Scarborough Waterfront Project Ramps Up
By Jim Sanderson
Visitors to Bluffers Park in the past few weeks may have noticed increased activity on the Brimley Road hill: construction cones, workers directing traffic into a single lane, and service vehicles at the side of the road. This activity is an early stage in the redesign of the park and adjacent shorelines according to a Toronto and Region Conservation Authority initiative called the Scarborough Waterfront Project. This plan aims to improve access to the lake, enhance public safety, and expand Bluffer’s Park beach, all while preserving the natural features of the shore – a tall order to be sure. The plan has drawn some criticism since it was introduced a few years ago, but as any regular visitor to Bluffer’s Park will confirm, recent increases in pedestrian and vehicle traffic, including the addition of a TTC bus route, have at the very least made improvements to the Brimley Road hill necessary. This steep two-lane road simply does not provide enough room for pedestrians, cyclists, and cars in its current state. According to some long- time area residents, it has not been changed much since it was originally constructed more than 50 years ago.
In the Scarborough Waterfront Project, Bluffer’s Park is designated as the “West Segment,” one of three contiguous shoreline areas that extend from Cathedral Bluffs to East Point Park and the mouth of Highland Creek in the east. The northern boundary of the planning area is Kingston Road. Maps and information about the project can be found at the Toronto Conservation Authority website, TRCA.ca
In addition to the improvements to Brimley Road and the hiking path along its east side, other changes to Bluffers Park include an expansion of Bluffer’s Park beach, the creation of gathering spaces on the headland out near the lighthouse, and an enhancement of the trail along the lagoons that will ultimately become part of an artery running through the whole project area.
On the surface, it appears that most of the changes will not substantially alter the nature of the waterfront. However, they will surely contribute to the already heavy volume of visitors, an increase which is perhaps inevitable given the nature of this area in Canada’s largest city. One local resident I spoke to wondered aloud if the plan is the beginning of the “Disneyfication” of one of Toronto’s great natural spaces – its transformation into an area that is more like a theme park than a natural shoreline. How successful the Conservation Authority and City of Toronto planners will be at avoiding this, and preserving the heart and soul of Bluffers Park and the wild character of the Scarborough waterfront, remains to be seen.
~ Jim Sanderson is a local resident, and the author of Toronto Island Summers, and Life in Balmy Beach.