One Toronto's best features is a landscape that is easily overlooked by its citizens - a network of lush green spaces and forest trails that comprise a massive ravine system.
Toronto's ravines are its "greatest landscape feature" according to The Independent. The UK publication gushed over the ravines in a recent feature, where it was coined as an ultimate underground forest playground. It even went as far as to compare it to New York's Central Park:
"Just less than half of [the ravines] fall under private ownership, but that still leaves about 45,000 acres for people to hike, bike, and walk their dogs along. That expansive acreage dwarfs New York City’s Central Park, which clocks in at 843 acres," reads the feature.
The whole point of the feature was to highlight the potential of the ravines as a tourist attraction for both locals and international visitors. It emphasized the success of the Evergreen Brickworks - the city took what initially seemed to be an unsalvageable wasteland of clay, shale and abandoned buildings and turned it into a thriving community hub:
"Getting to Evergreen Brick Works feels a lot like a trip to Ikea: You hop onto a free shuttle bus which takes you from a subway station to a small bus stop at the entrance of a modern industrial visitors’ centre. There’s plenty of outdoor seating, a bike repair shop, a children’s playground, a small indoor market, a restaurant that serves seasonal Canadian fare and Niagara wines next to a cafe counter for casual grab-n-go items...
If it sounds like the campus of a hipster startup, that’s because it is one... A sprawling, impeccably manicured urban park that feeds into the rest of the Don Valley. "
If Toronto could apply the same revitalization efforts to the rest of the Don Valley, the ravines could end up becoming an iconic landscape feature, just like as Central Park or the Venice Canals. A part of the reason why the ravines aren't as cherished by Torontonians is because they've become an unofficial dumping ground over the years, which has led to the introduction of swamps and invasive species to the area.
But the city does have a plan in place to inject new life into the area - A 10-year plan was unanimously passed by city council just last month, and it aims to manage and preserve the ravines before they are are lost forever. Organizations like the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority are also engaged in an ongoing effort to "replant native species, restore natural habitats for local wildlife, and encourage human interaction in a safe and responsible manner."
Geoff Cape, a Toronto entrepreneur, believes restoration of the ravines is just part of the story. He believes creating an world-class tourist attraction falls heavily on proper marketing:
"We have to find a way to communicate it in a compelling and unique way to make it feel valuable, and turn it into an idea that people connect with emotionally," he said.
Cape thinks that prioritizing "Instagrammability" of the forest ravine system would help it become a must-visit destination. Conversely, Jason Ramsay-Brown, author of Toronto's Ravines and Urban Forests, thinks that the best way to transform the site is to leave it alone:
"Nature is way more efficient at dealing with this than we are. The problem comes when humanity tries to outthink it, or worse, tries to stop it from doing its job."
Where do you stand with Toronto's revitalization plan?