Duke North Trail

Schollen & Company Inc. was retained by the Town of Richmond Hill to develop an AODA compliant trail network within the natural open space system of the Rouge River Tributary valley lands north of Elgin Mills Road. A portion of the lands are owned by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). The landscape is undulating with relatively steep terrain which includes a sloping elevation change of thirteen-metres to the banks of the watercourse. The natural setting of the valley lands are surrounded by urban residential development and the trail traverses rich examples of open meadow/prairie landscape and forested areas.

The design included a custom boardwalk and bridge comprising Corten steel that spans the valley and associated marshlands. The design process involved the expertise of Schollen & Company supported by geotechnical, geomorphological and structural engineers to carefully site and integrate the feature to minimize impacts to the surrounding sensitive landscape. The TRCA, as owner, was actively involved in the design and approvals processes which included clearances from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport relevant to archaeological concerns, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

A series of unique interpretive elements were designed to enhance the experiential and educational potential of the trail system. A series of whimsical steel storybook elements set strategically into the landscape can be viewed from different vantage points along the trail system. Each larger than life feature is intended to tell a different narrative about the relationship of the viewer to nature. For example, a “keyhole” element provides a literal view or implied “doorway” into nature. Another “mirror” element challenges the viewer to think about his/her relationship reflected upon nature.

The trail provides access for residents of all ages and abilities to experience the varied landscape that was enhanced through the implementation of restoration initiatives that enrich the ecology of this important valley corridor within the Town of Richmond Hill.