Brad Fauteux, Credit Valley Trail Moves Closer, Uniting Interests Around Resources, Environment

It’s been 60-plus years in the making, but the vision behind the Credit Valley Trail remains as relevant as ever: protecting and sustaining the environment and ensuring the Credit Valley Trail is honored as the treasure it is, even as the greater Toronto community grows around it.

Late this year, the Credit Valley Trail Strategy – the roadmap for ensuring the vision continues to come to life and is completed – is expected to be published. It’s exciting and rewarding to be able help keep this legacy project moving forward.

The Credit Valley Trail will be the main artery in a network of trails – footpaths for walking, hiking and biking – that have been pieced together over the years by the communities that have formed throughout the Credit River watershed.

Some two-thirds of the network is in place. When the Credit Valley Trail is completed, it will link those paths as it stretches for 98 km along the Credit River’s banks, from the headwaters near Orangeville to the river’s mouth at Lake Ontario in Port Credit.

The strategy will articulate what needs to be done over the short and long terms to make this happen. A tremendous amount of credit goes to Credit Valley Conservation and its Foundation, along with the Credit Valley Heritage Society for sustaining the trail effort over the last 60 years, and the Greenbelt Foundation for supporting the strategy’s development.

The Credit River has played an instrumental role in the Toronto area’s history, particularly with Indigenous peoples. However, the Indigenous peoples of the area, an Ojibwa group called the Mississaugas did not refer to it as the Credit River and instead honoured it with the name Missinnihe, or “trusting creek,”. The name Credit River or Rivière du Credit came from French fur traders who supplied goods to the Mississaugas on credit against the next spring’s delivery of furs. In the modern context, the entire river falls within the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation who in the context of reconciliation will play an important role in the future development of the trail.

The Credit River watershed is rich in more than just history. Ecologists and citizens scientists alike treasure the plants (1,330 species) and animals that make its environs so important to preserve. Chinook salmon and rainbow trout spawn in areas of the river – among the 64 fish species that draw fishermen in. Various mammal species (41 in all) also call the valley home, as do 244 species of birds, along with turtles, snakes and amphibians. As a bastion of near-urban biodiversity, the watershed is of principal importance for conservation.

In 1956, a young Mississauga councilor named David Culham was mindful of the health of the river and its border. Then 31, he pushed his colleagues to adopt a policy that was before its time in how it set the tone and significant precedent for the protection of the lands around the river: The policy required developers to dedicate valley lands to the city – and convinced them to help pay to construct trails through the town and along the river.

An 18-km section of trail in Mississauga carries David Culham’s name and honors his efforts. In his 70s now, he’s still carrying on with the cause and is a big supporter of the central Credit Valley Trail concept. He sees it as a way to “instantly plug city dwellers into their better selves,” as blogger John Stewart put it.

But there’s a lot more to it than that. Ultimately, the Credit Valley Trail will join a multitude of interests: Nature appreciation, fitness, environmental protection and historical awareness — not to mention economic growth at its brand grows as a destination.

First Nations people and early European settlers forged the early paths of what is evolving into The Credit Valley Trail. As urbanization advances, moving closer to the completion of this unique connection to our natural and cultural history is more important than ever.