a chance to connect with nature and enjoy outdoor activities. To improve access and enhance the visitor experience, several projects are currently underway and others are being planned for the future.

With the project comes an opportunity to add new parkland, and the best and most exciting opportunity is one that has been dubbed Snow Drop Park by the city.

Rendering of new park space in Don Valley

This five-hectare area, situated between the Don River and railway lines, is considered an ideal spot for creating new parkland in the Don Valley. According to the city, it has been used as a dumping ground for snow cleared from the Don Valley Parkway, but there is huge potential for this site. With some environmental study and remediation, as well as at least one trail bridge, this former industrial site could be transformed into a secure programming zone, perfect for hosting concerts, group camping, or Indigenous events. In addition, a city presentation considers a ravine educational camp that could be set up here, closed off to the public to protect the environment while offering a unique learning experience.  Snow Drop Park has the potential to become a hub for natural and cultural exploration.

One of the most significant projects currently underway is the Cudmore Creek Wetland and Trailhead, located at the intersection of Pottery Road and Bayview Avenue, adjacent to the Don River. The area is currently an informal parking lot and often floods, making it an ideal location for the creation of a wetland. The project will also include the addition of a Crothers Woods trail kiosk and clear signage to help visitors navigate the area.

Another project that is currently being studied is the Don Valley Brick Works Park: North Slope Interpretive Feature. Informal trails run around the top of the north face of the Don Valley Brick Works, but due to the risk of erosion and damage to the Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA), use is discouraged, and no formal trails are possible. The study will explore additional measures to discourage access to this area by users seeking views or shortcuts.

The Governor’s Bridge Lookout is another important site in the Don Valley, offering stunning views of the surrounding area. However, the lookout overlooking the Evergreen Brick Works is in need of repair to resolve current drainage problems and function as a public gathering space. The project is partially funded and will potentially accommodate public art.

Several projects are focused on improving accessibility and connectivity in the Don Valley. The formalization of the Linkage Trail and upgrade of the stairway to meet accessible standards from Pottery Road Slope to Todmorden Mills is currently under construction. The staircase serves as an important connection between Todmorden Mills and the neighborhoods north of the Danforth. Similarly, the formalization of the trail through Wellesley Park and upgrade of the stairway to meet accessible standards is in the design phase. The existing stairway from Wellesley Park to the Rosedale Valley Road/Bayview Avenue intersection is a key portal into the valley but needs to have its accessibility features improved.

Bayview Avenue scenic parkway rendering

The Lower Don Sloping Path project will provide a more accessible pedestrian and cycle connection from the Riverdale Pedestrian Bridge to the Lower Don Trail below. The Dundas Staircase to Lower Don Trail project will provide a staircase to connect with the trail and meet accessibility standards. Additionally, the reconstruction of the Lower Don Trail and widening wherever possible is designed but awaiting construction.

Several projects are not yet funded and may require additional planning and vetting through consultation and engagement. These include the formalization of the connection through Cullen Bryant Park, the creation of Coxwell Ravine Trails and Public Washrooms, and the redesign of the Forks Node. The latter is an important node in the trail system, where five major trails converge.

Lastly, the improvement of the connection from Beechwood Drive is being considered, as there are few entry points to the Lower Don Trail system, especially north of Pottery Road. The current portal needs careful design to welcome visitors, and improvements could include beautification, rest stops, and an additional public parking facility. Moreover, the possible future relocation of the Toronto Police Dog Services Building would open new opportunities for parks facilities in the area.

The Don Valley is a valuable natural resource for Toronto and the projects underway aim to enhance its accessibility, connectivity, and visitor experience. Through careful planning and execution, these projects will help residents and visitors connect with nature and enjoy the many benefits the Don Valley has to offer.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO