This website is dedicated to the ongoing struggle of the residents of Concord West – in the city of Vaughan, Ontario – to preserve from destruction the area’s already much ravaged natural heritage, as well as the cultural heritage and the way of life of the community itself.
Concord West is the residential area east of Keele, south of Highway 7, west of the CN line, and north of Jardin. It encompasses 387 households, which – counting 2.5 persons per household – translates into a population of over 1000. It is a vibrant community with long-standing roots and connections within the city of Vaughan, strong inter-personal ties and a lively social life.
Many of the Concord West families have lived there – in the same houses – for up to seven decades. Though presently the community is quite diverse in its ethnic origins, the old-time residents came predominantly from Italy, and acquired their piece of ground and their house through hard physical labor – as metal-workers, stone-workers, miners, etc. Many of them use their plots of land to grow their own fruits and vegetables, use the wood of their own trees to supplement the heating of the house, do their own house-repairs and house-improvements, and employ whatever skills they have to maintain their equipment in working order for as long as possible. In other words, their way of life is what would properly be called sustainable before the term got hijacked by development consortia, SmartCentres, and other big commercial interests.
The struggle which is the subject matter of this website – a struggle begun through an initiative of the Concord West Seniors Club and subsequently taken up by the entire community of Concord West. Ontario – concerns an environmentally and communally significant greenspace lying to the east of Concord West, south of Highway 7 and west of the Upper Don River. The very existence of both the greenspace and this community is presently threatened by the Ministry of Transportation’s current plans to locate, on the land occupied by the greenspace, a giant intermodal (407 / bus / train) transportation hub.
This land, which is presently owned by the Ontario Realty Corporation, is, for Concord West residents, the only local greenspace and breathing space located within walking distance. Before the small bridge over the Upper Don River was removed, this space was also enjoyed by Glen Shields residents. In addition, it constitutes – in principle, if it were properly managed – the only safe pedestrian connection between the Concord West community and (1) the Bartley Smith Greenway/Langstaff Ecopark, and (2) the Glen Shields community. Lying within the Don Watershed Plan, in a TRCA-regulated,ecologically sensitive area, and abutting the West Don River, it comprises part of the landscape habitat for the endangered Blanding’s Turtle, is home to numerous open-field, forest and wetlands birds species, is a feeding, staging and stopover site for numerous migratory birds, including the Special Concern Great Blue Heron, and for the monarch butterfly, now also protected by the Species at Risk Act.
From 1954 until the end of the construction of Highway 407, Concord West residents enjoyed a right of easement across the ORC greenland for purposes of pedestrian access to the Bartley Smith Greenway and the Glen Shields community. Residents could walk all the way to Finch Avenue via Glen Shields Park and Lord Ross Park along the Don River. With the construction of Highway #407, when the the bridge over the Don was removed and the land was fenced in, this access was effectively denied, leaving Concord West boxed in between busy roads and a railway. This has put an unacceptable burden on the residents’ quality of life, especially the life of seniors who are unable to enjoy the greenspace and nature trails traditionally available to them. Likewise, bikers, hikers and joggers do not have safe access to those public greenspaces. Despite repeated efforts on the part of Concord West residents, the problem remained unsolved.
In the summer of 2010, in the course of another such effort, the Concord West residents were apprised of an existing project by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to transform the plot of land in question, at the end of Rockview Gardens, and the land adjoining it, into a new commuter-train station and its associated infrastuctures – access roads, a 1000-car parking lot, a giant elevator, etc. The proposed location of the station (see the MTO’s original plan and most recent plan) constitutes a serious threat to the already endangered ecosystem of the greenbelt corridor and the quality of life of the Concord West community, while at the same time being far from optimal for the business and commercial interests which the station is designed to serve. Consequently, the Concord West Ad Hoc Committe has proposed an alternative plan for the location of the station, north of Highway 7. The plan, whose advantages over the MTO’s proposal are indisputable, was unanimously approved in a general meeting of the residents, and received unanimous support from the Vaughan Council. But despite this, and despite repeatedly voiced serious and formal objections by local residents, Vaughan Municipal and Regional Councilors, and other concerned citizens, the MTO never properly evaluated the community’s alternative proposal, and in February 2011, Environment Minister J. Wilkinson issued a Notice to Proceed with the original, unmodified plans for the construction of the station.
But our fight, spearheaded by the Concord West Seniors Club, the Concord West Ratepayers’ Association and the Concord West Ad Hoc Committee, continues and will continue. We hope to accomplish the following objectives:
- Modification of the MTO’s plans for the Concord intermodal transit station, so that the station location is not south of Highway 7
- Transfer of the ownership of the Concord West Greenspace to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA)
- Annexation of this land to the Bartley Smith Greenway/Langstaff Ecopark
- Protection of the greenspace and the ecological niche located therein
- Restoration of direct access of the Concord West residents to the Greenway and to the Glen Shields Community.
Our struggle for these objectives has received staunch support from environmental organizations such as Sierra Club Ontario, the Richmond Hill Naturalists and the Greenbelt Alliance; from Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua and our municipal and regional councils; from Thornhill MPP Peter Shurman; and from thousands of Ontario residents who signed our petition to Queens Park or have been participating in our email campaigns.
The purpose of this website is to present pertinent information about the progress of this ongoing initiative – updates, documents, plans, histories, etc. – for the use of all who are involved or interested. The site is quite extensive, but we hope that the two menus – one in the right-hand section of the screen and the other underneath the top banner – make its navigation convenient.