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Lower Don Trail to finally reopen

Often-delayed $3.6-million project is over one year late

Don River Trail will be open to cyclists starting Sept. 23.

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Eduardo Lima/Metro / Toronto Staff

Don River Trail will be open to cyclists starting Sept. 23.

The Lower Don Trail, a Pan Am Games legacy project, was originally supposed to open in Summer 2016.

It didn’t.

Then it was supposed to open in Spring 2017, then July, then mid-August, but the $3.6-million, 4.7-kilometre trail remains under construction.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel for pedestrians, cyclists and ravine-lovers: The trail will officially reopen — over a year late — on Sept. 23.

“The delays were outside the city’s control, and we hope that once the trail is reopened, users will see the value in the improvements,” wrote Parks spokesperson Matthew Cutler in an email.

According to Cutler, the delays to the “complicated” project included 15 separate permits needed from Metrolinx, the relocation of a large fibre-optic cable and the discovery of an unexpected culvert foundation. The mayor’s office pointed out that summer flooding further complicated construction in the narrow floodplain.

On a city blog devoted to updates on the project, commenters expressed their lack of confidence.

“This is unconscionable to delay us for another season,” wrote Steve Allen in March, when the timeline was pushed back to summer. “I bet that it won’t even be completed by July,” he correctly predicted.

A person named Christopher wrote, “Really it’s a shame this has taken so long and that a full closure was needed for so very long,” adding that he was disappointed to lose two summers to the delays.

Mayor John Tory has made tackling construction delays a priority for his administration, and on some road projects has supported spending additional funds to speed up the timeline.

But mayoral spokesperson Don Peat wrote in an email that elements of this project were outside of city control and that the mayor is “confident” staff learned lessons from the project that they’ll apply in the future.

“Mayor Tory is committed to getting Toronto moving and has worked tirelessly to make sure city projects get done as quickly as possible where possible,” wrote Peat.

Cutler says that despite the headaches, the renovated Lower Don Parklands brings with it a number of features. There’s a new rail underpass, the new Pottery Road pedestrian and cycling bridge, the paved Bayview multi-use trail, new art installations and improved wayfinding.

The improvements fit in with the city’s plans to invest in Toronto’s ravines. Cutler says that city staff’s Ravine Strategy will be presented to council’s executive committee on Sept. 26.

Rudy Limeback, 67, is excited for the Lower Don Trail. The semi-retired Leaside resident uses the trail once a week and likes that the project will make the ravine accessible to more people.

“I don’t really mind how long it’s taken,” he said. “Things like the Lower Don Trail are exactly what I want my taxes going to.”

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