One of midtown’s most popular recreational trails is to get some tender lovin’ care.
The city is undertaking a study to analyze existing conditions and determine repair improvements to the Kay Gardner Beltline, which runs across central Toronto from Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Davisville to Allen Road north of Eglinton Avenue.
The multi-use trail is bearing the scars of heavy use and improper drainage, city officials say, which has led to deterioration of the trail and the naturalized areas adjacent to it.
Transportation and parks officials are also looking to address persistent problems related to the original design of the trail. The Beltline was developed as a trail in segments, which has led to a lack of continuity, problematic road crossings, and missing directions for users.
The first public meeting is to be held Sept. 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Northern District Public Library.
A major upgrade can’t come soon enough, said John Taranu, head of midtown cycling group TCU22 and an avid user of the trail.
Taranu’s group plans to present at the meeting a list of key recommendations for Beltline improvements. The group gathered 200 signatures in support of its recommendations during a recent petition blitz along the beltline.
One of its top wishes is for traffic infrastructure to address the lack of safe crossings where the trail meets north-south residential roads and major thoroughfares.
Taranu said the group is advocating for smaller adjustments, like curb cuts or stop signs at residential road crossings, but also fully signalized intersection crossings for busy arterials, like Avenue Road and Bathurst Street, where heavy volumes of higher-speed traffic pose dangers for anyone trying to continue on the trail.
“Bathurst is probably the worst of all of them, because it’s at the bottom of a hill going two ways,” Taranu said. “It desperately needs a much safer crossing than we have now.”
The group met with St. Paul’s councillor Josh Matlow a few months ago to discuss the crossings. Matlow said he agrees it’s a safety issue, and has asked transportation services to review ways to make the crossings safer.
“The beltline isn’t completely continguous at some of the streets in the middle, and this is in my view, a concern for bicyclists, for moms and dads with their strollers, seniors and others,” he said.
Matlow said while it’s not common to add another signal so close to another signalized intersection, it has been done before.
“I just want staff to look at all the possibilities,” he said.
The cycling group’s petition also calls for winter maintenance, a connection to the incoming Chaplin LRT station and other safety measures, like trail lighting at the section between Lascelles Boulevard and Allen Road.
“That one I would think would be a no-brainer,” said Taranu, who skis, walks and bikes on the trail. “In the summer it’s relatively okay, but in the autumn and winter, it gets dark really soon, and because of the tree cover, it goes pitch black at 4, 5 o’clock and it’s completely unusable after that.”
Part of the study will also involve mapping naturalized areas to plan for continued protection, said Beth McEwen, a manager with Urban Forestry, in an email. The study area also encompasses Moore Park Ravine, though it’s not officially part of the beltline.
“We know that parts of Moore Park Ravine have unhealthy natural areas with little vegetation at ground level and a high proportion of invasive tree species.”
McEwen said the study will determine cost and scope of the project. City officials will also seek ideas on a stewardship program for the trail.
Originally a 1890s commuter steam railway line that looped the city from Union Station, the Beltline was converted over time to a recreational, multi-use trail. It’s named after a former midtown councillor who spearheaded a successful campaign to stop a housing development from being built on the beltline.
The second public meeting to inform draft recommendations is being planned for October or November 2012.
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