Saturday, March 27th 2021 By Phil Tsekouras, Newstalk 1010

Community activists in Toronto’s east-end say that a proposed change to the Ontario Line subway system will effectively destroy some of the neighbourhood’s most beloved parks.

>At issue is an above-ground section of an existing track that runs from Riverside to Leslieville. The group alleges that the provincially-run Metrolinx has moved construction plans from the east side of that rail corridor to the west side “without consulting, or even informing, the community.”

“This will effectively destroy Bruce Mackey Park, Saulter St. Parkette and Gerrard Dog Park. It will also have a dreadful impact on homes along the rail corridor,” a news release issued by groups Save Jimmie Simpson and Lakeshore East Community Advisory Committee reads.

The groups held a rally on Saturday in opposition to the proposed change and presented a plan for an underground route, which they say is feasible and would reduce the impact on the community.

Speaking to those at the rally, CTV News Toronto learned that the advocacy groups were only made aware of the changes through Coun. Paula Fletcher, who represents Toronto-Danforth.

Fletcher was at the rally Saturday and asked why the project can’t be completed underground.

“We already have a preapproved design for an underground relief line running almost along the same area with a station on Queen...I don’t know why they are so resistant,” she said.

For Metrolinx’s part, they say proposed changes to the $11 billion project are “normal” and that none of the tabled modifications are set in stone. 

“We haven’t quite finalized the plan, but when we do, in a couple of weeks, we’re taking that back to the community to tell them about the new ideas that we have,” Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said in an interview with CP24 Saturday.

“This won’t delay the project, it won’t hurt their parks and their green space, we know that, but we need to finalize it and bring it back to them.”

The future of Bruce Mackey Park, located just off of De Grassi Street north of Queen Street, is the subject of significant concern due to it’s cultural significance to the city, advocates say.

Bruce Mackey lived on De Grassi for decades and played a major role in the development of the internationally-syndicated TV show Degrassi.

According to a plaque that stands in the park, Mackey offered his home to the show’s creators in the 1970s to shoot the first episode of the series.

Aikins said that while Bruce Mackey Park and the other aforementioned sites will be “protected,” parts of the parks may be used to temporarily store cranes and other construction material.

Shovels are scheduled to go into the ground in 2023.

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