Old rail corridor opens to new recreational use
West Toronto Railpath Park officially open
The long-awaited West Toronto Railpath Park officially opened with a little pomp and circumstance Friday afternoon, Oct. 30.
Davenport Councillor Adam Giambrone hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony along with representatives from the City of Toronto, Scott Torrance Landscape Architect Inc., artist John Dickson and Friends of the West Toronto Railpath group.
“It’s already changed the neighbourhood,” said nearby resident Kevin Putnam who, undeterred by the rainy weather, attended the festivities at the Wallace Avenue Railpath entrance with his toddler son. “(The park has) quickly become a focal point.”
The pedestrian, in-line skating, cycling and skateboard park pathway stretches 2.1 kilometres of land between Cariboo Avenue to the Dundas Street West and Lansdowne Avenue area to the south of Bloor Street West. The city acquired the land in 2001 to develop the multi-use trail for both recreational and commuter purposes. Construction began in June of this year and was completed in September.
“Good things come to those who wait,” said Putnam. “My son, he’s got a place where he’ll be able to ride his bike car-free. For a lot of people it really facilitates a car-free lifestyle.”
The new railpath winds its way along the abandoned railway beds that have been out of commission for more than four decades. Because the rail corridor has a substantial width, the railpath will not get in the way of existing train routes. The railpath park’s features include a system of wayfaring signs indicating each access point along the route.
“I’m very glad to be here as we inaugurate the West Toronto Railpath… This is a neighbourhood that has a lack of green space. This railpath will add to the green space and community space,” said Giambrone. “The community has pushed for this for a long time.”
During the construction, the City of Toronto took an inventory of flora and fauna in an effort to protect and enhance the land, which is already a sanctuary for birds, animals, insect and plant life. As part of the project, the city planted a wide variety of trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials.
“It was a day like this that two years ago I collected seeds from plants growing here,” said Landscape Architect Scott Torrance. “We started this project in 2006. It takes a real team to complete something like this. One of the most rewarding times for me was when I came this summer. The trail was so well used by parents and children out for an evening stroll.”
Toronto artist Dickson created four sculptures, collectively named Frontier, inspired by the changing landscape of the Junction and Railpath Park area. They are constructed of galvanized steel, erected at the south end of the pathway, said Dickson.
“The sculptures’ proportions came about through the proportions of the railpath. I wanted a large scale so you could see them from the trains,” said Dickson. “I’m looking forward to seeing them incorporate into their environment.”
Along the 2,100 metre path, which translates into about 20 walking minutes or five cycling minutes, there is the Wallace Avenue pedestrian foot bridge and the Bloor Street GO Station entrance in addition to several bike stations.
“The neighbourhood is blown away,” said Scott Dobson of the Friends of the West Toronto Railpath group. “You hear people talking about this, people are meeting on this trail. It’s very incredible.”