First the bad news. The Riverdale Park Zoo in Cabbagetown dated back to 1881. For the animals, it was much like a prison, with iron bars, cramped enclosures and dark cages everywhere. If you were an animal lover, going there wasn’t a pleasant experience. <PHOTOS – Toronto Public Library>
Between 1963 and the 1970’s plans were developed for the largest and most modern of Canadian zoological parks. The old zoo was then turned into Riverdale Farm, providing much more space for fewer farm animals and birds.
These days the TORONTO ZOO spreads over 287 hectares (710 acres) in the eastern suburbs – home to over 5,000 animals & 500 species.
Imiq is a member of the Zoo’s Arctic wolf pack. He arrived from Parc Safari in Quebec in November/2017.
The Zoo’s state-of-the-art Wildlife Health Centre, is the first of its kind in Canada. It’s a centre of excellence in animal care through veterinary and reproductive sciences, nutritional physiology, and wildlife research.
<JUNO, the polar bear cub, born at the Zoo>
The TORONTO ZOO is open every day except December 25. It’s easy to get there – by car, from downtown, take the 401 Eastbound to Exit 389, Meadowvale Road. Follow the Zoo signs to 361A Old Finch Avenue. Large parking lot.
By TTC bus, take the subway (Sheppard Line) to DON MILLS STATION. Bus #85 leaves from here, and will drop you in front of the Zoo entrance about 45 minutes later. Along the way, you’ll pass through suburban Don Mills and Scarborough.
After a multi-level parking garage was demolished in the 1980’s, drivers took over the downtown centre of TORONTO by parking at street-level. In 1998, then-mayor BARBARA HALL and her city council approved the expropriation and demolition of a few buildings along Dundas Street East.
Yonge-Dundas Square was then built as a gift to the old city, before it was forcibly amalgamated with five suburban boroughs. <PHOTO ABOVE – the east end of what is now Yonge-Dundas Square; City of Toronto Archives, 1980’s>
Designed by Brown + Storey Architects, the square has proven to be an admirable success. It’s owned by the city, and administered by a Board of Management – the first public-private partnership in Canada to operate a public square.
<Yonge-Dundas Square in 2017>
There aren’t many neighbourhoods in more need of a park than this one in Downtown Westside. Packed with massive condo buildings and bisected by the Bathurst West Rail Yards, there’s a limited amount of green space.
Mayor JOHN TORY is battling it out with developers whose vision is more condo and office towers along with a 12-acre park over the rail corridor. The city’s plan is to forget the towers, and build a 21-acre ‘Rail Deck Park’. It can be done. CHICAGO has proven it.
Meanwhile, for TRAINSPOTTERS this is one of the best places downtown to watch rolling stock pass by – especially at rush hour.
THE BENTWAY, named after the undulating Gardiner Expressway, will eventually stretch from Strachan Avenue to Bathurst Street – a 1.75 kilometre strip linking Exhibition Place, Liberty Village, Niagara, Fort York, Bathurst Quay, Wellington Place and City Place.
A skating trail under the Gardiner Expressway? It’s a brilliant idea supported by Mayor JOHN TORY, and by the end of December/2017 it will be a new gathering place for TORONTO’s growing population.
Along with the skating trail plans include gardens, markets, art, recreational amenities, exhibits, festivals, theatre and musical performances. Unused land under the expressway is being turned into useful public space. Bravo!
A $25-million gift from the Judy and Wilmot Matthews Foundation made this possible. Ms. Matthews is a granddaughter of E. J. Lennox (1854-1933), an architect who designed many of TORONTO’s iconic buildings, including Old City Hall and Casa Loma.
THE BENTWAY is underway.
The atomic-age fountain can be found on top of the Rosehill Reservoir, which dates back to 1873-74, and was covered over in the 1960’s. It became TORONTO’s first environmentally friendly green roof, and is connected to the John Street Pumping Station 8 kilometres away.
Adjacent to the fountain – Rosehill Garden, a project of the city and fundraising neighbours, David Balfour Park and Ravine, a collection of Victorian-era homes and the best autumn colours anywhere in the inner city.