When you hear the words “hydro corridor” it doesn’t necessarily stir up images of native grasses waving in the wind amongst wildflowers with delicate butterflies perched on their petals. And yet, for portions of the Gatineau hydro corridor in Toronto’s Scarborough district, that’s exactly what you will encounter.

This week, with new $25 million in funding announced from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, that portion of meadow is being extended, with the ultimate goal of creating “The Meadoway”—a complete meadowland trail and bike path from the Don River Valley to Rouge Park through Scarborough.

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This follows a recent growth in philanthropic funding for parks and public space projects in Toronto with the $25 million by Wil and Judy Mathews to establish The Bentway and $340,000 from Ken and Eti Greenberg and The Balsam Foundation to support our recent Public Space Incubator.

The project started back in 2013 and 2014, as part of Park People’s Weston Family Parks Challenge program, funded by The W. Garfield Weston Foundation and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Through this program, funding was provided to the Toronto Region Conservation Authority to transform mowed grass in a hydro corridor into a thriving habitat for butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.

The project created over 124 acres of meadowland through partnering with 3,000 people from nearby schools and community groups to help with the planting about 10,000 wildflowers and grasses. You can find more about this project in our Breaking New Ground report, which highlights the learnings from the Weston Family Parks Challenge.

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Biking through the hydro corridor, as I did in the summer of 2015, the impact upon reaching the meadow was immediate. The air buzzed with insects, things began to smell sweet, and I slowed down to take in my surroundings. I wasn’t the only one either. Whereas the kilometres of hydro corridor trail I had travelled had been mostly empty, snaking around hydro towers in large grassy areas, the bike path through the meadowland was active with people.

As we’ve written about in our Making Connections report, the parks of the 21st century will not look like the parks of years past. As our cities continue to grow and densify, we must get creative in finding new space for parks and focus on tying these spaces together into a connected system across our city. Parks can be places, but they can also be great connectors. Our work on another hydro corridor park and trail project, The Green Line, is a good example of that philosophy.

The Meadoway is forward-thinking on both counts. It revitalizes kilometres of mowed hydro corridor grass with little biodiversity value into a thriving natural habitat that creates a new, natural amenity for people. But it also helps tie communities together through green space with a trail that will ultimately connect people right across Scarborough. When it’s complete, you will be able to ride your bike from Rouge Park through The Meadoway to the Lower Don Trail and down to the central waterfront—almost entirely through off-road trails. That’s pretty astounding.

With a lot of the focus in the last few years on big downtown projects such as Rail Deck Park and The Bentway—both much-needed, innovative public space projects—it’s important that we ensure we’re improving parks and connecting people across the city.

We’re excited at the possibilities of The Meadoway thanks to this generous gift from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation and encourage you to hop on your bike or take a walk through the existing meadowland this spring!

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