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Laneways and ravines

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I have a new mission for this summer: To explore more of Toronto’s ravines.

Last week I had a fascinating conversation with Steve Heuchert of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). Most developers in this city would probably cringe when they hear those words. Because often when the TRCA gets involved it means your project is about to get more complicated.

But if you take a step back and look at the larger city building equation, our ravines are a remarkable and unique feature of the Toronto area landscape.

And unless you live near one or are fortunate enough to have a home that backs onto one, I suspect that for many of us this city’s ravines are a somewhat forgotten layer of the urban fabric. We drive by them. We pass through them on the subway. But they don’t really register in the way that they should.

And so if you think about it, our ravines actually share many similarities with our laneways (alleys). We know they exist, but we could be doing a lot more to truly celebrate and integrate them into the rest of the city. They are missed opportunities.

The challenge with our ravines though is finding the right balance between preservation and increased usage. But this isn’t something that a great landscape architect couldn’t help solve.

So today’s thoughts are: How do we increase ravine awareness? How do we improve access and expand their uses? How might we craft our ravines to become an interconnected open, green, and cultural network within the city? And how do we better position the ravines as part of Toronto’s overall city brand?

If you’re interested in this topic, check out this talk that Steve Heuchert did last year. It was part of an event that Megan Torza of DTAH organized called RavinePortal.

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