An update for readers of my Don River musings: I just spotted two deer at a distance of 10 metres along the Don ravine about 20 minutes on foot from the centre of downtown Toronto. Thanks to the Don River reclamation activists for years of tree planting and pushing back rapacious developers and car addicts!
When in Toronto, I’ve been out walking along the Don River before 8am 3-4 times a week since May. I’ll keep doing so until the snow flies. When conditions permit in winter I’ll return on cross country skis. Here are some photos which I’ll continue to update. Enjoy!
Toronto has a river through it: the Don. Today it ends ingloriously in concrete via an underground channel below an expressway just north of its natural destination at Lake Ontario. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century boaters, fishers and families on picnics would stroll by a river that was flowing and full of fish, including salmon which would travel the Don seasonally. In the 1950s, Torontonians decided the Don’s path would be the site for a 6 lane freeway, the Don Valley Parkway. To the south near the edge of Lake Ontario the hideous Gardiner Expressway bars the Don and effectively blocks the citizens of Toronto from Lake Ontario.
As in many North American cities in the age of automobile tyranny, the construction of these freeways was truly the darkness before the dawn. The Don River was almost killed in the process.
In the past twenty years or so, citizens and governments have planted thousands of trees and pollution into the Don has been abated. There is still a great deal of work to do. The proliferation of grotesque condominiums near the Toronto shoreline in the name of ‘harbourfront renewal’ means it will be difficult to clear the Don’s path to Lake Ontario. All the same. it should be done.
Toronto likes to think of itself as a ‘world class city. That’s a pathetic conceit. No city of such stature can afford to wall itself off from its primary natural asset as Toronto has done with Lake Ontario, one of North America’s Great Lakes. Rivers like the Don that flow into Lake Ontario must be part of the equation as living centres of greenery and recreation. Anyone from Toronto who has traveled to Chicago in recent years and seen its waterfront might be shocked to see a city that actually embraces its location on Lake Michigan. The continuing recovery of the Don River and the arresting of further plans to devastate Lake Ontario’s Toronto shoreline might suggest a change of heart in what the Canadian cultural theorist Northrop Frye called the “garrison mentality” that Canadians, even the wannabe sophisticates of Toronto, often demonstrate.