Warden Woods is undoubtedly a gem. It’s a gem as a piece of natural heritage in Toronto, and it’s a gem along Taylor-Massey Creek. I’m here as a part of a Heritage Toronto tour, led by Andrew McCammon of the Taylor-Massey Project, a volunteer effort dedicated to preserving the Taylor-Massey watershed.
We gather at the corner of the Warden and St. Clair Avenues opposite Warden Subway Station and descend into the park.
A bit of background on the Taylor-Massey: it feeds into the River Don, flowing from the Forks and concluding at Terraview Park near Victoria Park & the 401 in Scarborough. Its real headwaters, though, are actually buried under the highway and just north of it. Also, like its name suggests, it consists of two branches named for prominent Toronto families.
The first thing that strikes me about the creek is how naturalized it looks. There’s actual flow to it! Whereas other creeks in the city (including parts of the Taylor-Massey) have been channelized and filled with concrete beds, there’s nothing of the sort with this ‘reach’ of the ravine.
We get our first look at the creek and see also a far off cliff – a mini-Scarborough Bluff, as I like to think of it. Both are glacial remnants of the last ice age.
As Andrew explains, the TMP is trying to make the watershed into a functioning, vibrant ecosystem. That has meant no washrooms in the park (although I don’t see why any would be needed) and no night lights. Curiously, there’s only one bench in the whole park, too. Warden Woods is home to many bird sanctuaries and serves as a stop over for migratory species.
But it doesn’t mean the creek isn’t without its challenges. That same great view shows that its banks have been fortified with armor-stone bricks to prevent erosion. Other parts lack the armor-stone, though.
The trail itself begins as a gravel path. Unlike other parks of its size and larger, it doesn’t branch off. To the right is the creek, to the left is thick forest. It is a serene stroll – if you don’t mind the rattle of nearby subway cars.
The problem with coordinating a plan of ‘attack’ to tackle these issues is that there are a couple of bodies – Toronto Parks, Toronto & Region Conservation Authority, as examples – that have some jurisdiction over Warden Woods and similar areas. Sadly, they don’t talk to each other as much as they should. With the City’s Ravine Strategy, perhaps a concentrated effort will be in place.
The other issue within Warden Woods – and in most natural settings in Toronto – is invasive species. Particular to both is the prevalence of garlic mustard, which impedes the ability for any other plant to grow in its vicinity.
We come to a large bridge, which Andrew says at one time had a plaque dedicated to the Thompson Brothers. Across it is a path that once led to a mini BMX course and today is a great spot for bird watching. Serendipitously, at that very moment a hawk (red tailed, maybe?) flies high above us.
Further past the bridge, the now paved path curves and meanders at about the spot where the shores of ancient Lake Iroquois once stood.
At the end of the trail, Warden Woods Trail curiously becomes a parking lot, which is unfortunate because if one where passing through on Pharmacy, he/she would have no clue that a great natural escape exists down the way.