UTSC is finishing up the final touches on its highly-anticipated Valley Land Trail. Opened to the public on August 29, the 500-metre trail will undergo periodic closures as the last of the work is completed.
The trail slopes at a five per cent grade, 19 metres down into the Highland Creek Valley. It includes a number of safety features that meet design requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
“The motivation behind the project is to make the path more accessible, beautiful and enjoyable for our community,” wrote UTSC Media Relations Officer Don Campbell.
According to fourth-year UTSC student Lubaba Gemma, prior to the opening of the new trail, “It was definitely difficult to find your way around the valley… A lot of the ‘path’ beforehand was uneven and really difficult to manoeuvre around.” Now, Gemma noted, “It’s a lot easier to get around but also, students are actively going to the valley more often.”
Preliminary designs for the trail began in late 2016. Construction started in April 2018 and finished at the end of August 2019 — with the exception of the benches and plant life signage, which will be added throughout September.
As for the potential consequences on the Highland Creek environment, UTSC Professor of Human Geography Andre Sorensen wrote, “There is no doubt that such a construction project does have significant environmental impacts.” However, Sorensen added, “The benefits of the new trail well outweigh the environmental impacts… and [the trail] is likely to reduce other impacts over the longer term.”
The Valley Land Trail was built atop a pre-existing trail which had been severely eroded by human activity over the years. Sorensen explained that “[having] a well-built trail in this location will be likely to mitigate that kind of environmental impact in the longer term.” Additionally, the new trail is “highly likely to greatly reduce foot traffic in other areas of the valley slope,” which, he noted, is an “environmentally sensitive” locale.
Sorensen also pointed out that UTSC has “a number of facilities in the valley,” and therefore “access to the valley is very important for UTSC as a whole.”
Community member Tom Gretton was hiking the Highland Creek Trail when he decided to try the Valley Land Trail. Gretton told The Varsity that “the trees have to grow a bit and the vegetation has to come back, but it’s a very enjoyable walk up and down into the valley.”