Cottonwood Flats sounds weirdly provincial, like the name of some suburb in England where people wear large, floppy hats, rather than what it actually is: a naturalized area just north of the Evergreen Brickworks along the Lower Don Trail.
The reason I wanted to visit Cottonwood Flats (ward 29) was initially because of a sign I heard was there. Specifically, this one:
Oh, and this one:
Parks are so often filled with hand-slap style signs telling you what you absolutely, musn’t ever do that when I see playful signs like these I’m immediately charmed.
But the signs are not the only thing about Cottonwood Flats that are charming.
When I went there with a friend last Sunday afternoon, we found it fairly secluded. One turn off the busy trail and it really felt like you were out in the middle of some wonderful rural landscape. I love these moments in Toronto, where you take a few steps and are transported away from the city, sometimes in a surprising way.
Cottonwood Flats was used by the City of Toronto to store snow in the winter until 2009 when a natural restoration plan was put into the works that culminated in the beautiful 7-hectare landscape that’s there today.
Getting to the Flats is as easy as turning left at the first bike path intersection north of Pottery Road on the Lower Don Trail. However, it’s not listed on Google Maps, so you can’t search for directions that way. This path takes you over the rail road tracks and then you’re there. If you continue across a small bridge you end up in the winding trails of Crothers Woods, which also includes a bunch of mountain biking trails that, we learned, are not really that great if you have a skinny little road bike.
Native plants and wildflowers give the place a country-ish feel, boosted by the wooden fence that surrounds the songbird meadow in the middle (hence the charming signs). A crushed stone pathway loops around the meadow and includes large stone blocks that act as periodic benches. It’s all just so damn pleasant.
On the side of the trail that passes by the Don River, piles of what appear to be construction or highway waste are stacked neatly, creating a good climbing spot and perch to read a book on a cool Autumn day while the Don River does its lazy thing (I’ll be back).
This is also one of those spots where you want to stand still and close your eyes for a moment and just listen. While we didn’t hear many songbirds in the meadow, the still summer-drunk cicadas were buzzing like the high-voltage power lines that are strung up along the hydro towers marching down one side of the Flats. It sounds, and feels, alive. The perfect late summer treat.
This post is part of the City within a Park project, where I’m exploring Toronto by visiting a park I haven’t been to yet in every one of the 44 wards in 2015. (Sorry for the ads, if you see them. WordPress, etc etc.)