By Sarah Greene
In May, the City began a study on how to improve the Beltline Trail, a former commuter railway line running from Allen Rd. down to the Don Valley Brick Works, which is now used for recreation and for transportation by local residents, families, dog walkers, runners and cyclists. The study breaks the trail into two sections: the Upper Kay Gardner Beltline Trail and, below Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the Ravine Beltline Trail (including Vale of Avoca Ravine, Moore Park Ravine and Park Drive Ravine).
Recommendations include making the trails safer by improving road crossings as some of the current crossings are quite inconvenient and dangerous to cross, as well as introducing lighting to the entire upper part of the trail. The current proposal does not recommend lighting the bottom, ravine, part of the trail, citing ecological and safety concerns (because it would encourage evening use of isolated, potentially unsafe parts of the trail, and light pollution disturbs natural biorhythms and might interfere with nocturnal wildlife). The study also suggests introducing new signage (which may tie into the Toronto 360 Wayfinding Strategy) and working on connectivity and accessibility issues, as well as environmental protection and restoration.
The City held a series of public meetings earlier this fall, including the packed (approximately 200 person) meeting September 10 at Northern District Public Library.
Last night’s meeting at St. Paul’s United Church (pictured above) and tonight’s meeting at West Preparatory Junior Public School (70 Ridge Hill Dr.) are part of the study’s second round of public consultations.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27 Toronto Centre-Rosedale), and representatives from Cycle Toronto, the Evergreen Brick Works, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and Toronto Field Naturalists were in attendance at last night’s meeting, as well as planners, consultants and a number of local residents who frequently use the Toronto trails network, to discuss the future of the Beltline Trail.
There's consensus so far that safety and accessibility are important, though the terrain presents challenges (one of the first things the City might work on is a trail switchback to connect Chorley Park to the Brick Works and Beltline Trail).
Many residents would like to see the trails maintain their current rustic/non-manicured aesthetic. A few people mentioned that Milkman’s Lane is not a good example of how to do ecological protection.
Intersections remain an important area of debate: the study recommends installing traffic lights where the trail crosses at Bathurst, Avenue, and Mount Pleasant, but suggests a cyclist refuge island and additional signage as a first choice instead of a signalled crossing at Oriole Parkway. (The study also recommends better signage at Old Park Road and at Moore).
A representative of Cycle Toronto mentioned he would like to see safe and direct signalized crossings at Oriole as well, though another person in attendance brought up concern about backlash from drivers. (That is, it would be better to get the refuge island instead, if motorists are going to oppose new lights at intersections.)
See Cycle Toronto's Beltline Trail petition here.
Other topics that were touched on were Mount Pleasant Cemetery hours, and how to get around it, what switchbacks would look like (how much they would change the appearance of the landscape, if vehicles would fit on them), and the removal (or not) of bollards at entrances to the trail.
The City is hoping to wrap up the study early in the New Year, and is planning to report on this round of consultations December 19, but is still open to input from the public, either in person at tonight’s meeting starting at 6 p.m. at West Preparatory Junior Public School at 70 Ridge Hill Dr or you can email Jason Diceman at firstname.lastname@example.org to provide input.
Details on tonight’s meeting:
Beltline Trail public meeting
Tonight (Wednesday, December 5)
6 p.m. open house
7 p.m. presentation and breakout discussion
West Preparatory Junior Public School
70 Ridge Hill Dr
If you can’t make it, you are invited to send your feedback about the Beltline Trails Study to:
Public Consultation Unit
City of Toronto
Metro Hall, 19th Floor
55 John Street
Toronto, ON M5V 3C6
City Project info here.
Here's a Google map.
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