The Saigeon Trail is located in the natural open space of the Rouge Tributary valley lands west of Yonge Street and north of Gamble Road, east of Rollinghill Road and south of Tower Hill Road. It is an integral component of the trail system on the Town of Richmond Hill Trails Master Plan. The trail will link residential areas with the Gamble Road and Yonge Street intersection, as well as other existing and future trails in the Town’s network.
Protection of natural ecosystems is a top priority in establishing the location and design of the trail. The Town’s Natural Heritage Strategy recognizes that a well-designed trail is an important tool to focus human activities at appropriate locations and reduce disturbance of more sensitive areas. The Strategy provides guidance to ensure that ecological factors are carefully considered when implementing trails in natural areas.
Natural Heritage Strategy
The Open Space
The site contains a diversity of landscape types which can provide a rich trail experience. Except for a small parcel of mature deciduous upland forest immediately adjacent to French Royalist Park
, existing vegetation in the valley lands consists of second growth woodland (approximately 30%) and old field (approximately 70%). Detailed information regarding flora and fauna was used during trail planning and design, as this open space was one of the study areas in the Town’s 2004 biological inventory.
The undulating terrain provides many great views of the landscape. In the northern portion there are several scenic viewpoints with striking vistas southward through the valley to the wooded slopes at the south end. The topography also compensates for the open character of much of the site by creating a sense of space and place, providing distinct landmarks and orientation points.
As well, there are many educational and interpretive opportunities related to the natural heritage and cultural history of the area (early settlement and agricultural past). In the vicinity of French Royalist Park, the trail follows an old farm lane through the deciduous upland forest and second growth woodland. This section of the trail has a distinctly historic feel to it - an atmosphere complimented by the theme of the adjacent park.
The valley lands are rich with wildlife and will provide many opportunities for trail users to experience natural heritage first hand. Rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, white-tailed deer and 18 different species of birds are listed in the biological inventory. The main trail crosses the flood zones by means of elevated boardwalks, bringing the trail user close to the riparian habitat without risk of disrupting the flora or fauna.
This trail also presents opportunities to:
- formalize existing paths, minimizing human disruption of the watercourse and steep slopes, and encouraging positive use of this open space, supporting safe open spaces;
- link adjacent neighbourhoods and connect French Royalist and Autumn Grove Parks;
- create route options and trail loops of varying lengths within the open space; and
- utilize the existing access roads surrounding the stormwater management pond on the south side of Tower Hill Road as part of the trail system.
The existing mature vegetation provides good buffering of the trail for adjacent residences in the west/central and south part of trail. The undulating terrain and ample distances buffer the trail in most other locations.
The site characteristics are fundamental in creating a rich and diverse trail experience. The following are site specific conditions that directly influence the design:
- SLOPES: Certain sections of the trail are located along steep slopes, particularly in the south portion of the open space, and therefore, low retaining walls and railings are required along the sides of the trail in these locations.
- VALLEY FLOOR: Where necessary, areas susceptible to flooding will be accessed through environmentally sound boardwalks.
- ADJACENT LAND USE: There is substantial setback distance from abutting residential properties to allowing the retention of existing and/or further establishment of vegetation in the buffer zone.
- TOWER HILL ROAD CULVERT: The existing large box culvert was considered as a potential alignment for trail use but rejected due to:
- safety and security concerns;
- potential erosion of the trail by storm flow though the culvert; and
- potential conflict between trail use and wildlife passage.
The trail, therefore, traverses the side slope of the valley and meets the sidewalk on Tower Hill Road directly across from Autumn Grove Park.
The main trail is 2.4m wide and asphalt surfaced in accordance with the Town's Trails Master Plan and Trails Design and Construction Guidelines. The majority of the trails are fully accessible to the public. The only exception is the south side trail off Greenbank Drive, where the slope is steep with limited available space, necessitating the use of steps. However, an alternate accessible route to the stairs is available in compliance with accessibility guidelines. Secondary trails are 1.5m wide.
Nodes and small-scale resting areas utilizing seat boulders are suitably spaced along the trail, especially at viewpoints. Trailhead, way-finding and interpretive signage have been installed at appropriate locations. In keeping with the Town’s policy, the trail will not be lit.Site Restoration
Initial restorative planting was part of the trail construction contract. The Parks Planning & Natural Heritage Section of the Town’s Planning & Regulatory Services Department will continue to facilitate community tree planting and stewardship events. Residents will be invited to help restore natural habitats and learn how to help protect the natural open space area. All events will be organized with input from the community and will be posted in the online Event Calendar
, as well as under Environmental Events
. If you would like to participate, please contact the Natural Environment Section at (905) 771-8800 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
. Trail Maintenance
The trail and open space lands will be maintained on an ongoing basis by the Town of Richmond Hill's Parks Operations Division. The trail and open space areas are closed to the public each day at 11 p.m. in accordance with the Parks By-law.