70 Years at our Parks

Aerial photo of park land and swimming pond.

In celebration of our 70th anniversary, we’re highlighting stories that connect our past with our present through a monthly series. In this article, we reflect on our history of land acquisition and providing large parkland to residents and visitors in the Credit River Watershed.  

Acquiring Lands for Recreation and Conservation 

Seventy years ago, the public greenspaces we take for granted today did not exist. 

In the Credit Valley Conservation Report, 1956, a survey of watershed resources reported an inadequate supply of recreational facilities and an increasing need to conserve natural areas and make them accessible to the public. 

At the time there were only a few privately owned and operated commercial parks, such as Eldorado Park, Huttonville Park and the Terra Cotta Playground. These were typically overcrowded. The only other options were eight large, but remote, provincial parks. 

Connecting People to Nature

The newly formed Credit Valley Conservation Authority was tasked with an ambitious program of acquiring land and developing spaces to connect people to nature and preserve the natural landscapes. Here is a snapshot of park milestones and what these spaces have meant for future generations.  

Island Lake: Four Seasons of Recreation

An aerial view of construction on dam.
The construction of the south dam at Island Lake CA in 1968.

Land acquisition for the envisioned Orangeville Reservoir Conservation Area started in 1957. Known now as Island Lake Conservation Area (ILCA), it is one of the oldest, biggest, and most renowned parks managed by CVC. 

The north and south dams were constructed in 1967 at the headwaters area of the Credit River. These dams create a reservoir that plays a crucial role in regulating dilution flows for the Orangeville Water Pollution Control Plant and safeguarding water quality.  

The large new water body created new recreational opportunities for the community, and CVC has been offering nature-based experiences at ILCA since 1970. 

Terra Cotta: Discover Beautiful Landscapes

An aerial black and white photo of a parking lot, building and swimming pond surrounded by a natural landscape.
Terra Cotta CA original land in 1959.

In 1959, CVC acquired the Terra Cotta Playground, now known as Terra Cotta Conservation Area, fulfilling one of the key recommendations from the 1956 Credit Valley Report.  

CVC later developed the original pond into a one-acre swimming pool, which became a popular swimming spot. Terra Cotta was a beloved camping destination for many generations, but in 1994 due to excessive use, CVC shut down the camping facilities and restored the environment of the park, converting the swimming pool into an award-winning wetland

Belfountain: Home to Heritage

Five people standing in a dilapidated park ground.
CVC Board Members gathered on site to inspect the renovation of Belfountain Conservation Area.

The historic ‘Mack Park’ was purchased by CVC in 1959 to create the Belfountain Conservation Area. The property was first privately developed by Charles Mark (a wealthy manufacturer of rubber backed stamps) starting in 1908 and operated it as one of the oldest publicly accessible parks on the Niagara Escarpment.  

Mack and his trusted local craftworker, Sam Brock, built many whimsical park features in the English garden picturesque style, including a dam that created a mini-Niagara Falls feature, a suspension bridge, a ‘Belle’ fountain, a boathouse, summer cottage and the mysterious “Yellowstone Cave” grotto.   

In 2022, CVC completed restoration of the river and park features and constructed a new Fox Folly and gardens to honour the park’s cultural heritage.   

Limehouse: Connect to History

Historical black and white photo of a draw kiln.
The Draw Kiln (circa 1890) in Limehouse Conservation Area.

Established by CVC in 1963, the Limehouse Conservation Area protects a section of Black Creek as it flows through the Niagara Escarpment, as well as the remnant cultural heritage features of the historical lime production industry in Esquesing Township (now Halton Hills).  

Straddling the edge of an outcropping of the escarpment, the area features the interesting “Hole in the Wall” where a ladder leads through caves and cracks in the rock. Popular with Bruce Trail hikers and the local community, you can experience the history of the area while walking beside remnant kiln features, the powderhouse, mill ruins and the Toronto-Guelph Radial Rail corridor. 

Erindale Park: Community Connects

Historical black and white photo of a dam and river.
Erindale Hydro Dam circa 1920 breached by flooding.

In partnership with the now City of Mississauga, CVC acquired and developed what is now Erindale Park into one of the City’s largest parks out of a former hydroelectric project in the Credit River Valley. Erindale Park still retains the remnants of the historic dam which created a large lake for power generation. Plagued by regular flooding and ice jams, the original dam failed multiple times and was not repaired again after 1923. The lake area was in-filled in the 1950s to 70s, and the river channel was realigned to create space for park use. Erindale Park was officially opened to the public in 1986.   

Meadowvale: From Mill to Park

Autumn time photo of a small white house in village setting.
The Silverthorn House served as CVC’s administrative headquarters from 1963 to 1988.

The historic Silverthorne House in Meadowvale Village served as CVC’s Head Office from 1967 to 1988. CVC purchased the site of the old milling operations, including the house, mill pond and section of the Credit River, to create what is now Meadowvale Conservation Area. The house was sold after CVC moved to the current head office site. 

Rattray Marsh: An Environmental Gem

Person with clipboard looks out at forest and marsh lands.
CVC’s Forester, Bob Baker, surveys Rattray Marsh in the late 1970s.

Under the leadership of Dr. Ruth Hussey, a dedicated group of citizens in south Mississauga rallied to protect Rattray Marsh from destruction. In 1973, because of their campaign, CVC took action to establish Rattray Marsh Conservation Area.  

Extensive boardwalks now enable over 300,000 visitors a year to experience the unique marsh environment safely. 

Upper Credit: Rolling Meadows

A view up a quiet stream with trees turning colour in the fall.
The Upper Credit River in autumn.

A modern success story in land acquisition, Upper Credit Conservation Area was created by CVC between 2005 to 2010 through parcel assembly along the Credit River corridor from Orangeville down to Alton. This conservation area protects important brook trout populations and connects portions of the Credit Valley Trail through a scenic rural landscape.

Growing our Parks Network  

In one form or another, the majority of recommendations made in the 1956 report concerning public lands have been fulfilled. With ownership and management of over 7,000 acres of conservation land, CVC now welcomes over one million visitors each year. You can explore over 80 kilometers of trails and access 9 conservation areas to connect with nature. 

Oblique angle drone photo of Lake Ontario shoreline with park landform curving in and out from shore.
Drone view of the new Jim Tovey Lakeview Conservation Area landform.

As the population of the watershed and region continues to grow, the need to acquire and protect more large greenspace becomes even more urgent. CVC’s new Strategic Plan lays out a vision for an expanded and interconnected system of greenspaces spanning the Credit River Valley.  

We’ve already begun acquiring and protecting additional valley lands for the Credit Valley Trail, starting with CVC’s first significant Brampton parcel in Churchville.  

Over the next year and half, we are working with Region of Peel and TRCA to finish the new Jim Tovey Lakeview Conservation Area on the shores of Lake Ontario in Mississauga and open it up to the public.  

The transformation of Pinchin Pit and Flaherty West Pit in Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, Caledon, is also underway; these new large new parks are being created through beneficial re-use of clean excess soil and will add significantly to the natural heritage system above the Forks of the Credit area.  

Looking back, we see the vision and foresight of the conservation authority’s charter members – who acted locally and regionally to preserve our natural heritage for future generations. As the population continues to grow, CVC is renewing its commitment to growing greenspace in the watershed to continue this proud legacy for future generations to come.

By: Jesse DeJager, Senior Manager, Land Planning and Capital Projects

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