A new proposal linking the trails between Earl Bales Park and York Mills Station has been adopted by city council at a meeting this week. The proposal asks that the routes be accessible year-round to cyclists and walkers without causing damage to the existing environment or the city-owned Don Valley Golf Course.
Currently, the only trails connecting Earl Bales Park and York Mills Station run directly through the golf course, which is closed from April to November when the course is open to players. The golf course obstruction makes it hard for cyclists to use the trail system and for the communities surrounding the course to access the trail for several months during the year.
“Access to green space is also an important equity consideration, particularly where there are opportunities to improve mobility,” stated city councillor James Pasternak, in a letter supporting the plan. “Reliance on car-ownership and even the cost of TTC fares for families can be expensive, whether for day-to-day work and family obligations or when accessing recreation and the kinds of excellent programs offered by Parks, Forestry & Recreation. With many purpose-built affordable apartment buildings along Sheppard Avenue and close to this ravine, a connection could materially benefit many individuals and families into the foreseeable future.
The plan would find a way to connect the two trails and avoid the golf course, allowing residents to use the path year-round. The proposal is also asking the city to revamp the existing and new portions of the trail to make it easier for cyclists to use. This portion of the Don Valley ravine will also be home to more than 10,000 trees and shrubs planted by 2025, and the new trail will give people easy access to green space.
“Currently, the walking and cycling routes traversing the 401 in this area are extremely limited. Travelling under the 401 on Yonge Street is noisy and unpleasant as well as arduous and hazardous.
The ravine route through the Don Valley Golf Course could offer a more pleasant and safe path of travel,” wrote Lee Scott of Toronto Walks in a recent letter sent to city council. “It would also offer significant convenience for those moving between the intersection at Bathurst and Sheppard at the north west corner of Earl Bales Park and the intersection and TTC station at Yonge Street and York Mills Road.”
The newly proposed trail link route has yet to have any objections on file and appears to be supported by the area’s property owners and environmental groups. As Scott’s letter above noted, one key element to this new trail would be the avoidance of travelling under the 401, which has been hazardous to several walkers and cyclists over the years.
Currently, the trail is just dirt and not a realistic option for most people especially when attempting to commute to work via bicycle. Cycle Toronto’s Alison Stewart submitted a letter in support of the trail upgrade saying its the only way to connect under the highway and the current trail is closed during prime cycling and walking season.
“Toronto has made progress on improving cycling and pedestrian connections, but there remain many areas that lack access to safe connections that improve mobility,” she explained. “Giving people year round access to the trail will not only increase the connectivity for people who live and work in the area, it will open up space that has been exclusively reserved for a specific group of people. Diversifying the use of Toronto’s public green spaces takes a more inclusive and equitable approach to how its valuable land is used.”
A motion by fellow North York city councillor Lily Cheng plotted out neighbourhood connections that would benefit from the project including Earl Bales Park, and West Lansing in Willowdale. With new cycling infrastructure advancing in the Willowdale area, the expanding trail infrastructure could be a boon for those looking to bike commute from central North York to the areas south of Hwy 401.
A report is due back to city in the second quarter of 2024 with specific details of the trail link plan.