With 22 seconds left on the crosswalk timer at the intersection of Danforth and Jones, Paul Dowsett knelt down last Saturday afternoon, listening intently to rushing water below a manhole. “You might have to get your ear pretty close to it,” he said.
A lifelong west-ender, Dowsett has long been familiar with Garrison Creek, the buried waterway that warps and tilts a number of “crooked teeth” houses on Crawford and Shaw Streets on the west side.
When he moved to Riverdale’s “Pocket” neighbourhood in 1997, he immediately made a hobby of tracking the path of the east end’s less-celebrated buried waterway, Hastings Creek. As an architect with an eye for green city-building—in 2009, he co-founded Sustainable.TO, a firm specializing in resource and energy-efficient designs—Dowsett knew what clues to look for.
Following building patterns, street names like Ravina and Hatings, and water-loving vegetation (like the weeping willows that dot the area’s unusually lush yards), he concluded that the creek, likely buried in the 1920s, originates north of Danforth at Langford Avenue. From there, it meanders south-east, connecting with Lake Ontario around Ashbridges Bay.
When the cautionary flashing hand warned of seven seconds left to cross, Dowsett abandoned the manhole for the sidewalk. As he did, he pointed out a slight dip in Jones Avenue where, he said, one neighbour of his recalled a bridge used to stand. Now, the area is a parking lot filled with recycling boxes, slightly askew.