The history of Toronto is intimately tied to the Don Valley. The river and its surrounding valley had been a source of food since First Nations began using it as a seasonal hunting and fishing ground over 12,000 years ago. People continued to hunt and fish in the valley regularly well into the 1800s.
As the 19th century progressed, the natural heritage of the Valley was increasingly seen as secondary to its role as a driver for emerging industries and a repository for their waste products.
By the late 20th century, the river was highly polluted and seen as little more than an industrial sewer. The building of the Don Valley Parkway made the valley an important transportation corridor, but it meant that the Don became something to travel through, rather than a destination.
Since the 1990s, something remarkable has happened —Torontonians have begun to return to the Don Valley. In 1989, the Task Force to Bring Back the Don was established, and in 1991 they published their report “Bringing Back the Don”, which outlined a series of steps necessary to restore the river. Since that time, citizens groups, the City of Toronto, government agencies like the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and charities like Evergreen have embarked on an impressive series of renaturalization projects that have begun to restore the habitats and ecosystems of the Don Watershed.
The Lower Don Valley is changing once again.