Have you visited the forest at Downsview Park?
The forest is a beautiful space to explore with a variety of plant species growing in it. Over time, the Urban Forest has become a dynamic and robust ecosystem capable of adjusting to the stresses of an urban landscape. The forest is the anchor of Downsview Park’s wildlife and natural spaces, and central to the Park’s passive green space for public recreation.
Within our Urban Forest we have Boake’s Grove, a woodlot remaining from one of the homesteads of the Boake family who farmed the lands beginning in the 1830s.
The Boake family migrated to Downsview from County Tipperary, Ireland in approximately 1824. In 1835, Edward and Sarah Boake settled in a log cabin in the Downsview area. It was in this cabin where they had 14 of their 15 children. In about 1860, their second home, “Locust Lodge,” was completed in what is now Boake’s Grove. It was here that four successive generations of Boakes would live until the property was expropriated by the Department of National Defence in 1951. A visit to present day Boake’s Grove will reveal honey and black locust trees, black walnuts and silver maples. The linear planting of the black locust trees reveals the trees’ connection to the Boake family.
Want to learn more about how we made a forest from the ground up? Check out our sustainability page to understand the past, present and future of our young forest.
Here’s a fun fact:
The foundation of the Boake’s family home can still be found within Boake’s Grove. We challenge you on your next visit to find clues in the forest of the Boake’s family home. Look for it on your next visit to experience a blast from the past!
Is there any winter maintenance in the Forest?
The Urban Forest/Boake’s Grove can be accessed by shovelled and treated pathways, but the forest itself is not plowed or treated in the winter. Plowing of the forest can be dangerous to the wildlife and plants and is therefore avoided.
Winter use of the forest trails is at your own risk. Enjoy the winter wonderland of the Forest carefully by wearing proper footwear and preparing to be in winter ground conditions.
There’s wildlife far away that I would like to take a photo of. Can I make my own path?
The Forest is home to an exciting array of birds and animals. Please remain on the pathway if you spot any wildlife.
By staying on designated pathways, you:
- Reduce stress on wildlife and the likelihood they will leave the site or be injured accidentally.
- Reduce the spread of invasive species that often hitch a ride on clothing and pets as we leave pathways and then use us to spread them!
- Keep wild spaces wild, therefore increasing habitats for all the animals living or visiting the forest.
Can I feed wildlife?
Feeding wildlife can:
- be dangerous if animals start to associate people with food. They may become more visible, bold, or likely to approach humans. This is both dangerous to wildlife and humans.
- discourage animals from foraging for their natural food sources, which can lead to health problems.
- encourage larger numbers of animals to group together than normal. If one is sick, they can easily spread disease through the group.
Please refrain from feeding any wildlife.
Can I barbecue?
Barbecuing and open flames are prohibited. If you would like to barbecue with a covered propane barbecue, there are many areas around the Park, such as by the Lake and Orchard, that have the appropriate space.
Can my dog play in the forest?
Dogs are only permitted to play in the off-leash Dogsview Park. Keeping dogs on-leash throughout the rest of the Park promotes healthy biodiversity and reduces stress on wildlife and plants.
What is the plan for the Urban Forest/Boake’s Grove?
In September 2021, we began our Urban Forest Resilience Project, supported by TD Bank Group. This project will help us understand what’s working and what improvements are needed. In the long term, we are hoping to diversify our plants (favouring those that can withstand an increased frequency of major weather events), improve habitat spaces, and provide you with more opportunities to connect with nature. This will ensure that our young forest will grow old and thrive for many decades to come.
To read more about this project and other environmental initiatives at the Park, please see our sustainability page.
I love the forest, what can I do to help?
We will have some opportunities in the future to help maintain a healthy forest. Whether it may be removing invasive species, keeping dogs on-leash to stop the spread of invasive species or even just staying on the forest trails, every little thing goes a long way. Please sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay updated on our activities or sign up to be a Park Ambassador in our volunteer program.