toronto railpath

People are upset about changes to one of Toronto's favourite outdoor spaces

One of Toronto's major trails for pedetrians and cyclists has become the subject of some local tension lately, as residents are up in arms over changes to the outdoor space that they say are not only undesirable, but potentially unnecessary.

The West Toronto Railpath, which spans from the north end of the Junction Triangle down to College and Landsdowne, is being partially realigned for work on the Kitchener GO Train line, which will include a new fourth track, new station entrance at Bloor GO, and more as part of larger network expansion.

In recent weeks, progress has included the removal of a number of trees in the area in preparation for the forthcoming infrastructure — which is exactly what those who frequent the path are concerned about.

Members of the community have said that they are "perplexed" about why certain swaths of greenery are being razed, with one person noting to blogTO via email that "there doesn't appear to have been any attempt at relocating the trees as opposed to a straight cut."

"We have a big enough problem with the city doing little to nothing about developers cutting away our canopy to build homes. It would be nice if the city made a some attempt to relocate a tree that has been growing for decades," they added.

To be fair, Metrolinx did hold public engagement meetings and made it clear that vegetation removal on the railpath and inside the rail corridor would be a part of the construction process starting in July, though it is to be limited to invasive species.

And, all trees (plus more) are due to be replaced by new ones elsewhere in the city, as paid for by the city, through a special program.

"Overall, our practice is to plant more trees than we remove as we build new transit," Metrolinx says on its vegetation guideline webpage. "Our goal is always to keep the number of trees we remove to a minimum and we strive to replace them in areas where they are being removed as early as we can."

But, residents are noting that the area is "looking so sad now," and wondering why the trees couldn't be moved instead of killed, and why  certain ones, like large ones directly adjacent to buildings and ostensibly thus not really in the way, couldn't be preserved.

"I ride everyday by there and they cut down/ripped [out] most of the trees and plants on both sides of the path from Dupont all the way south to the last exit only leaving a few trees left, which seems really weird and unnecessary," one person said in a Reddit thread on the topic.

"Just remember that a hell of a lot more trees would need to be cut down to build the urban sprawl that would be required to house people if we didn't build transit and transit-oriented development it enables," another contended.

A spokesperson for Metrolinx reiterated to blogTO that minimizing environmental impact is always a top priority during such projects, and that they completed a detailed tree inventory in 2018 and "continue to work closely with the City of Toronto to ensure that only trees absolutely necessary for removal are being taken out."

The city states that all injury, destruction or removal of trees also falls under tree bylaws, saying that staff have worked with the regional transit agency "to minimize impact to existing trees and maximize restoration and compensation to the greatest extent possible," all, of course, within bylaw restraints.

As for the prospect of relocation, the city says that they believed the 167 trees impacted were too well-established to survive relocation.

A total 109 trees of native species, along with a ton of shrubs, grasses and more, are slated to be replanted in the area after the work is complete, while select trees that are staying put are being blocked off and protected throughout construction.

There are also new features on the way for the space, such as a new community parkette at Earnest Avenue, new pedestrian tunnel, benches and noise walls, as well as a full-on extension of the railpath south to Sudbury Street.

The upgrades to the Kitchener line will bring increased two-way, all-day service between the Southern Ontario City and Union Station. Rolling closures and related work on portions of the railpath are set to continue for 18 months or so, to be followed by the extension work, per Friends of the West Toronto Railpath.

While that group notes that "everybody is at the mercy of what Metrolinx decides to do" in this case, they are excited about the opportunity for improvements to the outdoor space — which will be led by the original designer of the railpath — and understand that tree removal is an unavoidable part of the work.

Lead photo by

submitted to blogTO

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