Saturday, February 16, 2013

East Don Trail Environmental Assessment

A public meeting was held in a school gym close to the east Don in Flemingdon Park. It just happened that I captured two of the three councillors who attended this meeting in this picture. Can you spot them?

I attended a public meeting this week that was the first in a series to talk about a proposed trail through the East Don Valley between Lawrence Ave. East and the forks of the Don. The forks are roughly where the east and west Don River branches and also Taylor-Massey Creek join together. The trail will be built to the standard size of about 3-4m in width paved with asphalt. This is necessary to meet accessibility standards and coincidentally wide enough to accommodate Parks and Rec vehicles.

This meeting kicks off the Environmental Assessment process. These public meetings are a part of that process (the city must hold them). The EA will investigate alternatives and eventually recommend a preferred solution. When the EA is finished then construction can commence, conditional on funding of course.

With all projects of this sort there are pros and cons. On the plus side, this trail will connect the north and south ends of the valley and significantly extend the Don trail network. Right  now the valley is used almost exclusively by mountain bikers on a series of quite challenging single track trails and by people living nearby who use it for dog walking and such activities. There are also a few connecting parks linking the valley to neighbourhoods. The trail will open up the valley to a larger section of the populace.

On the down side, the trail will inevitably lead to a decline in the quality of the habitat for animals and plants living in the valley. When people move in other things get pushed aside. The trail will likely negatively impact vital habitats such as wetlands and forest fragments that still exist within the valley.

In addition there are several challenges in building a continuous trail. Just south of Eglinton, the Flemingdon Park Golf Course covers a large swath of the valley. There is not much left of the valley to build a trail unless it takes away part of the golf course. There is also the CN railway which snakes through the valley. Building the trail will require it to go over or under the tracks (a level crossing is a non-starter) which is vary expensive. Then there is the river. In several places the river is actively cutting away at the edge of the ravine wall. There is no space in these sections for a trail. This will entail further expensive bridges to cross the river.

How these challenges are to be addressed is as yet unknown.  A feasibility study done May 2012 is not yet available. The website says that it will be posted shortly but hasn't been. Nor is there any indication of how to get a print copy. The material posted at the meeting is now available on the website.

The city is accepting comments up until February 28, 2013. You can submit comments to

A map displaying part of the valley. Participants were encouraged to use post-it notes to make comments.


Val Dodge said...

Hey, I'm in that first picture, wearing a red jacket (sans hat) way in the back.

I have mixed feelings about the trail: it'll mean more traffic and a paved trail in one of my favourite city hiking areas, but it's also a much-needed connection between downtown and the Gatineau trail. Overall, I think the new trail will be more beneficial than harmful and I look forward to it. Portions of the route are already so degraded that it's hard to see how a trail could make them worse.

It'll be interesting to see how they plan to overcome the various obstacles along the way, especially in places where the only options seem to be on top of either the railway or the river.

Anonymous said...

The city posted the summary of the Feasibility Study. Unfortunately it says nothing more than what we already know.

Donwatcher said...

After some prodding, I got the city to send me a copy of the feasibility study. If you want a copy send me an email and I will give you a copy.