The Green Line

Park Walk: Friends of the Green Line Park Walk.

Follow the green-brick road

Story by Amanda Lewis 

Photos by Kyle Baptista for Park People.

Have you heard of the Green Line in Toronto? It’s a five kilometre hydro corridor north of Dupont and the CP Railway, running from Earlscourt Park at Lansdowne to just east of Spadina. Currently the area is a mixture of hydro towers, public and private amenities, green space, walkways, and gravel yards. Residences, warehouses, businesses, and studios overlook the corridor. The provincial government owns the land and licenses nine parcels for community gardens, sports fields, and playgrounds, and for private/public uses, such as parking lots.

Friends of the Green Line on a part of the Park Walk at a community garden in a section of the Frankel Lambert Park.

Park People  and other organizations and individuals have an amazing vision for this space: to turn it into a park and transportation corridor for pedestrians and cyclists. In 2012, local firm Workshop Architecture led a competition for designs to transform the area. Participants from around the world submitted ideas for the Green Line and the Green Line Underpass, and the entries were published in Spacing magazine.

Building on this initiative, as well as the Davenport Neighbourhood Association’s steady efforts to revitalize this space, Park People created the Friends of the Green Line group to focus attention on the project.

Currently surrounded by Toronto Hydro towers, attendees learned about the dream of a butterfly highway, and how the Green Line could connect to other active transportation corridors.

On June 19, 2014, I joined a walking tour of the Green Line, organized by Park People. Our group of about 50 people walked from Geary and Dovercourt to just east of Christie, where the route is blocked with a chain-link fence. Individuals, some representing non-profit organizations, spoke along the way about the current uses for the area, including the Frankel Lambert Community Garden off Christie, and its potential as a butterfly corridor as part of the David Suzuki Foundation’s Homegrown National Park Project. Planners from the City of Toronto were also on hand to discuss the City’s position and challenges, and field questions from participants.

The Green Line will prove a vital and convenient path for cyclists. 

Representing Cycle Toronto, I spoke about the potential for the Green Line to be used as an east-west transportation corridor for pedestrians and cyclists. The Green Line could link existing bike infrastructure in wards 19, 20, and 21, including the contraflow lanes on Shaw and the bike lanes on Christie and Vaughan. It would enable cyclists to move from northern and western parts of the city into the downtown core. Environmental assessments for bike lanes on Bloor and Dupont are coming, and the Green Line would be a means of accessing those (potential) bike routes and lanes.

Anna Hill, coordinator for community outreach and neighbourhood parks with Park People, said, “From Lansdowne to Spadina, the Green Line could provide a much needed cycle corridor.” The Green Line offers a chance to connect bike lanes and bike boulevards, helping to create a minimum grid across the city.

Beautification through art and foliage is a part of making the Green Line a prominent and accessible linear park in Toronto.

Busy streets intersect the route, and connections are most needed at Dovercourt, Christie, and Bathurst; options might include crosswalks or bike and wheelchair accessible overpasses. The Green Line presents an opportunity to improve connectivity in the city and fill in gaps between parks and cycling routes. As Hill said, “The concept of a linear park is an important one for Toronto because it is a way to leverage the benefits of smaller parks and parkettes into an extended green space with shared uses.”

Properly paved paths are also vital to bringing the Green Line to its full potential.

Urban green spaces offer numerous advantages, including improved air quality, increased opportunities for physical exercise, and better mental health. According to a study from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, residents in neighbourhoods with more than 10 per cent tree canopy reported less depression, anxiety, and stress. A study from the University of Exeter showed similar findings, with survey respondents reporting improved happiness and life satisfaction when living in close proximity to urban green spaces.

The West Toronto Rail Path and the Finch Hydro Corridor provide examples of using similar spaces in innovative ways. Other cities have converted rail lines to public sites, which have proven to be destinations for residents as well as visitors: Atlanta has its popular BeltLine, New York its celebrated High Line, and Chicago’s 606 is a mixture of green space, trails, and art installations.

Participants also learned what local community groups are doing to animate their parks, and how the Dupont Employment Lands study could tie into a future vision for the Green Line.

Friends of the Green Line, supported by Park People, is calling on all residents of Toronto, but primarily the residents of wards 17 to 22, to push for this space to be transformed into a park. As we’re in an election year they are also calling on candidates to incorporate the Green Line into their vision for the city, and for voters to ask candidates to support the Green Line. This Green Line master plan, in part, asks the City to license the sections of land that would create a connected route. The creation of the Green Line will be an ongoing project that will upgrade existing parks, even out grade changes, improve the safety and accessibility of road crossings, and create a continuous transportation corridor for pedestrians and cyclists.

Click here for more info, and be sure to take a stroll on the Green Line this summer.

Here are some more photos from the excursion:

Related on the dandyBLOG:

Reading Line group keeps Green Line promotion growing

Riding in “God’s Country” the Wellington County Bike Trail Chronicles

Bike Spotting on the West Toronto Railpath

Mapping Biking and Bikeability in Toronto

Pedal power in parliament: Olivia Chow

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