Don Valley Brick Works Park Regeneration Projects

Return to Brick Works Park

Return to Moore Park Ravine Reach

The renaturalized quarry garden represents an opportunity to reunite with nature and the wonders of its inhabitants. As you enter the quarry the call of a red-winged blackbird or savannah sparrow welcomes you. While strolling the boardwalk, you may see a killdeer defending its nest or hear a leopard frog calling a mate. As the years go on, newcomers such as salamanders, migrating shorebirds, fox and maybe even deer will be welcomed to the garden. The vision is to develop several habitats that illustrate the unique natural environment of the Brick Works and that harmonize the natural and the cultural heritage of this site.

This is a special place.

map of brickworks park

Entrance aera Look Out

The primary landscape units of this park are the Wetlands (1) and the Meadow (7), which dominate the low lying areas, with a Carolinian plant community (8) on the west side and, in the north-west area, the Lowland and Slope Woodlands with open Ordovician shale slope and seepage areas (9). The North Slope (2) at the back, the East Slope (10) and the existing mature woodland along the old ravine (11), provide a strong sense of enclosure. The entrance and the historic buildings (3) are maintained in a more traditional manner.

The series of Ponds and Wetlands (1) seen here form part of one of the more significant regeneration projects in the Don Watershed. These have been constructed both to provide habitats for aquatic plants and wildlife (fish, amphibians, waterfowl) and to create conditions so that the water, both base flow from Mud Creek and ground water from springs, can be restored before it flows into the Don River and out to Lake Ontario. The first pond in the series is intended to capture sediment and others are expected to filter the water biologically. Where Mud Creek was buried for many years in the grounds of the plant, it has been uncovered and directed through a long forgotten channel (6) to a new entry to the Don River.

It is also hoped to provide spawning habitats for species from the Don River, which might enter these ponds through the restored channel. (Picture of pond)

A variety of wetland species have been planted over the years, and while narrow-leaved cattail has become dominant through much of the wetland, other species such as waterlily and arrowhead are still present but in reduced quantities. The dense cattail habitat provides habitat for amphibians, birds and many insects. The level of biodiversity, will be maintained by a variety of water depths and the hydrologic regime.

The Weston Wildflower Meadow (7) with a series of walking trails and bridges in the central area of the Brick Works was executed in order to preserve the important view of the North Slope from the historic buildings. The meadow area was planted with a mixture of grasses and flowering plants, including Black-Eyed Susan, Bergamot, Evening Primrose, Aster, and Goldenrod, with a variety of colour and plant forms to imitate old field meadows found in southern Ontario. The Garden Club of Toronto and the Canadian Wildflower Society have assisted in the design of the garden and participated in many of the plantings. Toronto Region Conservation Authority, which started the process and continues to be involved and The City’s Parks and Recreation Department which has the responsibility for management have been the major agencies involved.

While the meadow was seeded and planted with a large number of native wildflowers and grasses over the last five years, the success of these plantings has fallen short of expectations and many invasive exotics have become established. The meadow now consists largely of herbaceous vegetation, long, cool season grasses toward the back and a mixture of wildflowers and native grasses near the historic buildings and ponds. In Southern Ontario, meadow habitat in lowland areas, generally results from human activities such as mowing or grazing livestock. The relatively rich soil with adequate moisture here will result in an invasion of shrubs and trees unless some management is undertaken. Rather than continuing to plant desirable species, it is probably better use mowing to maintain the meadow and preserve the view to the North Slope.

The Carolinian Woodland Community (8) was established in the small area between the ponds and the Beltline Trail, because it was believed that the generally sheltered and warm location of the Brick Works within the City of Toronto would favour it. Many trees, shrubs and herbs have been planted here and some have become established and are growing well, such as Redbud. The vegetation on the West Slope provides a gradual transition to the existing mature wooded valley slopes of the Moore Park Ravine.

The current plan is to continue the establishment of Carolinian woodland by providing conditions that will allow the Carolinian species to thrive. The planting of fast growing trees to contribute shade to the understorey interspersed with slower growing Carolinian species has been recommended. When the canopy closes, more understorey shrubs and herbaceous ground cover can be planted. Potential herbaceous species include hepatica, trout lilies and trilliums. Sun-loving edge species can be planted immediately, whereas species preferring shade should be planted after canopy, closure. Trees and shrubs considered for this area include Sugar Maple, Swamp White Oak, Sycamore, Tulip Tree, Buttonbush, Spice Bush and Sassafras. Adjacent to the main path, plants such as Pasture Rose, Grey Dogwood, and Fragrant Sumac could be planted to cover the fence to soften its visual impact.

The North West Slope and Lowland Woodlands (9), with the associated open Ordovician shale slope and the seepage areas along the edge of the ponds create wooded plant communities well suited for amphibian habitat enhancement. The northern part of the West Slope is densely vegetated with thicket type species such as staghorn sumac, Manitoba maple and alder. The shaded moist conditions give rise to mosses on the shale slope. In the central area, coltsfoot is establishing is on the exposed shale slope. The plan is to maintain the diversity, of plant communities and allow natural regeneration to occur. The moist, shady conditions are excellent for the establishment of ferns and other shade and moisture loving, species. The small treed stand at the bottom could be expanded to create a low land wooded plant community well suited for amphibian habitat enhancement. Logs might be added for shelter. Sugar Maple, Red Oak, Cottonwood, Red Raspberry, and Hawthorn. are recommended for planting here.

The East Slope (10), mostly covered with grasses and composed of a tight clay, is moist through much of the year, but can dry out during the late summer months. In some areas, particularly near the top of the slope, dog strangling vine is present and represents a threat to the open plant communities in the Brick Works. Eventually woodland vegetation should be established to blend with the natural valley slope vegetation along this section of the Don Valley. Wooded slopes will enhance the setting of the Brick Works Park. Appropriate routes need to be identified for mountain biking and pedestrian activity. Tree species recommended include: Cottonwood and Chokecherry as pioneers and Red Oak, Sugar Maple, White Ash and Black Cherry for the full forest.

The Existing Deciduous Woodland slopes (11) of the Don River Valley and the Moore Park ravine form a backdrop to the park. Valley slope vegetation is deciduous forest, frequently dominated by Red Oak with Sugar Maple, Ash and a medley of understorey species. In places the vegetation has a higher frequency of pioneer species with younger ages.

The Historic Buildings (3) and the Entrance Area (6) along Bayview Avenue consist of a more traditionally maintained park landscape. Along the access road and entrance walkway, lawn areas are regularly mown and plantings are more formal, including several planters in the Weston Quarry Garden plaza and beds filled with fragrant sumac in the parking lot. In the fall of 2000, a row of ash and red oak was planted along Bayview Avenue. The Buildings have been preserved to illustrate the former industry. For more about them click.