In 1991 famed Canadian artist Robert Bateman wrote a letter to then-councillor Kay Gardner thanking her for preserving part of his childhood.
Growing up in North Toronto, Bateman’s inspiration for his life’s work as a painter and naturalist began with his boyhood years exploring the Belt Line Ravine behind his Chaplin Crescent home.
When he found out about Gardner’s successful fight to stop the ravine from being developed, he wanted to express his gratitude.
So it should come as no surprise then that Bateman will be present when the city marks the 10th anniversary of the naming of the Kay Gardner Beltline Park on May 12.
It was in the 1970s that Gardner took up the cause to save the trail, a former railway line that runs northwest from Yonge and Davisville to Eglinton Avenue and Allen Road.
By the 1990s, Gardner’s determination had paid off: the city acquired the land from CN Real Estate and vowed to preserve it as
A decade later, the park was renamed in Gardner’s honour.
The linear park is a well-used Toronto gem, providing a lush green space for bird-watchers, joggers and cyclists, says Tom Fiore, executive director of the Toronto Trails Festival.
It was seeing a plaque dedicated to good friend Gardner that got Fiore thinking about marking the anniversary.
He recalled one day last November when he learned Bateman was at an event in Whitby. Fiore and Gardner hopped in a car, drove up to the event and asked Bateman point blank if he would attend a ceremony honouring the occasion.
“That was his backyard and that’s where he learned the love of drawing and painting,” said Fiore.
It’s important to recognize a rich part of midtown Toronto history, he added.
“It’s a very valuable source of recreation in the city and it should be seen as such and it should be promoted as such.”
Mayor David Miller is expected to join Gardner, Fiore and Bateman at the May 12 event being held at Russell Hill Parkette at 12:30 p.m.
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