Landscape & Urban Design, Nature, Toronto

Don Valley - Evergreen Brickworks

On a sunny Saturday morning, I can't think of a better way to spend your day then to cycle through the verdant late-spring green of the Don Valley, with the promise of a blueberry scone at the end of it.

Every time I bike through the valley, I think simultaneously how great it is that we can access the Don River so easily, and how much more potential there is for this to become an even better public space. There are so many interesting elements of the trail - you pass by every bridge that connects Toronto east over the Don River; you ride directly next to sand flats or rushing river depending on how much rain there's been, and the industrial infrastructure of  huge power lines and the CN railway are right there. It seems ripe for something better than an asphalt path. And I'm not talking about 'new activities!' or 'programming with sports!' - I'm talking about design.

For example, wouldn't it be amazing if the river was clean enough to swim in? If you could see experimental natural water treatment happening in front of your eyes? If you could learn about how contaminated soil can be remediated using only plants and tying into the natural cycles of a healthy water system? 

Wouldn't it be great if there were floating docks you could use to access the river, to swim or fish or picnic on? Wouldn't it be great if the path was wide enough to accommodate a serious number of cyclists and pedestrians without worrying about running into each other?

Wouldn't it be awesome to have some little platforms nestled amongst the trees near the water, to have barbecues on? Not something you have to reserve or rent out, just there for public access. Wouldn't it be great if, alongside the main bike/pedestrian route, there was some lighting so you felt safe using the Don Valley park as a commuter route? What about better connections and signage to the bridges and roads criss-crossing above? A wheel-ramp for walking bikes up and down staircases would be extremely helpful...

I can't live in Toronto without forever wishing for it to finally live up to its potential.

Anyways, at a certain point along the trail you come to not very well marked juncture where, to get the brickworks, you have to cross a highway. This is where the lack of forethought for accessing major landmarks from the trail is felt particularly acutely. Once you do arrive at the brickworks - assuming you find it - there's an active Saturday market, a beautiful nature walk around the old quarry, and a great cafe and bookshop specializing in gardening information and supplies.