Vol.54, No.1 - Spring 2024

Vol.54, No.1 - Spring 2024



There’ll be no big explosion at the wedding of the new Don River and Toronto Harbour.

An earthen dam currently separates the two bodies of water, but the dam won’t be eliminated by dynamite. A diamond-studded rope will cut into the dam, which project engineers call a plug.

The water levels in the river and harbour are at equal heights, so there’ll be no gush of water when the dam is breached, according to a Waterfront Toronto spokesperson.

There are three plugs holding back water in the Lower Port Lands. One is in the original Don River where it enters the Keating Channel. Soon that sharp right turn will be eliminated when the plug is cut, and the water will flow into the river’s new route.

There’s also a plug just under the new Cherry Street South bridge that will allow the river to empty into Toronto Harbour. A third plug is in the Don Greenway – a marshy area designed to accommodate flood waters when the Don is overwhelmed by heavy rainfall or spring runoffs. That plug will let the marshland empty its excess waters into the shipping canal to the south.

It took three weeks for an artificial creek to fill the new Don River to a depth of three meters.

Engineers wanted the flow to go slow so as not to disrupt the thousands of plantings of trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers on the groomed banks of the new river route.

Many truckloads of particular-sized stones had been placed on the dry riverbed and engineers didn’t want those stones moved by a sudden gush of water. The stones are small enough to serve as ideal breeding grounds for fish, but large enough not to be washed out into the harbour by the river flow.

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority estimates there are 26 different species of fish waiting to set up home in the new riverbed. Thousands of children’s windmill toys lined the groomed banks of the river this spring. They swayed and spun in the wind to scare off birds from eating the newly planted seeds on the embankments. 

Rerouting the Don River created an 83-acre artificial island in the Port Lands called Villiers.

Villiers will house a mixed-use community considered the most ambitious environmental renewal project in North America with 10,000 residents living in 5,000 homes – mostly midrise apartments with about 1,000 square feet of space.

The environment plays a major role in the design of Villiers Island Precinct – the first of several design precincts for the 880-acre Port Lands.

No combustible engines will operate on the island. Electric vehicles – including public transit – plus personal cars will be electrically driven. Bicycles get a high priority for transportation. Among the 62 acres of parkland planned for Villiers Island will be an outdoor public art trail funded by a $25 million donation from Toronto’s Pierre Lassonde Foundation.

The free open-air art gallery will be operated and curated by the foundation and world-renown artists will be invited to submit creations for the art trail.

“It has always been a dream of mine to put great art within reach of the public,” said Pierre Lassonde, founder of the Pierre Lassonde Family Foundation. “If one wishes to have a profound and lasting impact on the wellbeing and happiness of Torontonians, the waterfront offers a multitude of philanthropic opportunities.”