Natural Environment Trails

The Parks of Small's Creek

Small's Creek once ran through the east end of Toronto, originating near Danforth Avenue and Woodbine Avenue. It emptied into Small's Pond, along with two other now-lost rivers – Tomlin's Creek and Tiny Cairns Brook – in what is now Orchard Park.

This 40-foot wide pond was drained and filled with soil around 1935, and much of Small's Creek has since been buried in underground storm sewers. The creek is still visible in four natural area parks – Merrill Bridge Road Park, Williamson Park Ravine, Newbold Ravine, and an unnamed section at 127-137 Gainsborough Road. These glimpses of the still flowing river are now surrounded by homes and bisected by rail lines and roads.

The City of Toronto's Urban Forestry Department has undertaken a variety of projects to enhance and restore the forests along Small's Creek in Merrill Bridge Road Park, Williamson Park Ravine and Newbold Ravine. In the mid-1990s, the local community and City staff planted trees and shrubs in Merrill Bridge Road Park and Williamson Park Ravine. Urban Forestry started a more intensive restoration program in 2000 to remove non-native invasive trees and replant with native trees and shrubs in Merrill Bridge Road Park, Williamson Park Ravine and Newbold Ravine. In all three ravine sections invasive species have been managed including dog-strangling vine, Japanese knotweed, Asiatic bittersweet, garlic mustard and several species of woody invasive shrubs and trees.

More on the history of Small's Creek:


Merrill Bridge Road Park

Small's Creek in Merrill Bridge Road ParkMerrill Bridge Road Park is the northernmost section of Small's Creek that is still visible above ground. The park consists of two distinct areas – a mown turf section with a dog off-leash area in the eastern portion of the park and a narrow natural ravine on the western side of the park just north of the rail line that bisects the ravine from Williamson Park Ravine. The ravine section contains a small trail system that surrounds the trickle of modern-day Small's Creek.

Williamson Park Ravine

Williamson Park RavineWilliamson Park Ravine is a 500 metre long stretch of deciduous forest on steep-banked ravine slopes located south of the rail line. Small's Creek enters the ravine on the south side of the rail line and alternates between daylight and underground channels before disappearing again under Gerrard Street East. Formerly farmland and then home to the exclusive Toronto Golf Club, the park is named for William Williamson, an alderman for the area in the first half of the 20th century, and a small bronze plaque honouring him can be found on a stone memorial mid-way through the ravine.

Williamson Park Ravine has been designated as an Environmentally Significant Area (ESA) in the City of Toronto Official Plan because it provides habitats for vulnerable, rare or threatened plant and/or animal species and communities that are vulnerable, rare, threatened or endangered within the Province, the City or the Greater Toronto Area. However, the site is considered to be in poor to fair condition overall due to the presence of non-native species, extensive tree fall and erosion, informal trails and encroachment.

Newbold Ravine

Newbold ravineThe Newbold Ravine section is a small stretch of natural area with a trail running along the north side. This site is a moist, lowland area where the creek is contained in underground storm water infrastructure.

Unnamed 127-137 Gainsborough section

Gainsborough section of Small's CreekThe unnamed 127-137 Gainsborough section, referred to locally by some as Gainsborough Ravine, is a tiny parcel of land and is in the poorest condition of the four sites, with a canopy mainly composed of invasive tree species. This is the last section of Small's Creek still visible before it finally enters the storm sewer tunnels, coming from the northeast corner of the property and entering a large catch basin at the northwest side of the lot.

Newbold Trail Upgrades

The City of Toronto will be undertaking trail improvements, starting Summer 2017, in the ravine connecting Newbold Avenue to Beaton Avenue. Proposed construction includes removal of existing timber steps and installation of new elevated boardwalk, gently sloping trail, and retaining wall. Our objective is to provide improved public access along the trail from Newbold to Beaton Avenues, while protecting the ravine's trees and natural environment.

Newbold Ravine - Plan View

For more information on the proposed trail improvements or construction schedule, please contact Julia Murnaghan or follow us on Twitter @TOtrees.