West Hill and Rouge: Two names, one community

What’s in a neighbourhood is more important than what’s in a name, residents say.

Although West Hill is a separate area from Rouge, there seems to be an overlapping of the two communities, as a group on Facebook is called “West Hill/West Rouge Area” and is dedicated to “the most beautiful area of Scarborough.”

Fond memories overflow the group with a sense of nostalgia, as people from both West Hill and Rouge post their memories of growing up in the neighbourhoods since the 1960s, recalling incidents at the beach, convenient stores, and pizzerias.

Lynn Warner McFaul, who’s lived in West Hill since she was 10 years old, said that the group was likely given that name because the social group of the area is a “total crossover.”

“All the West Rouge and a lot of the West Hill public schools feed to Joseph Howe, the local senior public, and Mowat, the high school,” Warner McFaul said.  “So whether you grew up in West Hill or West Rouge, we all ended up together.”

She explained that the West Rouge area would have a West Hill mailing address before the 1998 GTA amalgamation when they both merged into a single municipality and became known as Toronto, although she still sometimes lists her city as “Scarborough” or “West Hill.”

Warner McFaul believes that because of the meshing of the social groups and lack of rival high schools between West Hill and West Rouge, people aren’t really concerned about the boundaries.

She adds that people in the Rouge area, however, would be more likely to care, because the further east you get in the neighbourhood, the “nicer” the area is in general.

“There may be a bit of a status that goes with West Rouge that is not quite the same with West Hill, but I think the difference is minor because they’re both amazing areas, and none of us want to say we live in Scarborough,” said Warner McFaul with a chuckle.

Rouge Hill, along with West Rouge and Hillside, are the niche areas within a larger region called Rouge.  Rouge encompasses several smaller communities, including Centennial, Highland Creek, and Guildwood.

According to the City of Toronto, the boundaries of the Rouge neighbourhood are defined as Midland Avenue to the west, Steeles Avenue to the north, Pickering town line to the east, and Rouge River to the south.

Rouge Hill, which residents say is used interchangeably with “West Rouge,” is roughly the Rouge River and Pickering border on the east, Lake Ontario to the south, Port Union Road to the west and Highway 401 to the north, said Scott Robertson, a long-time resident of Rouge Hill.

West Hill is on its own and can be found on the west side of Highland Creek valley, Robertson said.  Many years ago this was connected by the road that is now called Old Kingston Road.

Scenic photos of these regions capture the essence of the area.  Diet Kalledat, a member of the Facebook group, says that it is “an awesome place to grow up as a kid,” as it is reminiscent to living in the country.

Restaurant menus and the prices in them are among the many things in the neighbourhood that are missed by residents and former residents.

Although many things have changed, the beauty of the area’s natural environment remains.

The parks are a main attraction, as Rouge Valley is the largest forested park within a city in North America, Robertson said. Rouge Park is the biggest wetland, as the Rouge River empties into Lake Ontario, according to the City of Toronto.

The Rouge River can be found just north of Highway 7 and Woodbine Avenue and makes its way to the mouth of Lake Ontario, Robertson said.

“[It’s] a beach that has seen many days of swimming,” Robertson said.  “I remember going swimming there as a child about 35 years ago.  The marsh can be used for skating in the winter time if the ice is solid enough.”

He adds that the area along the lake has been beautified over the years, as the walking path at the shoreline, which was railway tracks when he moved into his house 10 years ago, is great for walks and bike rides in the summer.

The path connects the Highland Creek area to Port Union Village Common, which is at the foot of Port Union Road.  The city is currently working on connecting this area to the Pickering Waterfront Trail, Robertson said.

Robertson explained that West Rouge as we know it today was part of Pickering until 1977.  The K-6 school, William G. Davis, was opened in 1967 and the plaque on the wall has “Pickering” on it.

Robertson explained that if you drive north on Port Union Road you’ll notice that Port Union is just a single lane, which belonged to Pickering; while Port Union southbound is two lanes wide, which belonged to Scarborough, and the border is the yellow line down the middle.

While having ample knowledge of the technicalities of the area, Robertson has an eye for art, as he enjoys landscape and wildlife photography and takes advantage of the still winter by the water at Port Union Village Common.

“Sometimes you can catch a small bush that has been sprayed by the water—this creates a nice ice sculpture figure,” Robertson said.

While in the summer, the area’s city councillor sponsors a Port Union Village day and there is a fair-like party with rides, food, and concerts.

There is a waterfall that runs from the top of the park at the large cement structure and winds down a stream to an area near the swings where there is a splash pad for kids to run through.

Joel Swagerman, a resident of West Rouge for over 15 years, said that his favourite part about living in the area is being so close to the lake and all kinds of parks, as well as decent transit service, especially the Rouge Hill GO Train.

Having obscure geographic boundaries doesn’t appear to be an issue for people, as they seem to be more concerned with what their neighbourhoods have to offer, rather than what they’re called.

“I really don’t mind the boundary, but the [Rouge] area is a great one that doesn’t deserve the stigma that is associated with Scarborough,” Robertson said.