Bridge over Yonge Street
|Length||9 km (6 mi)|
|Location||Between Allen Road and Mount Pleasant Road|
|Use||cycling and walking|
The Beltline Trail is a 9 km cycling and walking trail in Toronto, Canada. It consists of three sections, the York Beltline Trail west of Allen Road, the Kay Gardner Beltline Park from the Allen to Mount Pleasant Road, and the Ravine Beltline Trail south of Mount Pleasant Cemetery through the Moore Park Ravine. Built on the former right-of-way of the Toronto Belt Line Railway, the linear park passes through the neighbourhoods of Rosedale, Moore Park, Forest Hill, Chaplin Estates, and Fairbank.
The Toronto Belt Line Railway opened in 1892. It was constructed as a commuter railway line to service and promote new suburban neighbourhoods north of the then city limits. The railway consisted of two separate loops both starting and ending at Union Station. The east loop started at Union Station, running east until turning north along the Don River, passing the Don Valley Brick Works, up through Moore Park Ravine and along the northern edge of Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Crossing over Yonge Street and what is now the Davisville Subway Yard, the loop continued northwest until Spadina Avenue, where it crossed Eglinton Avenue and turned west, eventually meeting up with the Grand Trunk railway tracks, now the GO Barrie line just west of Caledonia Road. From there, the route circled south back to Union Station.
The passenger train service was never profitable and only lasted two years. Parts of the rail line then sat unused. In 1910, the Grand Trunk rebuilt the northern portion of the Yonge St. Loop for freight service. Trains ran along this line until the late 1960s when a small part of the right-of-way was expropriated to build the Spadina Expressway, now the Allen Road. This ended rail service east of Marlee Avenue, just before the Allen.
In 1970, CN tried to sell the right-of-way east of the Allen for housing since the land was quite valuable. This would set the stage for one of the first public battles on biking trails. Most home owners adjacent to the line wished to buy the land to extend their backyards complaining of safety issues, vandals, and lovers. Both Metro Toronto parks officials and York Mayor Phil White saw it as an opportunity to build a bike path. Toronto Mayor William Dennison and his executive committee favoured buying portions of the Belt Line to expand roads and existing parks. Dennison told the Toronto Star that he opposed a continuous path along the Belt Line because "people have demonstrated they just won't use it", as well as echoing fears of the homeowners.
After two years of talk, the land was purchased by the city in 1972 as part of a land swap with CN that included the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Front Street. One of the supporters of turning the rail bed into a bike path was alderman David Crombie, who was elected as mayor of Toronto soon after.
CN sold the remaining line west of the Allen to the city in 1988 and its conversion to a trail began. The bridge over Yonge Street was deteriorated and was refurbished in 1993. In 1999–2000 the part of the trail from the Allen Road to Mount Pleasant Road was designated the Kay Gardner Beltline Park after a local councillor, Kay Gardner, who was also involved with the negotiations for that segment of the trail.
The trail reuses almost all of the old railway space. The trail goes over the old iron bridge that crosses Dufferin Street, between Castlefield Ave. and Eglinton Ave., as well as the bridge over Yonge Street and the Davisville Subway Yard south of Davisville Avenue. There is no crossing of the limited-access Allen Road, and trail users must use footpaths parallel to the Allen to reach the nearest road bridge a half-block north or south. Other roads are crossed at grade, with no formal pedestrian crosswalks; the addition of crosswalks was recommended in a 2013 report.
The trail heading west ends just west of Caledonia Road at the former Grand Trunk line, now GO Transit's Barrie line. Heading east, after passing through Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the Beltline Trail then continues southwards through the Moore Park Ravine alongside Mud Creek, a small tributary of the Don River. The trail passes the Don Valley Brick Works and terminates shortly after reaching Bayview Avenue, at a crossroads with two other trails, Park Drive Reservation Trail and Milkman's Lane.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Beltline Trail.|
- Throwback Thursday: The Belt Line Railway, Spacing Toronto, July 16, 2009
- Toronto Belt Line - 1892, Derek Boles, Toronto Railway Historical Association
- Historicist: Cycling Through the Seventies, Torontoist, Jan. 5 2013
- Minutes of the Council of the City of Toronto, October 26, 1999 and October 27, 1999, item 12.40 ; clause no. 35 of report no. 13 of the Toronto Community Council, September 27, 1999 ; press release May 26, 2000 
- The Beltline Trail - Past, Present and Future, Cycle Toronto, Jan. 29, 2013
- Beltline Trail Study, City of Toronto, May 13, 2013