In a city where park space has become a critical issue in relation to Toronto's growing population, initiatives have been undertaken to alleviate some of these constraints. Back in August, John Tory announced a proposed downtown Rail Deck Park from Bathurst to Blue Jays Way south of Front Street which would bring 21 acres of much needed parkland. About 12 kilometres northwest of that proposal lies another soon-to-be rail deck park, albeit a scaled-down one. Titled Weston Rail Deck Park, this new green space is built over the rail corridor that includes the Union Pearson Express, the Kitchener GO, and VIA Rail lines. 

The UPX leaving Weston Station to Pearson Airport, image by Greg Lipinski

Yesterday, Metrolinx hosted a tour that covered the investments made by the transit agency into the neighbourhood, including the Weston Rail Deck Park and the new John Street Bridge. Arriving at Weston Station via the UPX, the tour began with a short walk down to John Street. Here, where John met the Canadian Pacific rail tracks just a few short years ago at a level crossing, is now blocked off to vehicles. In its place is a new pedestrian bridge that opened just last week, elevated above the tracks.

The newly opened John St. Bridge, image by Greg Lipinski

As part of an agreement with the City of Toronto during the Environmental Assessment six years ago for UPX, Metrolinx was to include pedestrian connectivity and have usable community space as a result of creating the physical barrier on John. This resulted in a design competition, with the winning entry's design chosen and constructed. This bridge will allow residents on the northeast side of the tracks easy access to the future community centre to be built immediately southwest of the bridge, as part of the 22 John St. proposal.

Weston Rail Deck Park from the John St. Bridge, image by Greg Lipinski

Next, the tour proceeded along Weston Rd. to the partially completed rail deck park. The site is bounded by King and Church Streets, (many of the streets in Weston have the same name as Downtown Toronto counterparts), spans 1000 ft in length, and is about 80 ft wide, expanding up to 100 ft wide in certain areas. To the southwest of the park lays the site of the former St. John the Evangelist Catholic School, demolished a couple years ago, and soon to be rebuilt on that site. Between the school and the park is a ditch that runs the length of the parkland, to be filled in by the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Future St. John students will benefit from a new playground, with dedicated grass space that includes a soccer field. The school's playground will be fenced off from the rest of the park.

Overlooking Weston Rail Deck Park, image by Greg Lipinski

Aerial Site Plan Rendering of St. John the Evangelist Catholic School, image courtesy of IBI Group

The project underwent extensive community consultations during the planning process. Stated by Gord Troughton, Director, Kitchener Corridor Infrastructure for Metrolinx, the Parents' Committee for the school, as well as the TCDSB, both played a large part in the design. In the end, both parties say they are pleased with the new space they will be receiving. St. John's school will be rebuilt and open by 2018.

In March of 2015, the park reached a milestone when its concrete structure was formed across the site. The drainage system was also installed for both the park and the future school, while grass was laid during the summer months that followed. As it stands, with the structural component complete, the park is currently undergoing a Site Plan Approval Application with the City, where final details and specifics will be agreed to. 

Temporary fencing set up throughout the park's perimeter, image by Greg Lipinski

Metrolinx has fulfilled their requirement to the City of Toronto, and now the final plans lie with the City. Troughton states that the park could open in 2017, with various sections completed at different times. Although no set timelines have been made, one fenced area of the park will be dedicated to a dog-off-leash zone, as seen in the photo above where the stone gravel currently lies.

Barrier wall separates the CP Bolton rail tracks from the park, image by Greg Lipinski

Although just a fraction of the size of the downtown rail deck park, Weston's new park will nonetheless be a new space that residents of the neighbourhood will surely enjoy. We will keep you updated once information becomes available for the final design. In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment in the space provided below.

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