Weston – a (comparatively) long history.

Weston has some old structures. Not that old compared to those in Europe, Africa or Asia but for North America, we have quite a few of historical interest.

Strictly speaking, Weston’s oldest structure is the Carrying Place Trail. This was used by First Nations people and explorers between 1615 and 1793. A plaque was dedicated by the Weston Historical Society in 2013.

The Carrying Place Trail Plaque in 2013.

Weston’s next oldest structure is the 1856 CNR (formerly Grand Trunk) bridge that crosses the Humber to the west of Weston and St Phillips. It was recently widened to accommodate the UP Express but the original structure still stands.

The October 5th 1859 sod turning for the Toronto Grey and Bruce narrow-gauge railway by 19 year-old Prince Arthur, 3rd son of Queen Victoria. From: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca

The next oldest structure is the long neglected Plank Road Building at Weston and St Phillips. This structure at 2371 Weston was built in 1841 and   in recent years has stood abandoned. Someone obviously owns it and is paying (no doubt reduced) taxes on it.

The Plank Road Building at 2375 Weston Road. From: Google Maps

Weston Presbyterian Church on Cross Street in Weston has an interesting history dating from 1847. The current version dates from 1880.

Weston Presbyterian Church. From: Google.ca

St John the Evangelist Catholic Church was established in 1853.

Weston Collegiate Institute has been going since before Canada was a country (not in the same building!) and is Toronto’s second oldest high school.

Weston Lacrosse Team 1924. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca

Weston Village is filled with fine homes and mansions, many dating from around the turn of the 20th Century. Generations of families have enjoyed these homes and their history once revealed can be fascinating.

The City of Toronto has a web page outlining some useful areas of investigation if you are researching the history of your older home. Weston Historical Society may also be useful in this regard.

Readers are invited to share their discoveries.

Mount Dennis Net Zero Community Meeting

Glen Murray discusses implications and possibilities for Mount Dennis.

Ontario Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray was the star attraction at a meeting held in Mount Dennis Library tonight. The meeting was hosted by Councillor Frances Nunziata and Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Laura Albanese. Jim Baxter, director of Toronto’s Environment and Energy Division was along to add support. Over 40 people came out on a 34° evening to hear some details about Ontario’s five year Climate Change Action Plan and how it can be applied in Mount Dennis.

Highlights of the meeting:

Minister Murray promised to coax Metrolinx into approving the rail path northward expansion through Mount Dennis and possibly Weston. He applauded the net zero initiative being undertaken in Mount Dennis.

There will be energy retrofits available for social and rental housing.

Home energy saving upgrades will be subsidized.

The Ontario Government is very supportive of more bike lanes and better cycling infrastructure.

He thinks that bike paths along hydro corridors should be encouraged.

The province will be offering an incentive of up to $14,000 towards the lease or purchase of an electric vehicle and up to $1000 to install a home charging station.

Four years of free overnight charging for electric vehicles.

Rebates to help trade to an electric vehicle.

Before selling a home, owners will be required to perform an energy audit so that potential purchasers will know the home’s energy costs.

Encouraging words were said about the Black Creek channel and its possible naturalization.

The Green Investment Fund will provide money towards retrofitting low energy systems in homes, apartments and businesses.

Minister Murray was keen to return to meet with residents for a hike / cycle along the Humber to look at the weirs along the river.

Elliot Strashin owns and is renovating the old Cooper Canada sporting goods factory on Alliance and presciently enough has been renovating it, placing a solar farm on the roof, geothermal energy systems and better insulation. One of his tenants is a company called Dynacert which designs computerized on demand water electrolysis systems that feed the product (hydrogen and oxygen) into existing fossil fuel engines instead of using diesel or gasoline. This process reduces carbon emissions and increases efficiency. Container ship engines generate huge amounts of emissions are being considered for application of this technology. He was wondering about what support there would be for expanding the factory. Minister Murray promised to meet up with Mr. Strashin to see what can be done.

Mr Murray seems quite taken with Mount Dennis and mentioned that what people are looking for is a community with a history and unique businesses, restaurants and cafes. They don’t want to find chain businesses in their locale. Ideally the neighbourhood should be walkable and have good public transportation and cycling options. In 2021, once the Eglinton Crosstown is opened, and cycling infrastructure is improved, Mount Dennis will be well on its way to being such a community. The formal motion to declare Mount Dennis a net zero community will be presented to Council in July.

The meeting ended with an individual question and answer session.

EcoNeighbourhood meeting in Mount Dennis

The ever-excellent MDCA continues to press the pols to make Mount Dennis the first net zero neighbourhood. On June 12 13, Mount Denizens will have an excellent chance to make their case when the Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray; Frances Nunziata; and Laura Albanese will be presenting on the theme of “building green communities”.

The MDCA is pushing for home audits, energy retrofits, centralized neighbourhood heating from wasted energy, and, very importantly, a chance to get local people involved in job training through community benefits agreements.

The meeting will be held at the Mount Dennis Library on June 12 at 7 pm.

Profile of Community Hub

InsideToronto has a profile of the still-somewhat-new community hub at 1765 Weston Road.

“There’s a dearth of services in the neighbourhood and the services that do exist are far apart, everything is spread out here. By bringing the services on site we’re able to create an almost one-stop shop, which minimizes all kinds of barriers to access,” said Nivedita Balachandran, manager of support services at Progress Place.

Weston, home of the Bicycle? Get real.

This is a supplement to Adam’s excellent ‘Tyraid‘ published in 2015.

At one time in Weston there was a CCM (Canada Cycle & Motor) factory that made bikes. Some time after the factory closed, Weston (through its Business Improvement Area) decided to call itself ‘The Home of the Bicycle”.

In recent years, Weston’s relationship with the bicycle has been marred by infidelity. Weston’s true love is clearly the car and bicycles are given the literal cold shoulder. Instead of encouraging cycling as a way to get around, our own councillor has in the past voted against bike lanes and has even proposed licensing bicycles – an idea that would curtail bicycle use.

More evidence of infidelity: not a single dedicated bike lane graces Weston’s streets; hardly surprising when we live in one of the few cities in the world without a single pedestrian-only street. The nearest thing we have to a bike lane in Weston is a set of ‘sharrows’ down some pretty busy stretches of Weston Road. What are ‘sharrows‘ you may ask – simply a set of stencilled chevrons and a bike image to indicate that cyclists may be present. Somehow a few licks of paint seem to allow politicians to believe that bikes are safely accommodated on our roads.

From the Toronto Star.

Incidentally one particularly dangerous stretch of Weston Road links two strands of the once vaunted Pan Am Path.

Updated map showing the multi-use trail along the Humber in Weston and the missing section between (south to north) St Phillip’s Bridge/ Weston Road and Fairglen Crescent / Cardell Avenue.

Negotiations to connect the two halves of the trail have been ongoing for a long time.

It has been shown that people who bike regularly are healthier and happier than those who don’t. The ones who don’t get hit by a car that is. Many cities around the world have found that by creating separate bike lanes, accidents fall off dramatically while cyclist numbers rise. Health care costs decrease too when large numbers cycle and the population becomes healthier. Plus we’re not talking about cities with nice climates either. Scandinavia can have some pretty foul winter weather yet cycling is used by a majority to get to work in Copenhagen. In fact, 63% of Danish MPs commute on a bicycle.

Stockholm has an extensive network of separated bike paths running through the city.
The author impressed by the support for cyclists in other countries – this is also in Stockholm.

Councillors from the suburbs who live in their own version of the 1950s often put forth bogus arguments when blocking pro-bicycle council motions: Cyclists blow through stop signs, they don’t pay for the roads etc. There’s a nice rebuttal to that nonsense here.

Read here to learn what other cold climate countries are doing to encourage cycling through the use of bicycle highways.

Bottom line; if we want to be the ‘Home of the Bicycle’, let’s do something meaningful. Mount Dennis is opting to be a ‘net zero’ community and has made great strides towards that goal. Weston really could be the home of the bicycle.

If the political will isn’t there, nothing will happen. If people don’t tell politicians what’s important to them, nothing will change. Few people are brave enough to risk life and limb cycling alongside cars. Build separated bike lanes and people will use them. Not only that, cyclists spend deceptively more money.

Let’s make Weston the ‘Home of the Bicycle’ through purposeful actions; not through the use of a now meaningless name.

Note: an earlier version showed an out-of-date map. Thanks to Simon Chamberlain for the heads up.

Microgrants available–but hustle!

The city is offering $1000 ‘micro-grants’ to neighbourhood groups within its Neighbourhood Improvement areas, which include both Weston and Mount Dennis. If you’ve got an idea, whip it together, and get to the meeting next Thursday.

To apply, local groups must have at least five participating members and be planning an event or activity open to the community.

Me, I’d like to see a food-truck festival on Weston Road in the summer, or a beer garden at the Farmers’ Market. Perhaps we could have a bike-repair and information party with veggie burgers and ice cream for all.