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Loop Trail: Connecting and Protecting Toronto’s Ravines

A new partnership with the City of Toronto, Evergreen and Toronto & Region Conservation Authority as part of the City's Ravine Strategy Implementation Plan.

ravines and trees in fall colours at evergreen

Published on January 29, 2020

Did you know - Toronto is home to one of the largest ravine systems in the world? Spanning more than 11,000 hectares and encompassing 17 per cent of the city, this unique topography has shaped and been shaped by the growth of Toronto. 

Travelling over, under and across the entire city, the ravines and its tributaries play a vital role in so many facets of the city. The ravine system is home to almost 90 per cent of Toronto's wildlife, while also housing major infrastructure including roads, rail, pipelines and utility infrastructure. The majority of the city's water infrastructure relies on the ravines to absorb and filter stormwater and play a key role in flood protection. Simultaneously, the ravines provide a natural retreat from city life to refresh, restore and enhance residents’ quality of life. In a rapidly growing city, the importance of the ravines only grows. 

Joanne Quinn, Ravine Day, 2017

What if we were to create a continuous multi-use trail through this vast system, one that would connect a diverse group of neighbourhoods as well as linking the city’s core to Rouge Urban National Park, enabling an active transportation network mostly immersed in nature?

We call it the Loop Trail.

A component of the City of Toronto’s new Ravine Strategy Implementation Plan, the Loop Trail is one of two projects that will be part of a new Ravine Campaign. The Loop Trail project will be led by partners the City of Toronto, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and Evergreen.  

Pictured from left to right: Councillor Jennifer McElvie, Councillor James Pasternak, Mayor John Tory, General Manager of PFR Janie Romoff, Evergreen CEO Geoff Cape, Evergreen Board Chair Helen Burstyn and Park People Executive Director Dave Harvey.

The Loop Trail seeks to create a continuous, 81-kilometre off-road, multi-use ring trail, knitting together five Ravine Priority Investment Areas, 22 Neighbourhood Improvement Areas, the Humber River and Don River ravine systems, the waterfront and neighbourhoods along the Finch hydro corridor. It also includes the Meadoway, the multi-use trail that is currently in development that links the Don River ravine with the Highland Creek and Rouge National Urban Park along an existing hydro corridor.

Evergreen has been deeply connected to the ravines with some of its earliest activities including tree planting with the community in the Don Valley. We know from experience that working to protect, maintain and improve Toronto’s ravine system is a group effort.

We have seen firsthand the success of a collaborative approach when community leaders deeply passionate about this globally unique greenspace come together. In 2013, the City brought together stakeholders, including Evergreen, to create the Lower Don Master Plan: Access, Environment and Art. The project led to significant trail improvements, new gateways, bridges, and signage, supported in part by Evergreen and its generous donors. A unique public art program curated by Evergreen in the Lower Don was a key part of the Don River Valley Park project. Launched five years ago by Evergreen, the Don River Valley Park project was a campaign to create a ‘super park’ encompassing a 480-acre green space that spans between Evergreen Brick Works and Lake Ontario in the Don River Valley. This “first mile” project has played a role in catalyzing a much larger commitment to the 45,000 acre city-wide Ravine Strategy.

View of Monsters for Beauty, Permanence and Individuality by Omaskêko Cree artist Duane Linklater, as part of Evergreen’s Don River Valley Park Art Program. Andrea Gimlett, Ravine Day, 2017.

It has been almost 30 years since Evergreen embarked on our very first planting events in the Lower Don ravine at Riverdale Park East. The ravine became our home 10 years ago when we transformed the abandoned Don Valley Brick Works factory into Evergreen Brick Works – which has become a vibrant cultural hub and a gateway to the Ravine system right in the heart of Toronto. Since then, we’ve welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to the ravines and engaged them in a variety of ways: children's school programs, camps, hikes, rides, public markets, gardens, stewardship efforts, events, exhibits and public art installations.

The Loop Trail and the wider Ravine Strategy promises to harness the potential of Toronto’s unique ravine system and create a greener, more liveable city for all and we can’t wait to engage residents and visitors in both the protection and enjoyment of the ravines in new and exciting ways.

We encourage you to stay tuned for more updates on The Loop Trail by signing up to our newsletter.

For more information from the City of Toronto, please refer to this backgrounder on the Ravine Strategy.