Etobicoke Landscape Redesigned

Standing at the water on a frosty morning, taking in the colours, stillness and peace. The question: how does this compare to the view from 100, 200 or 300 years ago? Void of historical context, many of Toronto’s waterfront parks and beaches seem like untouched natural wonders, but just. Careful observation uncovers the mark we’ve made, and are still making, on this landscape. Where Etobicoke creek meets the lake, in 2015 we witness Alderwood 3.0, a return to nature.

Designed Calm
Mouth of Etobicoke, Marie Curtis Park, December 2015

Symbolic in so many ways, Etobicoke creek makes its way into the lake through the park honouring a mayor of a former cottage town. The creek both divides and connects. Toronto and one its biggest suburbs, Mississauga, the border of the 18th Century settlement purchase, a line between natives and newcomers. Names and connections now going back centuries, receiving new meaning as centuries bring change, from the aftermath of New France conquest to suburban growth of the 1960s. All throughout, the names and flow of time stay the only constant, just like the flow of water along where alders grow, Etobicoke.

Gates of Alderwood
Marie Curtis Park, December 2015

The initial view, Alderwood 1.0, of this meeting place certainly looked different. Water currents in charge, shaping the shoreline, making the mouth of the river more or less navigable. The creek deciding who can pass and who stays out there, on the water. Mood of the river shifting like the sandbar at it’s mouth. Then, version 2.0 slowly started to emerge with the settlement. Business, industry to support new life for so many in a growing gathering place. Extedning roadways, bustling industries and expansive subdivisions, bulldozing over the landscape. The cost of progress and the dream of comfortable life in new country. Then, the nature rebelled.

Etobicoke Slip
Mouth of Etobicoke, Toronto, December 2015

With little warning, the storm arrived on a Fall evening in 1954. Nature reminding everyone who has the power and West Toronto waters, Etobicoke included, taking the death toll, wiping homes and communities of it’s interfered-with shores in a muddy rage of an October night. Most of the west Toronto parkland we see today is our new attempt to both contain the nature’s wrath and reconciling the natural with the conveniences of our urban existence.

This is our new landscape. It is far from where what we started with. Yet, it is not a product of careless urban expansion either. Perhaps, with version 3.0 we are getting to coexist with what is in our custody, waters of this region, commerce and life arteries. New landscape, beautiful, peaceful with attempt at balance. We are all here, and that is, relatively, new, but it is a fact.

Mouth of Etobicoke, at Marie Curtis park, is one of those wonderful places. A spot to enjoy, reflect and think about anything, draw energy for the new day from the sky, lake and fresh air. It is not untouched, but it is a foundation for a different future, one where we show more redtraint, consideration and respect for the land we are entrusted with.

Morning Waters
Beachview, Marie Curtis Park, December 2015

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