Michael Fischer walks to and from Woburn Collegiate most days through the nearly 100 metre wide Military Trail road ravine.
He travels down a steep 40 degree slope before hitting two dog-leg curves, then crosses a bridge over a natural bed of the creek and repeats the process over again as he climbs up the opposite side towards Ellesmere Road.
The problem is, he and many others from the neighbourhood of 7 Oaks make this trek though the mud, rain, sleet or snow, and do so without a sidewalk.
“Me and my friends use the hill no matter the weather,” Fischer says. “We have to walk on the road, or on the shoulder when cars come.”
While the short-cut provides the neighbourhood’s drivers access to main arterial roads such as Ellesmere, pedestrians complain there is no safe walking space.
“If I see a car I usually have to stop next to the guard rail, or off to the side in the mud or on top of a snow bank,” Fischer says. “Either that or the cars have to move around me into the other lane.”
Military Trail has been used as a crossing since the early settlement period, and is the first road heading down into the ravine north of Lake Ontario, as opposed to younger roads such as Ellesmere and Morningside Avenue.
However, its meandering turns and steep hills provide treacherous conditions that are amplified during bad weather, and warned about by the various streets signs along the way down.
During one of February’s heavy snowstorms, Joyce Meneses, a local Scarborough resident lost control of her car on the first turn into the ravine.
“I just slipped on the snow, spun out, and next thing I new the Jeep flipped,” Meneses says. “I skidded down the side of the hill. If someone was walking up, I don’t know what could have happened.”
What concerns parents in the area is that 7 Oaks is one of the targeted feeder areas for Woburn Collegiate, meaning the majority of high school students from the neighborhood are headed west towards Markham and Ellesmere roads.
Those that walk are naturally going to take the fastest route possible, Military Trail.
Although students like Fischer might not mind the short-cut to school on the side of the road, the safety of pedestrians is an issue for local parents, and for 7 Oaks residents who also use the hill for jogging, and access to the Ellesmere Road bus stop.
What’s most puzzling to these residents is how the city could build a hiking path in recent years, running through the ravine perpendicular to Military Trail road, without noticing the safety concern for current travelers.
“They built this long path off into the woods, and it leads to nowhere,” says George Heighington, a high school teacher who lives in 7 Oaks.
“They wasted tones of money to excavate the side of Ellesmere [road], but the path just disconnects and ends at the power lines, because they don’t want people in the hydro field.”
While the new trail does present the possibility for leisure, and may help joggers, it doesn’t help kids get to school, or workers catch buses.
The bottom line is these people need to get to where they’re going, and they need to so safely. It shouldn’t take an injury or accident to get people to realize this.