By Amaan Jabbar
Last summer, a team of University of Toronto Scarborough students including me, Allison Oki, Anastasiia Ostrovskaia and Karen Khan, led by Dr. André Sorensen, worked tremendously hard on a vision we had of a connected Scarborough Greenway Network of off-road, multi-use trails in existing publicly owned corridors across Scarborough.
Our team started the project by analyzing and examining all of Scarborough through Google Maps. We looked at the off-road trails that already exist, including the condition of the paths, maintenance, and if the path meets the City of Toronto multi-use trail guidelines.
We thought about how these paths could be improved to provide more connectivity to major destinations, higher accessibility levels for all modes of active transport (walking, cycling, wheelchairs, e-scooters/bikes, strollers) and greater walkability levels. Our vision is to encourage and promote active transportation, and the first step to achieving that is to provide alternate ways to get around Scarborough.
Throughout the summer, our team had adventures, such as a 12-kilometre walk from Bluffers Park along the shoreline all the way to UTSC. We wanted to see the condition of the paths we were proposing to extend. On another day, our team traveled all around Scarborough visiting multiple paths and doing site analysis with a drone.
A Brief Overview
Titled “The Scarborough Greenway Network,” this project aims to connect suburban spaces together to achieve greater levels of mobility through a series of connected, off-road greenway trails, which would allow people to access transit stops, schools, hospitals, and more.
The proposed network in the map on the right sets out a vision for a connected network that reaches to every corner of Scarborough. Fully 93 percent of Scarborough’s population will be within 1 kilometre of a greenway when this network is completed, and 100 percent will be within 1.8 km.
More than half of the network already exists in unconnected trails across Scarborough. These trails are proposed to be revamped and linked together to achieve a network. The routes cover areas including Rouge Park, East Highland Creek, West Highland Creek and Taylor-Massey Creek.
The great thing about off-road trails is that they allow separation from traffic. This helps
avoid opposition from car advocates as these trails will not impact them. Also, all the proposed segments of the network are on existing publicly owned corridors.
Toronto must prioritize that no further public land corridors are to be privatized before a plan for a complete network of off-road, multi-use trails is established as city policy.
There is a major opportunity presented in Scarborough through the abundance of public land, open space and nature. This is a great moment to realize it is possible to achieve more sustainable practices that align with a major policy priority for Toronto, which will facilitate the shift to a mobility culture in which active transportation plays a meaningful part.
To read the final report, please visit www.utsc.utoronto.ca/suburban-mobilities/scarborough-greenway-network
Scarborough Waterfront Greenway
Here is one small section of the plan that covers an area close to us
The Waterfront Greenway will allow residents to access the length of the Lake Ontario shoreline in Scarborough. This off-road trail will extend 20km from the Eastern Beaches to Rouge Beach and it will connect to more than 15 parks.
Currently, there are several paths for pedestrians and cyclists to get to the shoreline and there are existing paths along most of it. But there is no continuous path because of two significant gaps east and west of Bluffer’s Park where the Bluffs drop directly to the water. All existing trails require detours up to the top of the cliffs through residential neighbourhoods.
The Scarborough Waterfront Greenway will begin by the RC Harris Water Treatment Plant, then connect to the existing trail along the Scarborough Heights Park. This segment connects to one of the pathways to the shoreline at the west end of the trail. However, the usefulness of the pathway is restricted as there is no trail to the west, and there is no continuation of the existing trail to the east towards Bluffer’s Park.
This gap is due to the steep cliffs that make up a 300m section of the waterfront. This is one of two major obstacles around Bluffer’s Park that impede connectivity along the route. Our proposed long-term solution will allow the Scarborough Waterfront Greenway to connect to Bluffer’s Park and Beach. There is plenty of room to build a trail along the edge of the beach at the bottom of the Bluffs here.
The second obstacle is the 400m section near Cudia Park (#5 on the map). Since these two sections are relatively close to each other, there is only one interim route required to avoid both obstacles. This route follows the path between the Rosetta McClain Gardens and Scarborough Heights Park to go up to Fishleigh Dr., and then goes east using the closest connecting residential roads. Then it connects back to the shoreline by going down the Doris McCarthy Trail through Gates Gully.
This is a 5.9m-long on-road detour, which takes about 15-20 minutes by bike and nearly one hour on foot. This presents a barrier to accessing the full extent of the trail. There is currently neither a bike path nor sidewalk leading from Kingston Rd. to Bluffers Park.
Our proposed long-term solution is to build either a bridge or boardwalk that will allow for direct connectivity to the adjacent trails. This could look something like the boardwalk at the White Water Walk in Niagara Falls or the inland bridge in Bluffer’s Park. (See #6)
While there will be extra effort and cost required to make these two connections, the benefits derived from addressing these major obstacles will be well worth it.
Next is the stretch from just east of Cudia Park to between Guild Park and Grey Abbey Park (#7).
This 4.5km long segment is not connected to the other 15.5km of the network as it doesn’t continue eastward, ending at the steep bluffs at Cudia Park to the west. The existing trail here ranges from between 3 to 5m wide and is not paved. However, it is still easy to walk along it.
The proposed trail will extend along the waterfront by Grey Abbey Park (#8) and will then be routed up to the top of the Bluffs in East Point Park. Here, the cliffs are closer to the shoreline as there is only about 10m of space between them and the water (#9). Due to these space constraints, it will be best to route the trail up along the ravine by Grey Abbey Park to the top of the bluffs in East Point Park, where there is an existing path (#9).
The trail will then connect to the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail (#10).
The existing trail starts at the Highland Creek Treatment Plant, which is connected to East Point Park through a path up Beechgrove Dr. The entrance to the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail has good wayfinding and signage and has a centre line for the separation of users. There are even speed limit markings on the trail to ensure that fast bike riders do not go at dangerous speeds.
It is well-paved, but should be slightly widened in some areas to meet the minimum high capacity trail guideline of 3.6m. Overall, this 4.65km-long segment of the Waterfront Trail is a great existing piece of our proposed Scarborough Waterfront Trail, and needs only minor improvements.
From here, one can continue east along the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, which connects to other branches of the Scarborough Greenways Network at East Highland Creek and Rouge Park.
Despite the two obstacles that make up only a small section of the entire network, the rest of our proposed Scarborough Waterfront Greenway is mostly either covered by existing trails or is along stretches where there is adequate room to build a trail. By connecting existing trails to each other, the dream of walking or riding along the entirety of Scarborough’s beautiful blue shoreline should be possible to achieve