Corktown Common combines essential flood protection for Toronto’s fast-growing West Don Lands with a beloved neighborhood park. A 13-foot-high clay landform alongside the Don River reshapes the floodplain to propel water south toward Lake Ontario. Corktown Common sits on top of and beside this infrastructural element. On the Common’s east side, a prairie-like landscape is designed to flood, giving the river a soft, resilient edge. The west side is elevated and designed to remain dry, except for a constructed marsh that collects rainwater for park irrigation, conserving approximately 145,000 gallons per day in peak season.
Industrialized since the mid-nineteenth century and a brownfield for decades, the site was a gateway for floodwaters that threatened more than 500 acres of the city.
The park contains areas bursting with activity as well as intimate paths meandering through native vegetation.
Paths wind through the marsh to an aspen grove, while densely grouped perennials, including self-seeding wildflowers drawn mainly from a native plant palette, attract butterflies and other pollinators in the spring and summer. With explosive development of formerly industrial Corktown, the Common is a civic centerpiece that provides much needed respite and open space as it shields the neighborhood from destructive floods.
Amenities include a park pavilion complete with a fireplace for winter use, community picnic tables, a recreational field, and play areas featuring embankment slides, swings, and interactive sand and water elements.
The constructed marsh has become a habitat for turtles and marine life and serves as a bio-filtration system for the site’s runoff, which is then reserved for irrigation.