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When “outsiders” think of Toronto, they think of a concrete jungle, with all the hustle and bustle of a big metropolis. Well, the opposite is true. In fact, Toronto proper, boasts approximately 28% of a tree canopy, that’s a whopping 10.2 million trees! If you live here, you already know how amazing our outdoor life can be, just stepping out into the fresh air. We have hundreds of parks, parkettes and green spaces – Over 1,500 to be exact. All of which are ours to discover. For the purposes of this blog, I am going to concentrate on some of the parks that we have here in Etobicoke. There are a ton of areas you can pack a picnic lunch, go for a long walk, jog or bike ride. We offer lots of places for us all to explore and if you want to do some bird watching, butterfly catching or salmon fishing, our parks have got you covered.
I have listed my top 5 picks that are some of my favourites and these by no means are in order of preference. I’d like you to make up your own mind about our Etobicoke city parks.
Located between Eglinton Ave in the north, to Rathburn Road to the South, between Centennial Road and Renforth running east / west, this massive area is Etobicoke’s High Park. It opened to the public in 1967 to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday. The land is 525.2 acres (212.5 ha) in size and was once a dairy farm. What is now currently the ski hill, used to be a municipal dump. Anyone who wants to get active really needs to check out this amazing space. Not only does it host the Etobicoke Olympium, but it also has an arena, a stadium, a conservatory and greenhouse. There are also several sports fields, a golf course and driving range, a go-cart track, playgrounds and a wading pool. A recently installed pro-level BMX bike course was utilized for the 2015 Pan-Am Games. Centennial Park has many walking and cycling trails, a calisthenics circuit (which I did once or twice!), a ski hill, chalet and fishing pond. In the summer you can attend the Toronto Rib Fest, as well as many other events that are reserved for this wide-open green space.
Colonel Samuel Smith Park is a popular area for taking in a view of the City with only the sound of birds and occasionally the crashing of waves against the rocks to hear. It officially opened in 1996, but was once a weekend destination for Victorian-era Torontonians. There are rocky beaches to explore, 23 walking and cycling trails to maneuver and various quiet picnic areas to enjoy. It is a designated bird sanctuary, with many information stands to learn about our flying friends. You’ll not only get a glimpse of some of the most beautiful birds you’ve ever seen, but you may catch a turtle, sunning him or herself on a rock. If you miss out on the wildlife, you’ll be likely to see several dogs running and playing in the off-leash area of the park. Sam Smith Park, as it’s affectionately known, also has a marina and hosts many events such as amusements and artisans selling their wears in the summertime. In the winter, you can enjoy the best skating in Toronto on a man-made Figure-8 rink. This beautiful park is located at Kipling and Lakeshore, just south of Humber College’s Lakeshore campus.
This incredible Horticulture Centre is open to the public all year round. It’s home is on the North Campus of Humber College at Hwy. 27 and Humber College Boulevard and is all about exploring nature and ecosystems for research and educational purposes. The 250-acre site opened its doors in 1977 as a joint venture between Humber College, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the City of Metropolitan Toronto and the City of Etobicoke. It encompasses a huge pond, with frogs and other aquatic creatures and runs a day camp in the summer for kids to get out and discover nature. Along the various trails, you will find a vast array of flowers, plants, beautiful chirping birds and some peace and quiet.
Etienne Brule was an early French explorer who discovered the Toronto area in 1615. Etienne Brule park is located close the Old Mill, just north of Bloor Street. This is one of my favourite spots to go for a walk. It’s quiet and you will hear the rushing of the Humber River, which lies right beside the walkway. On the other side of the walking trail is the bike path. Both connect to St. James Garden’s to the north and it’s a good long walk that you can go up and back in a couple of hours. You will sometimes find mysterious rock sculptures in the rushing water, as well as salmon fishermen casting their long nets. In the fall you can catch salmon spawning and jumping up the various waterfalls – It’s quite an amazing site to see. If having a quiet picnic is more your thing, then you’ll find many areas to choose from. There is lots of shade and you’ll even find fire pits closer to the parking lot. Parking is free as well! The park also has a playground and baseball diamond and I’ve been told there is a tee pee set up in the trees if you explore further in.
This beautiful spot by the lake starts in Etobicoke, at the foot of Park Lawn Road and continues on towards Sunnyside Pavilion in the east. You can take a stroll through the pathways and discover there is a butterfly sanctuary amongst the brush. Along the boardwalk, you will find walkers, joggers, cyclists, roller-bladers and parents with strollers. You can stop in for a bite to eat at one of the three restaurants located on Marine Parade Drive or just pick up an ice cream at Eden Trattoria. Once you cross the white pedestrian bridge over the Humber River to the east side, you will find a beach, a large playground and even a wading pool. There are washroom and picnic facilities as well. Humber Bay Park East is 47 acres (19 ha), while Humber Bay Park West is 300 acres (120 ha). It’s a lovely way to spend a day relaxing, hanging out with friends and family or getting your sweat on anyway you see fit. A little known fact, Humber Bay Park East is home to Toronto’s memorial to the victims of the bombing of Air India Flight 182.
I plan on spending a lot of the summer outdoors wandering the many kilometers of pathways and parks in Etobicoke. It’s a great way to have some alone time, take in nature and regroup. Most of us have heard of these parks before, and you may have visited them but have you actually explored them? We sometimes take our beautiful city for granted, but I can assure you, you will not be disappointed!