Toronto

Plans for wilderness area in north Etobicoke creating rift between activists, local councillor

With shovels set to go into the ground this fall, an Etobicoke man says he's not giving up on his fight against city plans to pave an uneven dirt track that runs through a ravine alongside Etobicoke Creek.

Creek-side trail to be paved this fall

Douglas Counter sits on the banks of Etobicoke Creek. He says a plan to pave a trail that runs alongside it will ruin the natural area. (Lisa Xing/CBC News)

With shovels set to go into the ground this fall, an Etobicoke man says he's not giving up on his fight against city plans to pave an uneven dirt track that runs through a ravine alongside Etobicoke Creek.

Douglas Counter, a life-long resident of the area near Eglinton Avenue and Renforth Drive, says the plan to pave the one-kilometre-long trail will destroy the area's natural beauty.

As well as red-tailed hawks, deer and herons, Counter said local nature lovers also flock to the area.

Coun. Stephen Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre) argues paving the trail will allow more people to enjoy the ravine. (Lisa Xing/CBC News)

"It's so rare that people can have contact with real authentic nature in the city," he told CBC Toronto Monday. "A paved path will forever change this spot. 

"They want a tactile experience with nature."

He say he's especially upset that — in his view — the city didn't give residents enough warning about the plan to pave the trail.

Counter said the city only called a public meeting a few weeks ago. He said it was poorly attended because it was held on the Victoria Day long weekend.

Work on the trail is expected to begin in the fall and be completed by spring. (Lisa Xing/CBC News)

But Coun. Stephen Holyday, who represents the area, disputed that Monday.

He said the city's plan has been at the discussion stage for about two years.

Holyday said he supports the idea because he believes paving the path will allow more people to enjoy the ravine.

"I think weighing these things out between the accessibility and the ability for many, many people to enjoy it, versus the concerns raised by what I believe is a very small few, I've got to find on that side of the balance."

Counter, who's been riding the ravine trail all his life, said the area is home to deer, hawks and herons. (Lisa Xing/CBC News)

The narrow dirt trail meanders beside the creek from just south of Eglinton Avenue to about Rathburn Road.

Counter said he formed the organization Friends of Etobicoke Creek recently to help preserve the forest, and the rough trail that runs through it. 

Although the city says the plan is now shovel-ready, Counter said he'll continue to fight to have a paved trail installed across the rim of the ravine, rather than at the bottom, alongside the creek.

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