By Nicole Czorny
In a world where cities are becoming increasingly congested and disconnected from nature, Toronto`s Don Valley ravine and network of trails are a haven for hikers, cyclists, joggers and urban wildlife.
Many of these informal trails follow the deep tributaries of the Don Valley Watershed, and often bear the brunt of heavy rainfall and resulting runoff. This October, in an effort to deal with this issue, The City of Toronto’s Natural Environment and Community Programs section of Urban Forestry Service, along with the TRCA, began trail improvements to Milkman`s Lane, located off South Drive, next to Craigleigh Gardens.
Before restoration efforts began in October of 2011, the trail suffered from severe erosion, heavy off-trail traffic and soil compaction, leaving the ravine slopes in poor ecological health. The steep grade of the trail led to severe erosion, causing dangerous gullies and large cracks to form in the trail, and made for a steep hike and almost impossible bike up the hill.
The most dramatic change is the slope of the trail, which has been resurfaced and has a more gradual incline. Post and paddle fencing have gone up along the trail to block access to the fragile ravine slopes, and to allow for the forest understory, the vegetation that grows below the tree canopy, to regenerate.
Connecting Toronto’s Rosedale neighbourhood to the Don Valley’s network of trails, the 130-year-old Milkman’s Lane is home to black cherry, hemlock, yellow birch, ironwood, the endangered butternut, oak and maple trees. Over the next five years, a restoration and planting program will help promote forest regeneration, stabilize the ravine forest slopes, and reduce the spreading and amount of invasive species like dogstrangling vine and garlic mustard.
As Toronto’s paths grow in popularity and use, it is important the trails and maintained, remain safe, and are improved for the public and the health of our urban diversity. To learn more about the improvements being made to Toronto’s network of trails, and how you can help, check out The City of Toronto’s Natural Environment Trails Program.