A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘garrison creek

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto’s ‘lost rivers’ reflect how we’ve reshaped nature”

The Toronto Star‘s Michael Ogilvie conducted an interview with local historian Helen Mills about the buried and otherwise lost rivers of Toronto.

A little neighborhood exploration led Helen Mills to discover a waterway unmarked in the city grid. She later determined it was a lost river — the former lifeblood of a land forever altered by industry and infrastructure.

The discovery led to her creation of an effort to educate others about the city’s past waterways. The initiative has since turned into one of the most extensive walking tour groups in the province.

The Star spoke with the Lost Rivers Toronto founder and local estuary historian to learn more about six hidden currents flowing underneath our city’s surface.

My neighbourhoods’ Garrison Creek is, naturally, a subject.

This west-side river’s roots, like many others, reach back to the days of the ice age. Water cut through deposits left by the massive ice sheet and flowed into the bed of an ancient Lake Iroquois.

Vegetation eventually enveloped the terrain and settled into woodland that was later cleared for settlement.

Buried since the 1920s, the Garrison now travels through a series of storm sewers and under our roads from just north of St. Clair down towards the western harbour near the historic Fort York.

For Mills, its winding channel forms the “ground zero” of Toronto’s lost river movement and where her personal journey documenting these extinct watercourses began.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 29, 2016 at 7:05 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto is a geologic force: the Lost Rivers guide to the PATH system”

Spacing Toronto’s Daniel Rotsztain describes, with photos and maps, the aftermath of a recent walk in downtown Toronto’s underground path system reveals the still-lasting geological influence of the area. Even after all the construction and channelling, remnants of lost streams like west-end Toronto’s Garrison Creek still endure.

Thinking about the sheer volume of stone mined from the earth, shipped across the planet and reconstituted as Torontonian skyscrapers, it’s easy to appreciate that our modern city is a geologic force as strong as those that created the Scarborough Bluffs and carved the ravines.

Sometimes, the geologic forces of urbanization are more subtle. When the initial construction of the Bay-Adelaide centre was delayed indefinitely in the early 1990s, the city was left with a 6-storey stump and an unfulfilled order of 35,000 tons of Norwegian granite. Without the 44-storey tower to be clad, the city was awash in free flowing Scandinavian stone that has since settled into hundreds of tables and floors in downtown Toronto.

Beneath the city covered in layers of stone from elsewhere, there are indeed remnants of historical watercourses. Though most of the waterways in downtown Toronto have been eradicated due to extreme excavation for infrastructure and subterranean parking levels, a proxy for one of the Market Streams that used to flow south east through the city does exist.

In the corridor between the Royal Bank Building and Brookfield Place, the stone below our feet was showing signs of water absorption. This would have been where Newgate Creek emptied into Lake Ontario.

Though dry to the touch, the off-coloured stone might be a sign of the groundwater that would have replaced the creek. Standing underground, surrounded by concrete, it’s powerful to feel this rare assertion of the landscape beneath Toronto — a sign of the city before the glass, steel and international stone of today’s internationally constituted metropolis.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 11, 2015 at 8:16 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Public Works: Bringing New Life to a City’s Lost Waterways”

Torontoist’s Peter Goffin reports on a San Francisco initiative that has relevance for Toronto, with its buried waterways like the Garrison Creek.

A pair of San Franciscans have concocted a plan to bring new life to the city’s long-dead waterways through a public art installation. Designer Emily Schlickman and radio producer Kristina Loring will paint the paths of dried-up creeks and streams (which, in that part of the world, are referred to as “arroyos”) onto the asphalt and concrete of the San Franciscan core that now covers them.

The project, called Ghost Arroyos, is one of 50 installations selected for inclusion in the Market Street Prototyping Festival—three days in April 2015 during which experimental “placemaking” projects for improving the major San Francisco street will be put on display.

The exhibit will include only a small section of Market Street, but there are enough ghostly waterways in San Francisco’s past to keep Schlickman and Loring painting streets for years.

The Oakland Museum of California has put together a bountiful online collection of interactive maps and historical paintings to show the city’s natural landscape as it once looked. It turns out the bustling Bay Area was once home to marshland, streams, creeks, and sand dunes, long since dried up or filled in and built over. Not unlike Toronto, except for the sand dunes.

Like San Francisco, we identify as a waterfront city but are also a city of inland tributaries—rivers, streams, creeks, ponds, marshes. Some, such as the Don and Humber, are unavoidable. Others have been long forgotten. But all of them have been manipulated, straightened, buried, narrowed, expanded, walled in, or controlled to make way for roads and ports and buildings.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 31, 2014 at 8:34 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto subway stops that will never happen”

blogTO’s Derek Flack linked to designer Jon Toews’ collection of photos of imaginary subway stops, places that would have been built if only the TTC had been mroe ambitious: Parkdale, Roncesvalles, Garrison Creek …

Written by Randy McDonald

October 23, 2014 at 10:36 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Your Guide to Jane’s Walk 2014”

I took part last May in a couple of the Jane’s Walks with my father, a former Garrison Creek route, the first (upstream) tracing the legacies of the buried stream and the second (downstream) trying to make a case for restoring the watercourse to the surface. We both had a lot of fun.

That’s why I’m pleased Torontoist pulled together a selection of especially interesting walks this year.

When Jane’s Walk first launched in 2007, a year after the death of urban activist Jane Jacobs, the Toronto Star listed 23 strolls. Christopher Hume noted that “though [Jacobs] was one of those people who refuse all honours … Jane’s Walk might well be the one sort of attention she would have appreciated.”

Since that modest start, Jane’s Walk has grown in leaps and bounds. While those initial walks covered only the pre-amalgamation City of Toronto, this year’s edition offers over 130 strolls across the 416. And these are only a fraction of the walks that will be held in over 150 cities across the globe this weekend, covering all continents except Antarctica (though we wouldn’t be surprised if one were to take place there someday).

The number and range of scheduled of walks can be intimidating, so we’ve pulled together some themes you can use to build your Jane’s Walk experience.

My curiosity is especially piqued by the Bloordale walk starting at Bloor and Dufferin Saturday and the graffiti tour on Queen Street West Sunday.


[PHOTO] “Rediscovering Garrison Creek”

This plaque embedded on the sidewalk at the southeasternmost corner of Trinity Bellwoods Park, on Queen Street West next to Gore Vale Avenue, traces the former route of long-buried Garrison Creek on top of the near-current streetscape of Toronto. (The plaque, made in 1996, doesn’t include the newer streets associated with condo developments in the west end.) On this day, a Jane’s Walk day, a walk leader had traced the waterfront and the stream over in blue chalk.

"Rediscovering Garrison Creek"

Written by Randy McDonald

May 28, 2013 at 10:17 am

[PHOTO] Eight pictures of Toronto parks in springtime, May 2013

The spray of young daffodils scattered on the slope of this park just south of Dupont and Dufferin was cheerful.

Daffodils on the slope, Wallace Emerson Park

Spring sunshine, in Dufferin Grove Park.

Spring, Dufferin Grove Park

The literal depths of this park, far below the levels of the surrounding streets and neighbourhoods, is noteworthy.

Christie Pits, May 2013 (1)

Christie Pits, May 2013 (2)

Christie Pits, May 2013 (3)

The wall on the northern side of Harbord Street, looking out onto Bickford Park, is apparently the last legacy of an ambitious program that aimed to fill in much of the bed of the old Garrison Creek. The deep valley in Bickford Park, geologically connected to the depths of Christie Pits, is as far south as Garrison Creek’s visible remnants go.

Harbord Street, looking north at Bickford Park

This tree, either a black walnut or a black locust, is apparently the old tree in Trinity Bellwoods Park. Located in the southeastern corner of that park, the tree borders tennis courts; the rim of the fence surrounding the playing field is visible at the bottom of the photo. The courts were apparently moved a few metres to the east in order to avoid encroaching on the tree’s roots.

The oldest tree in Trinity Bellwoods Park

Looking north into High Park from the Queensway, this is what you see.

Looking north into High Park from the Queensway