Torottawalk: Dovercourt Park Area (1:00 today!)


You may have noticed my little side project: The Dovercourt Park Community Association. Or at least, I hope you have, and I hope you’re interested in partnering up with us!

Today, I’m walking around the area, starting at Dovercourt Park and walking to our boundaries while chatting about community development, our history, and our future with some local community members.

You’re more than welcome to come, or follow along our Torottawalk on Instagram or Twitter

Torottawalk: Downsview Farmer’s Market and Area

English: map of Downsview

English: map of Downsview (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s fitting that a farm is now a farmer’s market.

I’ve been talking about, and planning for, a different walk all week – a “Weed Walk” (far lamer than it sounds) where we walk about an urban area identifying edible, ingestible, drinkable plant life. After gardening for the last month and learning to identify the plants I grow from seed, I thought it would be lovely, forgetting that my sister – an amateur urban farmer, landscaper, florist, and general hippie – would be a great guide along this trip. As it’s too late to invite her for today, I’m pushing a Weed Walk until later.  Instead: Downsview.

Downsview was originally John Perkins Bull’s farm. Bull, a Justice of the Peace who settled in this area around 1842, named his farm “Downs View” as his property was situated on one of the highest elevations in Toronto. [This does not bode well for our 50+ minute bike ride to the flea market, but coming home, I anticipate hitting top speed.] Bull who balanced being a centre of justice with farming, included in the basement of  his farm house built a courtroom addition and a jail.  I’m sure they’ve remodelled extensively for the Nursing Home currently occupying The John Perkins Bull house (450 Rustic Road).

For 100+ years, Downview was its own self-sustaining area, with large post-WWII subdivisions, beautifully built churches, and lovely schools. In 1928 De Havilland Aircraft Company, followed by The Canadian Armed Forces set up military bases during World War Two. Following the end of the Cold War the  land was transformed into an urban park known as Downsview Park.

If you’re interested in learning a lot more about Downsview, check out From Oxford to Ontario : a history of the Downsview community

Today, we’re taking a tour of the over 600 friendly vendors of the Downsview Farmer’s Market offering unique merchandise from around the world.  I’m shocked we haven’t gone before, but I can only assume it’s because it’s so far without a car. Welp, After conquering the North for Torottawalk and Jane’s Walk, we’re pumped to head out on bikes and find bargains in consumer electronics, fashion clothing, jewellery, home furnishings, cosmetics, housewares, food produce and Downsview’s antique market.  

Torottawalk: Riverdale Farm (Today at 1:00)

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More a wander than a walk, we'll have a start point and explore.

More a wander than a walk, we’ll have a start point and explore.

Riverdale Farm (earlier named Riverdale Zoo) was established in 1856 when the City of Toronto bought 119 acres from the Scadding estate. On August 11, 1880, Riverdale Park was officially opened. After donations of animals, Riverdale Farm became Toronto’s First Zoo.

The list of initial animals reads like a Christmas carol. By 1902, the zoo had sixteen pheasants, two ocelots, a male camel, an elephant, a buffalo bull, six pens of monkeys, a Siberian bear, a young female crane, some lions, and a hippopotamus. That year, due to its proximity to  the old railway line, it was easy for the  Toronto Railway Company to carry 20,000 people to the zoo. After we bought a zoo in Scarborough in 1974 the animals were shipped to the new zoo and the Riverdale Zoo closed its gates for the last time. Over the next four years, many of the Riverdale Zoo buildings were torn down – all but The Residence, the Donnybrook, and the Island House buildings were demolished.

Today, we’re visiting the property, as well as the urban farm called Riverdale Farm. The Farm opened in 1978 and holds horses, cows, pigs, chickens and other animals in an late-19th-century-style farm. You may remember that Riverdale Farm narrowly escaped the chopping block last year after the infamous 2011 KPMG report identified it as a possible cost-cutting measure for the city.

You may also remember that just this year a $25,000 donation from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation (and a matching promise from Toronto’s councilors), brought new hope to the Farm – which is free to visit (but please donate).

For more information visit: the Parks and Forestry Page

Torottawalk: West Toronto Rail Path (1:00 Today)

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walking the West Toronto Rail Path

walking the West Toronto Rail Path

I’ve biked the West Toronto Railpath – or the WTR – a bunch of times. Discovering it on the way home from my volunteer bonanza over Christmas, it was like a dream. Above the traffic, away from lights, away from aggressive drivers, here was this linear park that pooped me out at little stops along the way.

Why can’t we have this everywhere, I thought.

I even tweeted about the concept:

Turns out, Friends of the West Toronto Railpath is a community-based working group with the goal of assisting the City of Toronto design, finance and build a 6.5 kilometre linear park from Toronto’s Junction Neighbourhood into the heart of the city. They’re currently lobbying to extend the Railpath south into the core, just by following along the rail lines.

West Toronto Rail Path

The first section of the Railpath took ten years of planning, lobbying, and prodding; Construction of Phase 1 of the path, running from Cariboo Avenue to Dundas Street West and Sterling Road, began in 2008 and was completed in 2009.[1]   Support for this project seems to have come from all sides – the City of Toronto Economic Development and Parks Committees, grassroots community support, the Evergreen Foundation and, Toronto’s Community Bicycle Network; however, the project necessitated the purchase of land and negotiations with rail operators and other stakeholders.

With plans for the bike path to head all the way to union station, and other rail trail paths in existence ( like the Toronto BeltlineLeaside Rail Trail, and the massive multi-use trail network ; hopefully I can look forward to a day where I’m riding the rails around this city.