Fording Humber Creek: reconnecting to nature in suburban Etobicoke
Brian MacLean, Lost Rivers Toronto and Etobicoke Climate Action
May 7, 2023
Nature, local history
Humber Creek is a tributary of the Humber River, flowing west to east through 6 city parks before emptying into the river. Previously called Chapman Creek and Sturgeon Creek before that, it's experienced in small portions & is intersected by busy 4-lane streets so it's easy to lose sight of this waterway and what it can teach us about the land around it.
We will enjoy the creek, 3 of the parks and the oak trees & other living things in the parks, and notice all the ways that the suburban form makes us "forget" that we are a part of nature. Our walk begins and ends with two residences lived in by a prominent Etobicoke family, who exemplify the alienation from the natural processes every human being depends on.
Our walk begins in Wincott Park, within sight of the first house that Doug Sr. and Diane Ford lived when they moved to Etobicoke as a young couple. In Wincott Park, we’ll re-discover the two headwaters of Humber Creek, and learn about the Wincott Wetland developed in recent years to act as a flood retention pond. The rows of majestic oak trees predate the creation of this suburban development and point back to the settler farming history of the area from the 19th century until post-WWII. We’ll walk along busy Dixon Road very briefly in order to discover a hidden part of the Creek, and learn about the Briarcrest Manor there and its connection to the burgeoning Canadian motion picture industry of the 1930s and later to the fabled Avro
The second of the three parks, formerly Sun Row Park, was re-named posthumously after 30-year Etobicoke Councillor, Alex Marchetti. We’ll pass where an unhoused person wintered in a tent near the creek, and notice where the invasive plant phragmites is displacing native plants and trees. We’ll stop at the Toronto Water pumping station and appreciate that the water that comes out of our taps needs a tremendous amount of infrastructure that is easy to take for granted.
Our walks ends at Douglas B. Ford Park, re-named posthumously in 2010 in honour of the businessman and one-term MPP whose sons include Rob and Doug Jr. Coincidentally, Rob ran for Mayor in the same year, and Doug Ford Jr. presided at the re-naming ceremony in the park. The family’s second home in Etobicoke overlooks the park and like all the other parks along the Humber Creek, it is also located in a flood plain. One kilometer further east, the creek arrives in Raymore Park, the park created after Hurricane Hazel devastated the neighbourhood that existed on the flood plain by the Humber River until October 15-16, 1954 when 35 residents lost their lives. As climate change is bringing more frequent intense storms, we’ll consider what lessons Hurricane Hazel has to offer to us today.
Almost entirely on paved paths, with slight hills. Optional to walk on park grass for closer look occasionally. Waterproof shoes or boots suggested.
Walk Start Location:
The Westway & Wincott Drive, northeast corner
Walk End Location:
Douglas B. Ford Park, 1521 Royal York Road