There is little of Taylor Creek Park on the Pan Am Path that comprises so much of the Toronto section of the Trans Canada Trail. The map encourages you to leave the Lower Don Trail by walking under the Don Valley Parkway, past a curious art installation of half submerged canoes, enter the park then almost immediately leave it by climbing the Alden steps into the Parkview neighbourhood of East York.
Bypassing Taylor Creek Park is a mistake because it is the first place on the Trans Canada trail east of Yonge Street where it feels as though you have left the city behind and you are surrounded by nothing but trees and rushing water.
The land along Taylor-Massey creek used to belong to some of Toronto’s most prominent families. The Taylor family, which arrived in Upper Canada from Staffordshire, England in 1821 acquired the land closer to Lower Don Trail and founded the the Don Valley Brick Works and Todmorden mill along the Don. John Taylor achieved the first major breakthrough in paper-making in 1700 years when he substituted wood pulp for rags as the raw material, winning a £1000 reward.
On the other side of the O’Connor Bridge, named for the founder of Laura Secord Chocolates, is the site of the Massey family estate. The Masseys immigrated to Upper Canada from Vermont in the first decade of the nineteenth century, part of a wave of “late loyalist” settlers who followed the promise of free land to British North America. In 1847, Daniel Massey, a blacksmith, opened a farm equipment workshop and his company eventually developed into Massey-Ferguson, a multinational producer of agricultural implements. The family founded Massey Hall in 1894, one of the most significant cultural venues in downtown Toronto. The future King George V and Queen Mary visited Massey Hall with Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier in 1901 and musicians and world leaders from Gordon Lightfoot to the Dalai Lama have taken the stage since then.
It’s the beginning of December but it feels more like March with mud on the paths and water rushing over the lower section of the trail that passes along Taylor-Massey Creek through the park. (There are signs reminding pedestrians, joggers and cyclists to quite literally take the high road).
Taylor Creek park is popular with dog walkers. Even on fall evenings when the park is lit by the windows of far off apartment towers, there are dogs and their owners out for a stroll. Only on overcast weekday afternoons is the park nearly deserted, perfect for anyone seeking a solitude in a busy city.
The path through Taylor Creek Park leads to Victoria Park station, near a recently revitalized wetland, and you may be tempted to get on the subway and go east a few stops to rejoin us at Highland Creek, the next scenic part of the trail. I am going to make a compelling argument for why we should retrace the path to the Alden steps and walk through residential and industrial neighbourhoods of East York as the dotted line on the Trans Canada trail map instructs. You see, I have been reliably informed by The Torontoist that there is a giant Peek Frean Cookie outlet store selling equally giant bags of discount cookies within steps of the Pan Am Path…
Getting There By Public Transit: Subway to Victoria Park Station
Further Reading: Toronto’s Ravines and Urban Forests: Their natural heritage and local history by John Ramsay-Brown
Next: Bermondsey and the Cookie Factory