Plans to improve the Beltline Trail across Toronto are heating up, with a pair of public meetings giving Torontonians a chance to look at the recommendations and make comments and recommendations.
The first of the two meetings took place at St. Paul’s Bloor Street Church Tuesday, Dec. 4. The second one took place Dec. 5 at West Preparatory Junior Public School.
A number of the major players driving the improvements spoke to those assembled to discuss the recommendations.
“We want to make sure the public has input into the process both from the point of view that we appreciate their ideas and direction, and we want to make sure we haven’t missed anything,” said Garth Armour, City of Toronto supervisor of natural environment and community programs.
Areas being looked at include beefing up safety, improving the trail’s connectivity and wayfinding, optimizing the design and making the trail accessible. Armour noted that resurfacing of the trail in some areas would help ensure users do not impact negatively on the vegetation throughout the trail.
“In some locations, the trail’s 10, 12, 14 metres wide where people have walked off the path to avoid puddles,” he said. “We want it to be three to four metres, so we have to manage that use.”
Armour noted trail safety is the top priority, with lighting the Upper Kay Gardner Beltline Trail – which runs north of Mount Pleasant Cemetery west to Allen Road – one of the recommendations made.
The Ravine Beltline Trail running south of Mount Pleasant Cemetery, meanwhile, should not be lit according to recommendations made by landscape architects Victor Ford and Associates, as that could promote unwanted activity late at night.
Armour said the improvements will be made over time, with urgent safety concerns addressed immediately and more aesthetic issues resolved as new funding comes available.
“After the priority areas are determined and taken care of, we’ll keep incrementally making changes,” he said.
Daniel Egan of the City of Toronto’s transportation department said there are also concerns regarding road crossings. The improvements to the Beltline could include changes to the ways in which pedestrians and cyclists cross Bathurst Street, Avenue Road, Oriole Parkway, Moore Avenue and other streets along the way.
“In most places, the (traffic) signals are a short distance away from where the trail comes out,” he said. “We could add signalized crossings, but we generally don’t like to have two signals too close together.”
He noted that, in most cases, there is ample opportunity for pedestrians and cyclists to walk a short distance to the nearest signal, but they rarely do.
While Egan could not remember any incidents or near-incidents due to a lack of traffic lights at the crossings, he noted it was important to do everything possible to maximize safety.
“At the end of the day, cyclists and pedestrians want the whole thing to work,” he said. Amelia Bishop of Friends of the Beltline attended the meeting and said her group is eager to see the changes and how it impacts the well-used trail.
While Friends of the Beltline works primarily to ensure the trail is kept clean and the greenery is maintained, she noted she would be open to seeing an expanded relationship.
“Our main focus is on clean-ups and the ecological side, but if the city wanted to work together with us, I think we’d be open to that,” she said.
An overview of the Beltline project, along with the recommendations, is available on the City of Toronto’s website at www.toronto.ca/beltline Community feedback will be accepted until Wednesday, Dec. 19.
Those looking to offer input can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-338-2830.