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The aerial view of The Meadoway looking west toward downtown Toronto.Region Conservation Authority

A new environmental initiative spearheaded by the city will transform 16 kilometres of hydro corridor in Scarborough into one of Canada’s largest urban linear parks.

The project, called the Meadoway, will connect four ravines, 15 parks, 35 neighbourhoods and more than 500 acres of land to allow visitors to travel from the Don River Ravine in downtown Toronto to Rouge National Urban Park in the city’s east end without driving or taking transit.

The Meadoway is a partnership involving the City of Toronto, Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and the W. Garfield Weston Foundation.

The project has a proposed budget of $85-million – 40 per cent of which has been raised so far. The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has pledged $25-million with a commitment of $10-million today, and the city has committed $6.3-million to help build walking and cycling trails.

“It’s going to be beautiful and it’s going to support a greater diversity of wildlife that it already supports,” said John MacKenzie, chief executive of TRCA.

The idea for the park came from one of the Weston family’s early trail projects in Scarborough to explore how the city’s underutilized spaces can be reimagined, said Tamara Rebanks, chair of the Conservation Committee of the Weston Foundation. She said their larger goal is to connect city residents with nature.

What was known as the Gatineau Hydro Corridor Revitalization will be converted into urban greenspaces and meadowlands over the next seven years.

Mayor John Tory said one of the challenges of a fast-growing city is making sure people have a place where they can build not only their careers but their lives and families. He said that as more developments are created, the city must ensure there are open spaces so that families and workers can enjoy the natural environment.

“That carries with it an important responsibility to make sure in every single part of Toronto, without exception, that we have a city that is livable, that is accessible, that is vibrant for generations to come,” Mr. Tory said.

A man waters his garden plot in the urban farms found along The Meadoway.

One of the goals of the Meadoway is to contribute to the fight against climate change by reducing vehicle emissions and providing alternate commuting options such as bike pathways connecting to other bike lanes in the city.

The project will introduce meadow habitats in the urban community. Visitors will be able to grow their own food, go for a bike ride and volunteer while exploring nature.

Mr. Tory said he believes the Meadoway will become a tourist attraction, as well as bring in residents from across the city.

A cyclist rides on the multi-use path along The Meadoway.

Mr. MacKenzie, TRCA CEO, said the organization will be observing the meadow in the years to come to monitor its growth and health. He said as the meadow develops, it will create habitats to support pollinators in the region, which are increasingly at risk; create food sources for butterflies; and provide birds with cover to nest and rear their young.

He added that this project could be a model for cities across North America.

“This is the birthplace of a transformative initiative that’s not going to just change this part of Scarborough and not going to change this part of Toronto,” he said. “I’m convinced this idea is going to be something that’s going to be taken up by other municipalities across the region.”