The Waterfront Trail moves
along Lake Ontario and Lake Erie's northern shores. It takes
in interesting little towns, villages and beaches as well as Oshawa,
Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Some of the trail is
along minor highways with fast-moving cars. I have used
trail when it's interesting and some of the designated roads when I
have no choice.
oak tree on Lake Ontario, just west of the marsh that is west
of Bluff Point;
Telegraph Narrows is in the background. March 3, 2009
have also taken alternate routes when they
attractive, so I suppose this is the "unofficial" route.
I live near
the section that is most undeveloped, with the official trail simply
linking more interesting areas. Sections of the trail in Trenton Have
been vastly improved in the past few years (I write this in 2021). When
I first walked this "trail" this some sections were no more more than
signs on busy highways. The section between Belleville
and Trenton has received little support locally to date and there isn't
really an official section in the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, despite
blue lines on maps and a few signs. Altogether, putting a sign by a
highway is pretty useless and uncreative.
as vishwawalkers, we sometimes have to take things into our own hands.
In my notes, I have tried to note the official route and the route I
have chosen. It will be clear when I deviate from the route outlined on
Standing on private land looking out upon a section of
the Bay of Quinte, the usual buoyancy I have at the joy of
just being out walking can be suddenly replaced by a sadness
sections of the waterfront: it is unlikely that I will ever walk
certain sections again. Some of the shoreline is difficult to get to
and very occasionally landowners, when they are around, are less
than friendly. At these moments, I drink in the view,
"this will be the last time I get this particular perspective." It's
different than enjoying a view when you're thousands of miles from home
and unlikely to be able to visit again. Here, the locale is not far
from my home geographically.
the land is filling up and I've had my
fill of castle-like houses crushing the view and cutting off choice
pieces of land from public enjoyment.
Waterfront Trail site is a good one
, with clear maps. The Waterfront
Regeneration Trust has an onerous job and I laud them for it. Any
criticism of actual routes is simply that, not of the fine work being
done by hard-working and committed environmentalists.
The creation of the trail
the early 1980s (and presumably before), there was a
concern that large sections of the waterfront in
were being swallowed by private land. In addition, federal lands were
being developed, cutting off the waterfront from the city itself and
its enjoyment by the people.
When I lived in Toronto in the
seventies and eighties, there were places you could go to enjoy the
lake: the islands, Ontario Place, and a few places farther out.
However, both public and private land development was making it hard to
get near the water. It's a problem that still exists along
the entire waterfront, as you'll see me complain at numerous points
along the trail. Another problem is extensive shoreline alteration,
particularly "lakefill" — filling in lakeshore to get more
shoreline or to alter it to benefit one development or another. This
practice is both aesthetically and environmentally destructive.
1988, the federal government established the Royal Commission
the Future of the Toronto Waterfront
, with David Crombie ( former mayor
of the city) as its first commissioner. The commission produced a
report called "Regeneration
which contained a
recipe to "regenerate' and protect the waterfront. Since that time, the
face of the waterfront has drastically altered for the better.
in the 17th century and before, the original inhabitants of the lake
did little to alter it. But as the
industrial era proceeded, more an more projects were undertaken. As
early as 1830 "stonehookers" removed as much as 47,000 tons of stone
annually from just offshore of the lake, to provide ballast for
unburdened sailboats. The removal accelerated shore erosion to such an
extent that farmers, seeing the loss of their land, successfully
pressured the government to institute the "three-rod law" in 1857,
which made it illegal to gather rocks within 15 metres of the
But the damage was already done. Other development projects over the
years show a similar pattern: destruction followed by attempts to slow
or stop the destructions. Unregulated activity followed by regulation,
but "only when the damage became serious were limits set, a reaction
that effectively 'closed the door after the horse had escaped.'"
(Regeneration, p. 151-152). This still goes on, depending upon the government in power.
over the western shoreline of lake Ontario, one is struck by the
intensity of development," notes the "Regeneration" study (p.
152). From industrial development in Hamilton to Toronto's
recreational lakefill project, Ontario Place, to endless breakwaters
that protect boats and land from the lake's waves, the original
lakeshore was destroyed.
One of the commission's
proposals were "greenways" along the shores of the lake that would both
protect what was left of the natural shoreline and provide a
recreational space that everyone could enjoy. The commission used
earlier studies to bolster its position. One of those was a provincial
study made in 1991 called The
Waterfront Trail: First Steps from Concept to Reality
(Reid et al., 1991). In the same year, a Citizens for a
Greenway (CFLAG) was created. As the report "Regeneration"
describes, the word "greenways" describes environmental
and publicly accessible areas that connect "wildlife habitats to each
other, human communities to other human communities, city to country,
people to nature" (p. 179).
As a result of the commission's
report, the Waterfront Regeneration Trust was formed in 1992.
immediately set about working to mitigate environmental damage created
by such developments as highways and gravel pits near the waterfront.
It also worked with communities and public and private landowners to
develop the waterfront trail. In 1995, it opened a "virtually
continuous" trail from Stoney Creek to Trenton. Since then, it has more
than doubled the length of the trail to create a continuous trail from
Niagara-on-the-Lake to Brockville and farther. A possibly old page on
the trail's site envisions an eventual link up with the Great
Lakes Seaway Trail
that runs south of Lake Ontario, mostly
through upper New York State.
American Seaway Trail is a "road trip" with suggestions for walking
along the way; it's anything but a greenway. Hopefully the trust also
wants to connect with trails throughout Quebec, and maybe link with the
International Appalachian Trail
or the original Appalachian Trail
at Mount Katahdin in Maine. On the trail website, the trail loops along
Lake Erie and up Lake Huron and beyond. Beyond a line on the map, I
cannot speak of these trails.
trust works continuously to maintain and extend the trail. In 2013, 600
kiklometres of trail were added along Lake Erie and in 2016, the trail
was extended to Grand Bend. In subsequent years, plans were made to
extend the trail along the shore of Georgian Bay and in 2020, despite
spome setbacks from the covid-19 pandemic, there were plans to
extend the trail along Lake Superior.
The trail seems to favour cyclists and often runs along paved roads. Several publications refer to the
objective of making Ontario a cyclist destination, so there's
recreational money being chased here as well.
official website claims it is now 3,600 km long. This is deceptive, as
a good deal of the trail is simply a road with a trailsign, without any
concessions to walkers. "About 30% of the Trail is off-road along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, about 14% is off-road on the Lake Erie, Detroit River and Lake St Clair section, and roughly 4% is off-road along the North Channel between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury. The route is primarily paved, with sections of unpaved path and gravel roads," according to the official website.
According to a 2007 trail guidlines
and maintenance brochure, a priority of the trail is to " provide
passage for pedestrians, cyclists, in-line skaters and other trail
users along seperate alignments where necessary."
It's a hard act to please all these users.
development of the trail is guided by nine principles, which are often
referred to but seldom laid out, and they're hard to find. They're
contained in Crombie's Lake Ontario Greenway Strategy: Clean, green, accessible, connected, open, useable, diverse, affordable and attractive.
At present, I have
walked from Presqu'ile Park to just short of Deseronto. As noted above, these
are some of the most difficult sections in the Ontario sections. Many of the communities along
this section have not committed to or do not have the funds for
greenways. Continued development makes this an increasingly
difficult goal even if there were local political will do do this.
I started walking these sections in 2005. I have neglected them for
some years (as of June, 2021). This is partly because I generally
prefer less civilized trails. However, with the developments over the
past 15 years, these are trails that deserves attention.
Tyendinaga to Belleville
Belleville to Trenton
Trenton to Presqu'ile Park