Discover Downsview Park
Downsview Park is a sprawling green space located in the North York neighbourhood of Toronto. It covers an area of 572 acres, making it one of the largest urban parks in Canada.
At one time the park was part of the military base known as CFB Toronto, which was decommissioned by the federal government in 1995. The Park is home to a number of heritage buildings and other structures that are a testament to its time as a military base, including the Hangar Sport and Events Centre.
In 1999, the federal government turned the land over to Parks Canada, who worked with the local community to transform it into a public park. Today, Downsview Park is managed by the Downsview Park Inc., a non-profit organisation.
History of Downsview Park
The Downsview Park that exists today was officially opened in 2012 but the land has a rich history dating back thousands of years.
Indigenous Peoples have inhabited the Downsview area for more than 11,000 years and European settlement began toward the end of the 1700s. Any new attributes or features of the Park seek to honour its extensive past.
Indigenous Peoples at Downsview Park
For generations the land on which Downsview Park is located has been part of the Territory and Treaty Lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples.
The land was tended, nurtured, and harvested by these Indigenous Peoples respectfully and purposefully, and has seen many uses in its lifetime. In 2019, Downsview Park opened its Sesquicentennial Trail, highlighting the Park’s history of Indigenous Peoples in the area.
Settlers at Downsview Park
After the founding of York in 1793, the Downsview community began to take shape. Several settling families from Ireland made their homes on what now forms the Park; in 1827 William Duncan built a homestead and farm; Edward Boake and Sarah Boake did the same, naming their house “Locust Lodge”.
“Locust Lodge” was inhabited by the Boake family for four generations until the military claimed the land in 1951. Today the area is known as “Boake’s Grove”, a small maple tree woodland.
In April 1929, 70 acres of Downsview farmland was purchased by De Havilland Aircraft. The Canadian company was attracted by the area’s flat open space, which made it an ideal airfield. It was also the highest point of land between the Don and Humber Rivers, meaning the winds were constant and fog was not a typical problem.
As the De Havilland Airfield, the Park was used by the Royal Flying Corps during World War I, and was later expanded to include a training school for pilots.
But De Havilland Aircraft weren’t simply interested in flying planes in Downsview. In the onset of World War II they manufactured aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Forces (RCAF) and British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
By providing jobs to local men and women, De Havilland Aircraft helped to sustain the local economy as well as do their part for the war effort.
World War II was the start of the military’s interest in Downsview. The airfield was renamed RCAF Toronto, then later RCAF Downsview, and became an important training and support facility for the Canadian military.
The base was used to train pilots, aircrew, and other military personnel, and was home to a number of units, including the RCAF and the Royal Canadian Navy.
In the aftermath of World War II, the military base at Downsview Park continued to be used for a variety of purposes, including as a training facility and a base for emergency response operations.
After the unification, in 1968, of the RCAF, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Canadian Army as the Canadian Armed Forces, RCAF Downsview was renamed the Canadian Forces Base Toronto.
In the late 1990s, the Canadian government decided to close the base and convert the land into a public park and thus Downsview Park was formed.
Inside Downsview Park
One of the highlights of Downsview Park is its extensive network of hiking and biking trails. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, coyotes, and a wide range of birds. It's a popular spot for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.
In addition to its natural areas, Downsview Park also offers a range of recreational facilities. There's a climbing gym, an off-leash dog park, and several sports fields. The park also hosts a number of events throughout the year, including markets, concerts, festivals, and sporting events.
Overall, Downsview Park is a fantastic destination for anyone looking to enjoy the great outdoors in the heart of Toronto. It's the perfect spot for a hike, a bike ride, to enjoy a peaceful picnic in nature, or even learn about Canada’s military heritage.
So, next time you're in Toronto, be sure to check out Downsview Park – you won't be disappointed!
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