Boundaries: From Lake Ontario up Bellamy creek and Bellamy Road up to the CN rail line on the east, along the rail line to Midland on the north, back along St Clair to Brimley, and along Brimley to the lake on the west.
James McCowan arrived from Scotland with his wife and eight children in 1833, having been forced off his small rented farmland after his new landlord demanded a five-fold increase on his rent. They settled on a piece of land by the Scarborough Bluffs just west of the Bellamy Ravine. James and his son David died of cholera in 1834, but the family led by another son William stayed on this land until 1848. The family continued to prosper in many locations in Scarborough. One of their log cabins was moved to Thomson Memorial Park where it still stands as a museum. McCowan Road is named after the family.
Probably the most popular place in Scarborough for a picnic during the summer months is Bluffer’s Park, located at the foot of Brimley Road. It has beaches, washroom facilities, a restaurant, a marina, and spectacular views of the cliffs. There are also a series of storm water management ponds on the west side of the park to help filter out pollutants before the water enters Lake Ontario. Parkland continues eastward from Bluffer’s park into Cathedral Bluffs Park and Cudia Park.
Among the many species waterfowl you’ll see at Bluffer’s park is the trumpeter swan. This bird had been wiped out of Ontario by hunters, the last known kill was in the 1886. Wildlife biologist Harry Lumsden began a program to restore the population to our province in 1982. It has resulted in a present population of more than 1000 birds. These and other waterfowl along our shores still face many hazards however. They are often caught by abandoned fishing hooks and tangled fishing lines. Another hazard is lead poisoning from lead sinkers and jigs, which the birds will swallow while scooping up the gravel and grit they need for digestion.
There are many good reasons not to feed the waterfowl, but if you have small children, and feel it’s a worthwhile experience for them to interact with the birds, small amounts of chopped or shredded vegetables are probably the best option. But please don’t feed them bread or junk food.
It is possible to walk to Bluffer’s Park from the bus stop on Kingston Road, but being close to 2 kilometres on a considerable incline, for the elderly and families with small children it may be a challenge. For drivers during summer weekends it can be difficult to find a parking spot. Perhaps a shuttle to and from the bus stop or the Kennedy subway station would help reduce the automobile traffic.
While we naturally focus on parks along the Bluffs, there is an interesting parkland development in the northern part of Cliffcrest. Formerly a dumpsite, McCowan District Park has a central section of about 20 acres centred on McCowan just south of the rail line and two long wings, one extending to Bellamy in the east and another to Brimley in the west, after which it becomes the Midland St Clair Park. All this land would have been overshadowed by the Scarborough Expressway if it had been built. If plans are fully realized, McCowan District Park will include wetland and woodland enhancement areas as well as sports fields and play areas and a multi-purpose trail.
The industrial backdrop of McCowan District Park is certainly in stark contrast to the parks along the Bluffs. The Praxair facility reminds us we still live in a world dependent on industrial activity, such as the manufacturing of industrial gases. On its website the company talks about its use of hydrogen in processing ultra low sulphur diesel fuel which together with diesel particulate filters can significantly reduce black carbon emissions – a major contributor to greenhouse warming. While certainly laudable, only a government imposed fee on greenhouse gas production can effectively direct industrial activity away from net contribution to greenhouse gas destructiveness. If companies were truly interested in improving the environment we should be hearing more calls from industry leaders to implement a fair fee on carbon and other contributors to global warming.
When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s we had outdoor rinks at just about every park in my neighbourhood. Now, in all of Scarborough there is only one outdoor rink run by the city – at Scarborough Civic Centre. A second outdoor rink is scheduled for construction at McCowan District Park and should be ready for skating in 2016. Considering how many of our kids spend most of their time sitting in front of screens nowadays, and are more overweight than they have ever been, surely we should prioritise a lot more outdoor rinks and a lot more creative playgrounds in our local parks. A good example of a great outdoor skating facility is the one at Toronto’s Greenwood Park.
Toronto Historical Association Springbank, McCowan Farm
Wikipedia Cliffcrest http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cliffcrest
Toronto Neighbourhood Guide Scarborough Cliffcrest