Garrison Creek once ran through Toronto from its tributaries near what is now St. Clair West, to what was once the shore of Lake Ontario, past the northeast side of Fort York. Development polluted the creek as Toronto began to grow, and in the early 1900s, work began on the burial of Garrison Creek. Long since converted into a sewer, Garrison Creek has completely disappeared from view.
It has not, however, been forgotten. Evidence of the creek’s former path can still be seen, the deep ravine it once followed now lined with homes and park lands. The Garrison Creek Discovery Walk follows the path of the lost creek from Bloor Street to the waterfront, connecting neighbourhoods and green spaces with historic Fort York.
Getting to the beginning of this walk is easy, as it starts right across the street from the Christie subway station. Christie Pits Park is busy in the summer, with baseball diamonds, basketball courts, bocce, a public pool with a waterslide, and lots of room to walk those rambunctious pets. It is also home to the first-place Toronto Maple Leafs baseball club.
Across Bloor, the Garrison Creek ravine continues into Bickford Park. After that, the walk follows Crawford Street, which curves along the former path of the river. Crossing through a few smaller parks, the walk makes its way to Trinity Bellwoods Park. This is another popular spot for dog walkers, and also has a pool and recreation centre, making this a hotbed of summer activity in the West Queen West area.
If Trinity Bellwoods’ indoor pool isn’t what you’re looking for, keep going south along the Garrison Creek Discovery Walk to Stanley Park. The outdoor pool here may be small, but it’s a good place to cool off while catching a few summer rays.
The next stop along the walk is the main point of historical interest along this walk: Fort York. It’s a place where most kids who grew up in the GTA spent many a field trip exploring, but very few can actually give directions to. Take this walk, and the exact location of Fort York will be forever burned in your mind. Before Garrison Creek was buried and Toronto’s shoreline was extended, small boats used to moor where the Bathurst Street bridge now runs over the railway tracks.
It’s here where one can get a sense of what urban planners and public space advocates mean when they tell us that Toronto is a city cut off from its waterfront. Faced with six lanes of Lakeshore Boulevard and the concrete monolith that is the Gardiner Expressway, it’s easy to think of Fort York as being the end of the city and the end of this Discovery Walk. If you’re willing to brave the traffic and the agonizingly long wait for pedestrian crossing signals, the walk continues on to the waterfront and Little Norway Park. Nestled between the (in)famous Canada Malting Company silos and right across the channel from the Toronto Island Airport, it’s not the quietest park in the city, but it is a good place to enjoy some of the cool air coming off the lake.
Garrison Creek may be gone, but its memory lives on. The lost river shaped the landscape and laid the foundation for the Town of York to grow into the City of Toronto. Next time you’re playing baseball at Christie Pits or walking your dog through Trinity Bellwoods Park, imagine what life must have been like along this once-busy riverbed. Pick up the Garrison Creek Discovery Walk map at City Hall, your local library, or download it here.