Before this project, a steep, uneven, and unlit path made the route to this part of campus feel unsafe, unwelcoming, and exclusionary, and during the winter, ice and snow forced closures for key months of the academic year. Over time, fewer students set foot in this environment during their four years on campus.
The Valley Land Trail creates a vital, non-vehicular connection from the campus into the Highland Creek Valley corridor. The primary goal of the project was to construct a state-or-the-art, fully-accessible trail descending over
20m in elevation into an Environmentally Significant Area within Toronto’s natural ravine system. The 600m-long serpentine trail was designed with cantilevered boardwalks to enable people of all abilities an immersive and engaging experience in the forest canopy, affording unique educational opportunities and a glimpse of the diverse local ecology and geology of the ravine. This connection facilitates active and passive transportation and a key link to the university’s Pan Am athletic facilities, located in the valley. The trail also connects the university to hundreds of kilometers of trails throughout the City of Toronto’s ravine system, including a link to the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail.
The trail’s configuration responds sensitively to the surrounding protected natural area and is, therefore, complex
in its design and construction. The design incorporated innovative construction solutions to enhance slope stability and minimize disturbance to the valley. These construction methods included modular prefabricated components constructed off-site and assembled in place, including a custom-designed “Permatrak” precast concrete deck system installed by crane to create the elevated walkway; in-railing lighting to illuminate the trail while minimizing light stray into the adjacent wooded areas; and over 150 soil screws to reinforce the existing unstable slope.
A comprehensive restoration plan was implemented in conjunction with the trail. The plan comprised enhancement of terrestrial habitat and the installation of locally native trees, shrubs, and seed mixes to establish herbaceous vegetation, afford forage potential for wildlife, and enhance slope stability. Long-term soil erosion protection initiatives were employed to reinforce the steep slope upon which the trail rests. These initiatives included the installation of soil screws, a geogrid system, and soil socks. To enhance the natural heritage system, vegetation was restored by planting over 600 native trees and 5,000 native shrubs to reestablish an oak-pine forest community.
Schollen & Company Inc.