History student leads a Jane's Walk along Black Creek Saturday

On Saturday, history student Tom Peace will lead a three-hour, four-kilometre walk exploring the natural environment and settlement history along Black Creek as part of the fourth annual Jane’s Walk.

Black Creek
“Walking through our community helps us to see what we so often take for granted,” says Peace, who is completing his PhD in history at York. 

Above: Black Creek. Photo by Tom Peace.

“On foot, the vibrant natural world of the Black Creek ravine, First Nations heritage and modern-day communities are drawn together in a way that is impossible to replicate in a vehicle. It helps to demonstrate the dynamic nature of the Black Creek area.”

This is the first Jane’s Walk along Black Creek and one of more than 100 free neighbourhood walking tours planned this weekend across the city celebrating the legacy of Jane Jacobs, an urban thinker who famously declared that walkable, diverse and mixed-use neighbourhoods are the hallmark of a healthy city and its people.

The Black Creek Community Walk starts at the York Woods District Library at 11am and ends at the Driftwood Community Centre at 2pm. Stops along the way include:

  • the Finch Avenue culvert where the Black Creek burst its banks during a storm in 2005 and tore up the road;
  • the Parson's Site, at the Hydro line corridor, where archeologists unearthed a 15th-century Iroquoian village during 40 years of digs that ended in the 1990s;
  • York University;
  • the Toronto Track & Field Centre, where famous Canadian athletes have trained;
  • Black Creek Pioneer Village.

At the Driftwood Community Centre, there will be an information fair about local summer programs and activities for youth and children.

Peace came to York in 2005 to complete a PhD in Canadian and aboriginal history. Living on campus, he volunteered for two years at Black Creek Pioneer Village, has explored the Black Creek ravine and learned much about this two-kilometre square patch he lives in. 

Right: Tom Peace

“There’s so much focus on new development in this area, yet there is a huge amount of history in this neighbourhood,” says Peace. “Unless you know it exists, you wouldn’t know about Parson’s Site, for instance.”

The goals of the walk are to promote active living, engage the community with some of the natural and historical features of our backyard, and promote many of the organizations and services available – particularly to youth – in the neighbourhoods around the Black Creek. 

This walk is open to all people regardless of whether they live in the neighbourhood, says Peace. “We have put a particular emphasis on engaging youth, but we are also hoping that many members of the York community – particularly those who live, or have lived, in this neighbourhood during their studies or careers – will be interested in participating and sharing their experiences of the Black Creek area.”

The Black Creek Community Walk was planned in collaboration with Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation, Toronto Public Library, Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, Black Creek Community Collaborative, Toronto Police Service and the Toronto Conservation Authority. Two other partners have York University roots – FutureWatch, created by environmental studies graduates, and ActiveHistory.ca, of which Peace is a co-editor, founded by five graduate history students.  

Above: Deer near Black Creek. Photo by Tom Peace.

Peace believes that the organizations that have planned this walk together might work together on future neighbourhood projects and create stronger community relationships in the Black Creek area. “This represents more than a walk,” he claims. “It demonstrates the willingness of community organizations to work together to make this neighbourhood an even better place.” 

If you plan to join the walk, bring water and wear sunscreen. Most of the walk will be on pavement, but there are sections that are along unpaved terrain.

For a map and more information about the walk, including an essay by Peace, visit the Black Creek Community Walk Web site. The walk will proceed rain or shine. For more information, check the Web site, e-mail blackcreekwalk@gmail.com, or call the York Woods District Library at 416-395-5980.