A new trail in Scarborough should be completed soon now that Councillor Brian Ashton - Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest has lifted his order to stop work on the trail. This is a 2 km section of trail that forms part of what will eventually be a 9.4 km trail running through the Scarborough Transportation Corridor from just west of Midland to just east of Morningside. Once completed this will form a main route for the Bikeway Network through south west Scarborough. There are, however, still hurdles to overcome to ensure the trail is extended through the entire corridor as planned.
| Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the McCowan Park path project are outlined in orange. The dashed green line is the corridor path through the Scarborough Transportation Corridor. Future bike lanes are red dashed lines. Blue dashed lines are planned on-street signed routes. (click on the image for a larger image) |
| The Western Entrance of the McCowan Park Path is still blocked at the path is not yet completed. The first section of path tree lined on both sides. |
The Scarborough Transportation Corridor is land that was reserved for the planned Scarbourough Expressway. The expressway was never built, sparing the local residents from having 400 style highway cutting throughout their communities. The land in the Scarbourough Transportation Corridor has remained vacant over the years. When the Bike Plan was being developed and the proposed Bikeway network was being drawn up it was realized that there was a potential for this corridor to serve as a transportation corridor, but for a much more environmentally friendly form of transportation. This could serve as a route for a 9.4 km corridor path that would give residents a direct off-street bike route between Midland and Morningside that could connect to the Bikeway network in the former city of Toronto to the west and to the Highland Creek trail, and the new Scarborough Waterfront trail to the east.
The opportunity to create the first leg of this trail presented itself with plans for McCowan Park being built by Toronto's Parks Forestry and Recreation Division. This is a linear park that would run between Belamy and Brimley in the corridor. The plans included a 4 metre asphalt trail to run the entire length of the park. This would be the first leg of the Scarborough Transportation Corridor path.
| There is one 200 metre section that was left uncompleted when Councillor Brian Ashton ordered a halt to construction leaving a gap in the trail. Here the path is between a light industrial area to the north and a treed ridge to the north. This section has had new landscaping put in. |
The first phase of this project was to complete the path between Brimley and McCowan. That would have been completed last fall, and in fact had almost been completed. However, Councillor Brian Ashton ordered a halt to the construction, according to a local newspaper, after a public meeting where residents, whose properties backed onto the park, had objections to the path. A local Scarbourgh newspaper reported that some residents were opposed to the 4 m asphalt path being built in the corridor. It reported some were opposed to the width of the path, others didn't want it paved. The headline for the newspaper article was 'All path and no park'. One of the reasons stated for not building the path was a fear it would bring criminals into their back yards. I called the Councillors office to confirm this story. They said that the construction had previously been halted but that order had been lifted and work should resume as soon as weather permits.
Two weeks ago I rode on the path to see whether it had been completed or not and to see what had the residents upset. I imagined the path must run right along their fences to generate this responses. I was surprised at how much room was available in the corridor and how much distance and how many trees there were between the path and the fences of some of the back yards. At Brimley where the trail starts the corridor is at its narrowest you can see the back yards of some of the houses through the trees but the park widens out towards McCowan where the bulk of the area of the park is. There it features a playground and walking paths.
| Here looking east the path heads toward McCowan. The new playground and walking paths and fields are to the left. |
The path is lined by the existing trees on both sides on the end toward Brimley and on the south side from the middle to McCowan. In some sections there are new trees planted with some landscaping done. The paved 4.0 m path is up to the Parks Forestry and Recreation Divisions standards for this type of a path. This will be a main route for the bikeway network so should be built to a width that will allow cyclists, pedestrians, inline skaters to use it safely. Narrowing the path, or changing the surface to gravel would make it unusable or unsafe for many users. The issue of crime is an odd one for residents opposed to the path to raise. The argument that a path will allow access for criminals assumes that the lack of a paved path somehow prevented those up to no good from walking along the existing corridor. If they wanted to walk in there they could with no one being aware they are there.
As I was riding through the path I thought this will actually increase the safety in this neighborhood. The new path will actually attract the neighbours. Once completed it will be an excellent place for people in the neighbourhood to walk, take their kids to the new play ground, run, rollerblade and bike. It is this kind of traffic that will keep this area safe. It follows with the 'more eyes on the street' philosophy where neighbours look out for each other and can see if something illegal is going on.
Work on the next phase of the park, from McCowan to Bellamy has not started yet and there has been pressure to stop the construction of the path or reduce the width from 4 metres with the same arguments being presented. There has been requests to reduce the width of the path from 4 m down to 3 and even 2 metres in some sections. Again, in order for this path to be a integral route in the Bikeway Network the City, the staff at the Parks Forestry and Recreation Division and Councillor Ashton should resist this pressure and maintain the 4 m width in the original design. There seems to be a trend in the City when designing park paths to try and narrow them to the point where they will no longer serve their intended function as a multi-use recreational trail and environmentally friendly transportation route. Another example of a trial being being designed to be too narrow is the Toronto west Rail Path as reported by Tammy Thorne on the Spacing Wire website This is not a bike path. The Parks Forestry and Recreation Division is supposed to be developing path design guidelines. They should ensure that the paths serve the transportation function that is needed as part of the Bikeway Network. These guidelines should followed whenever paths are being designed or upgraded by the City's Parks Forestry and Recreation Division or Transportation Services Division. They should also be followed when paths are being designed by other agencies such as the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation as well.
If you want to ensure that this trail is constructed and maintains the proper width you can contact Councillor Brian Ashton email@example.com and the Chair of the Parks and Environment Committee Paula Fletcher firstname.lastname@example.org. It also would be good to copy your message to Councillor Adrian Heaps email@example.com the newly appointed member of Council to the Toronto Cycling Committee. Martin Koob