The West Toronto Railpath is a multi-use public trail and linear park located alongside an active rail line in a former industrial neighbourhood. The design successfully addresses two natures of the city – the wild, other-worldliness of the rail corridor and the regular bustle of residential life – and brings them together in a beautiful and active urban composition. What was an impassable brownfield is now a well-loved neighbourhood connector that has improved both the human and ecological urban habitat.
Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood is a former industrial hub that is quickly changing into a desirable residential neighbourhood. A commuter train corridor physically divides the neighbourhood. Adjacent to the train corridor was a long abandoned and overgrown former rail line. Through the creation of the West Toronto Railpath, this physical barrier has become a space that stitches the neighbourhood together. Acting as both a neighbourhood park and a multi-use trail, it is also a significant part of the city’s growing network of bicycle trails.
The West Toronto Railpath occupies 26,400 square meters of open space with nine unique plazas and trail access points. The project combines the restoration of historical rail bridges with the installation of new public art, and is situated within a palette of hardy, colourful planting. Utilizing plants and seeds collected from the abandoned rail corridor prior to construction created an authentic and resilient new urban ecology, and allowed a larger portion of the $3.8 million overall project budget to be dedicated to creating high impact public spaces and building neighbourhood connections.
The design of the West Toronto Railpath set out to bring a derelict area of the city into the public realm through the creation of a much needed active recreation pathway. By making strong connections to the neighbourhood fabric, creating striking visual impacts at the bridge crossings and access points, and planting a landscape ecology with a unique local planting regime, this new linear park has become a popular part of the public life of the neighbourhood – and a destination successfully shared by many different kinds of users.
The West Toronto Railpath’s location adjacent to diverse neighbourhoods with unique cultural and economic conditions created opportunities for integrating communities across the barrier created by the active rail line through the provision of key crossings and entry points.
The West Toronto Railpath is successfully shared by pedestrians and cyclists, and is open both day and night every day of the year. It is therefore an important addition to the cycling and active recreation network for the City of Toronto. The West Toronto Railpath, has also created two kilometers of frontage where new residential units can be located. The original neighbourhoods are also improved in value by having direct access to the Railpath – the former liability of the abandoned rail line has been turned into a positive neighbourhood catalyst.
West Toronto Railpath |Toronto Canada | Scott Torrance Landscape Architect & Brown and Storey Architects
TEXT CREDIT | Scott Torrance Landscape Architect
IMAGE CREDITS | Mario Giambattista