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Linking Campus to Nature: Work Begins on One-of-a-Kind, Accessible Trail at U of T Scarborough

The University of Toronto Scarborough has broken ground on a new path that will wind through trees and improve access to the wilderness and trails of the Highland Creek Valley.

“I’m so pleased that we are going to open a much more accessible, beautiful and enjoyable path to our remarkable Highland Creek Valley and connect the upstairs campus into the wilderness below for faculty, staff and students and members of the public,” said Bruce Kidd, vice-president and principal of U of T Scarborough, at last week’s groundbreaking ceremony.

The new four-season trail will be 500 metres long and will have a slope of no more than a five-per-cent grade making it more enjoyable for those with mobility issues.

The trail will feature a seven-tier amphitheatre on one end (rendering is at left), and will be elevated in several places, allowing people to feel as though they are right in the treetop canopy.

?Elder Wendy Phillips will consult on planting along the path, ensuring that new vegetation will be native to the region and will offer opportunities for foraging.

The Highland Creek Valley provides recreational spaces, campus views, naturalized areas and habitat at U of T Scarborough, as well as serving as the location for important teaching and research. For Kidd, the valley also serves as a place of many happy memories he attended summer camp there with his younger brother, Ross, in the early 1950s and later trained for marathons on the trails.

The new path will feature resting areas, lookouts, seating, a continuous handrail, as well as lighting and other safety and security features. It has been designed to be universally accessible by meeting the requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

“Accessibility has always been built into the DNA of this campus,” said David Onley, the former lieutenant-governor of Ontario who is an alumnus and senior lecturer and distinguished visitor in the department of political science at U of T Scarborough.

Onley said in 1970, he attended the campus, then known as Scarborough College, because of its accessibility.

“Since that time, with each new building, standards have improved Scarborough has kept pace,” he said. “This is very important because it allows us as an institution to keep pace with the changes of society and, in fact, in Scarborough, U of T Scarborough is a perfect example of the way the rest of the province and many other institutions should be proceeding in terms of accessibility.”

Onley recalled that when he began teaching at U of T Scarborough in 2015, Kidd was a strong supporter and contributed creative ideas to Onley’s proposal for a course on accessibility and politics of disability.

“It’s tremendously appropriate that this event is being held and that it’s coinciding with Bruce’s departure,” said Onley. “And so, to you Bruce, thank you very, very much for your support and I look forward to taking this scooter down the trail.”

Kidd is retiring at the end of July. At the groundbreaking, Onley, Phillips and U of T Scarborough Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Arifuzzaman presented Kidd with a framed print on behalf of the community. This Painting is a Mirror, by Indigenous artist Christi Belcourt, is described as reflecting beauty, compassionate acts, generosity and gentleness.

“Bruce, there could not have been a more appropriate piece for us to present to you today,” said Arifuzzaman. “Your generosity of spirit, kindness, compassion and boundless energy is now part of the UTSC fabric.”

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