Jane’s Walks grow in popularity every year, and this year there are a number of events in the East End to choose from for those interested in history, infrastructure or urban issues in general. The annual event pays tribute to Jane Jacobs’ urbanist ideas and spirit.
Saturday, May 4 kicks off with The Other Danforth: The Life and Death of Upper Midway, led by Stephen Wickens. The ‘other Danforth’, the section east of Pape, has tended to be a bit more blue collar than the stretch to the west. The walk aims to explore both the past and the future of the Danforth between Greenwood and Woodbine, with an eye on the factors that made the area a former pedestrian-friendly haven and how that might be encouraged again as gentrification and development move into the area. Meet in front of Wise Guys, 2301 Danforth Ave. at Oak Park, at 10 a.m.
At 2 p.m., arborist Todd Irvine, a co-creator of the popular Toronto Tree Tours will lead a tour of The Mighty Oaks of the Beach. The Beach has some of the oldest and largest trees in Toronto, and Irvine will discuss ways to protect the oaks from development, including a visit to a house built on stilts to avoid the roots of four giant oaks. Meet at Queen and Glen Manor at 2 p.m.
Later in the evening, historian and Beach Metro News history columnist Gene Domagala will team up with actor Sean Killackey to hold a ‘Spooky Night Walk’ at the St. John Norway cemetery. It could be argued that nobody knows the Beach better than Domagala, and stories of the lesser-known doings of past Beachers are sure to entertain. Killackey will be familiar to anyone who has attended a Bard in the Park performance of Shakespeare in Kew Gardens. Meet at the corner of Kingston and Woodbine at 7:30 p.m. and bring a flashlight.
On Sunday, May 5, the day’s walks start with a visit to Tommy Thompson Park, with From Landfill to Parkland: Exploring the Leslie Spit. As many know, the spit is constructed entirely of landfill from construction. Walk leaders will discuss the future of the spit and explore the ways nature has colonized the manmade dump/park. The walk will be led by Felicia Cohen, an experienced tour guide at the AGO, and Charles Bruce Thompson, an outings leader with the Toronto Field Naturalists. Meet at the park gates at the foot of Leslie Street at 8 a.m.
Tap to Toilet will quite literally live up to its name, traversing the beach from the RC Harris Water Filtration Plant, which provides drinking water to much of Toronto, to the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant, which processes sewage for the same. Along the route, discussion will cover Blue Flag beaches and the city’s complicated relationship with Lake Ontario. Walk leaders include Helen Mills, who has organized Lost River Walks for years, and John Wilson of CodeBlueTO and Bring Back The Don. Meet at the Neville Park streetcar loop (at the entrance to the Harris plant) at 1 p.m.
At the same time, housing expert Joy Connelly will lead Where Will the Next Generation Live?, exploring the changing housing market in the East End. Connelly points out that she couldn’t afford to buy or rent on her street today, and will discuss public policy ideas to keep housing affordable for the next generation. Meet at the entrance to Roden Public School, 151 Hiawatha Rd., northwest of lower Gerrard and Coxwell, at 1 p.m.
A walk exploring the history and current state of southwest Scarborough is also scheduled. Birch Cliff: Scarborough Old and New will follow Kingston Road from Warden to Birchmount. Walk leaders Karen Eaton, executive director of Mural Routes, and Marie Belanger, Scarborough library staffer for more than 20 years, will help facilitate the sharing of stories about this important neighbourhood. Meet at the northwest corner of Kingston and Warden at 3 p.m.
For more information on these and other walks, including accessibility, public transit options and whether the walk is pet friendly, visit janeswalk.net.