Don River Valley Park Don River Valley Park

Toronto's Largest Urban Park is Hiding in Plain Sight

The Don River Valley Park is the centrepiece of Toronto’s rapidly growing downtown: A vast, connected 200-hectare landscape, spanning from Pottery Road south to Corktown Common at the mouth of Lake Ontario.

Image: Geoff Fitzgerald

Why do we need this park now?

People walking through a path in the Don Valley. (Photo: Geoff Fitzgerald)

The Don River Valley is an incomparable but undervalued asset. Largely inaccessible and fragmented, this landscape has remained largely overlooked for decades. With increasing incidences of extreme weather, the environmental and financial consequences of inaction are growing exponentially.

At the same time, there is increasing awareness that the pace and intensity of development in Toronto requires a counterpart—greenspace—to complement the urban core.

The answer is hiding in plain sight: our stunningly beautiful valley system.

As the ‘backyard’ to 250,000 residents (and soon another 60,000), representing some of the greatest cultural and economic diversity in Canada, it is time for Toronto to recognize, reclaim, protect and enhance the Don River Valley.

Image: Geoff Fitzgerald

How will the landscape change?

The Don River Valley Park will restore and enhance the natural environment, build connections, improve access for everyone and generate cultural activity. It will draw tourists to Toronto and stimulate economic activity and investment. Here’s what to expect:

An artist's rendering of a walkway in the Don River Valley Park.

Connections

  • Improve access and enhance cycling/pedestrian commuting
  • Link communities along and across the Valley
  • Connect the new mouth of the Don to the vast ravine system
A performer on a rooftop.

A Place for Culture

  • Curate an exceptional contemporary art trail making art, performance and installations accessible to Torontonians and visitors. Learn more about the art program »
  • Create places that integrate culture, nature and community
  • Provide moments for contemplation, where visitors can engage with the landscape
Kids sitting on a large stone outcropping. (Photo: Mike Derblich)

Natural Environment

  • Protect sensitive ecological features and enhance our forest canopy
  • Mobilize citizen stewards in restoring the landscape and bring people back to the Don River’s edge
  • Create landscapes that mitigate the impact of climate change
Images (in order): Lev Radin, Emma Mendel, Mike Derblich

What will the Don River Valley Park look like?

Scroll to view »

A map of the Don Valley, showing the different regions of the envisioned park.
An artist's rendition of public access to the Don River Valley Park at Gerrard Street.

South of Gerrard Street, the narrows of the Don River offer potential for a grand transformation—a river’s edge walkway, rich with ecology, reaching west toward the revitalized Regent Park and east towards Riverside.

Further south, the Don Landing trailhead is a critical nodal point and southern gateway where the new mouth of the Don River will meet Corktown Common and the Unilever redevelopment. A thoughtful, artistic gesture will recognize the geographical importance of this confluence.

Divided by rail lines, highways and the channelized Don River, Riverdale Park East and West are cut off from each other and the river’s edge.

An artist's rendition of a couple in the Don River Valley Park.

In the centre of the valley a massive green land bridge will boldly lift the landscape up and out, creating one unified park space. Riverdale Farm and Bridgepoint Health will become increasingly important gateways into the Valley from surrounding neighbourhoods.

The northern zone of the Don Valley has a legacy set in industry: the Don Valley Brick Works and Todmorden Mills. As the primary public destination within the Valley today, connecting Evergreen Brick Works to the east side of the Don River is an important initiative in the Valley’s transformation.

To the south of this connection, in the greatest expanse of the Valley floor, a new wetland park will offer the single largest opportunity to restore the ecology of the Don.

Images: DTAH, Nicholas Gosselin

When will the transformation happen?

Now through 2019

Evergreen is working with the City of Toronto to help realize and augment the first phase as part of the Lower Don Master Plan. A number of opportunities have been identified as early strategic investments for realizing the new Don River Valley Park.

Increase connections and improve safety:

  • New crossing at Evergreen Brick Works Bayview entrance
  • Pottery Road pedestrian/cycling bridge
  • Bayview Multi-Use trail (pedestrian/cycling)
  • Riverdale Park accessible ramp and new trails
  • Dundas Street staircase and wider trail

Energize the Valley:

  • Launch a contemporary art trail; beginning with an installation by renowned Omaskêko Cree artist Duane Linklater. Learn more about the art program »
  • Invite visitors into the Don River Valley Park through designed gateways at Evergreen Brick Works, Pottery Road, Riverdale and the Don Landing
  • Create path treatments, seating, site interpretation and signage

Galvanize support:

  • Connect citizens with the Valley to help share the vision and support its revitalization
  • Launch public programs including stewardship events, festivals, guided walks and bike rides, and exhibits

Look to the future:

  • Invest in feasibility studies for Snowdrop Park and a crossing utilizing the existing trestle rail bridge that spans the Valley
  • Develop design concepts for the Don Landing

2020 and Beyond

A series of bold moves will build on successes from the first phase to realize the greater vision for the Don River Valley Park.

Grand connections:

  • Create a marquee crossing from Evergreen Brick Works to the east side of the River using the trestle rail bridge
  • Connect Riverdale Park East and West, central downtown and east-side neighbourhoods via a massive land bridge
  • Invest in the Don Landing as the southern trailhead
  • Build a crossing connecting the Unilever redevelopment to Valley
  • Establish community entries with designed gateways at key hubs such as Rosedale School of the Arts, Riverdale Farm, Bridgepoint Health, Regents Park, West Don Lands

Enhance integrity of the Valley North/South:

  • Expand contemporary art installations and programming in the Valley
  • Design Bayview Avenue as a ‘complete street’
  • Create linkages to the water’s edge and to the new Mouth of the Don
  • Consolidate rail, highway and hydro infrastructure to east of the river
  • Strengthen the canal edge with an Ecology Walkway
  • Enhance bicycle and pedestrian experiences and activities

Strengthen the environmental resilience of the Valley:

  • Create Snow Drop Park, a new valley wetland
  • Plant an orchard in the Valley

Get Involved

What's Happening

Art Installation: Duane Linklater

This spring, artist Duane Linklater will initiate the Don River Valley Park Art Program through a striking installation of cast cement gargoyles on the Lower Don Trail. The sculptures are casts from gargoyles adorning prominent buildings in downtown Toronto.

Linklater’s project stems from an interest in the structural changes made to the Lower Don River as it became an industrial hub in colonial Toronto. The artist thus asks the viewer to look closely at the trajectory of Toronto’s history, and the changes made to the natural environment with the development of cities in settler societies. The gargoyle as an icon communicates power and authority; it is a protector of a certain kind of colonial space.

Linklater proposes to re-deploy or re-purpose the figure of the gargoyle in relation to the Don River. At-once-recognizable figures, here they will rest in a passive position along the river, perceivable as a series of ruins. Linklater’s gargoyle sculptures focus attention on the Lower Don’s role in Toronto’s industrialization, while sparking a larger conversation regarding ongoing Indigenous and colonial occupation of the city.

Learn more about the art program »

The Evergreen Winter Village

Enjoy the new Street Food Market, find unique holiday gifts, shop at the farmers market and play outdoors! There’s something happening every day, so come down to the valley and get lost in Toronto’s winter wonderland right in the heart of the city.

Learn More

Opens Dec 10

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Support

Evergreen has launched a fundraising campaign, The Ribbon, to kick-start the first phase of creating the Don River Valley Park. The Ribbon is envisioned as the metaphorical link between the Valley and its diverse neighbouring communities.

Please contact Stephanie Thorson to learn more.

News

Don River Valley Park marks ‘First Mile’ of City of Toronto’s ravine strategy

At a news conference at Evergreen Brick Works, Toronto Mayor John Tory, joined by Evergreen CEO Geoff Cape, and the Don River Valley Park Campaign Chair Andy Chisholm, patrons and supporters, marked the ‘First Mile’ of the city-wide ravine strategy.

Lower Don Trail Improvement Construction

Construction has begun on improvements to the Lower Don Trail between Pottery Rd and Riverdale Bridge.

Improved TTC Service to Evergreen Brick Works

Starting June 19, the 28 Bayview South bus will be offering service to Evergreen Brick Works 7 days a week.

Jason Ramsey-Brown, author of Toronto's Ravines and Urban Forests, speaks at Don Dialogues: Balancing Use and Ecology event

“I think tonight is important. Over the last two years we have seen a growing momentum in discourse, dialogue and dreaming about our city's natural areas…”

A Superpark Hides in Toronto’s Don Valley

“What if Toronto had a massive park ready to be born?” asked Alex Bozikovic in a feature that he penned in The Globe and Mail.

A Natural Destination

Geoff Cape, CEO at Evergreen, speaks to the most central artery of Toronto’s ravine system, the Don Valley, and why now is the time for it to take centre stage in the city’s consciousness.

Collaborators

The Don River Valley Park is a collaborative vision, created by people committed to changing Toronto for the better, to transforming Toronto the good into Toronto the great. See our Community Supporters & Collaborators (PDF, 515KB)

Realizing this new Park will take the energy and ideas of many more. Please contact us to become a project collaborator.

Accessing the Ribbon at the Lower Don

This video paints a picture of the Don River Valley’s beautiful landscape, its special history and illustrates the barriers to accessing this urban parkland in its current state. Produced by the Ecological Design Lab at Ryerson University.

Don River Design Charette

Evergreen brought together over 75 landscape architects and designers, urban planners, City and Toronto Region Conversation Authority staff, artists and students from Ryerson University’s Ecological Design Lab and the University of Toronto’s Master of Landscape Architecture program in a design charette to ‘Imagine a Don Valley Neighbourhood’.

Ecological Design Lab at Ryerson University Collaboration

Evergreen partnered with the Ecological Design Lab at Ryerson University, under the direction of Dr. Nina-Marie Lister, in the creation of a series of studio projects exploring the revitalization of the Lower Don watershed.