North Maple Regional Park is a milestone development for the City of Vaughan. At 364 hectares (900 acres), it’s the city’s most ambitious park plan yet. Interestingly, a large portion of this site was once one of the largest landfills in Canada.

Work is underway to transform the site into a world-class, signature destination for the growing number of Vaughan residents and visitors. The city’s vision includes creating greenspace, trails, amenities and recreational areas, and undertaking environmental work to restore the land.

The story behind the transformative redevelopment of North Maple Regional Park can be used as a guide for other municipalities interested in cleaning up landfills and other properties that have potential to be vibrant community spaces.

1983 to 2002: The Keele Valley Landfill

The Keele Valley Landfill, located around the intersection of Keele Street and McNaughton Road in Vaughan, was once the largest landfill in Canada and the third-largest in North America. Owned and operated by the City of Toronto, it was the main landfill site for Toronto, York Region and Durham Region from 1983 to 2002. Before becoming a landfill, the site operated as a gravel pit in the 1970s.

The landfill contained a comprehensive gas collection system, which was installed in 1985 to reduce emissions and odours. In 1994, the project was expanded to include a power generation station, which created enough electricity to power 20,000 homes every year, even after the landfill closed.

While the landfill was originally built in a rural area, significant growth of the nearby community in the 1990s led to the site being surrounded by residential homes within the newly formed City of Vaughan. The landfill, and the almost 30-million tonnes of waste accumulated throughout its operation, contributed to the site being at capacity and merited its closing – along with the advocacy of local residents, including Vaughan CARES and the support of Vaughan Council.

1988: Vaughan CARES is established

In 1988, the Vaughan Committee of Associations to Restore Environmental Safety (Vaughan CARES) was established – it was  made up of an association of ratepayers, environmental groups, community activists and concerned residents that came together to spearhead initiatives to advocate for closure of  the Keele Valley Landfill. The group’s mission was to protect the natural environment, the Don River and the health of Vaughan residents. Vaughan CARES organized and participated in numerous public hearings, delegations and demonstrations at Queen’s Park, City of Toronto’s City Hall, the landfill site and other locations – all to oppose the landfill’s continuing operations and proposed expansion.

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1996 to 2002: Keele Valley Landfill closes

From 1996 to 2000, Vaughan CARES continued to advocate for the closure of the Keele Valley Landfill, establish new environmental policies and advocate for new sustainable waste management strategies. And their efforts were successful.

The landfill officially closed its operations on December 31, 2002. With support from the City of Vaughan, Vaughan CARES organized a historic closure event of the Keele Valley Landfill, engaging thousands of residents. Since the closure, Vaughan CARES has continued to advocate for the rehabilitation of the land and the creation of North Maple Regional Park.

2003 to 2013: The new vision of North Maple Regional Park 

The original concept plan for North Maple Regional Park – known as the Maple Valley Plan – was created in 2003 and focused on a 200 acre site, formerly known as the Avondale Lands. The development of this plan demonstrated Vaughan Council’s intent to give back to the residents of Vaughan after years of the landfill operations by transforming the land for future public use and enjoyment.

For the next 10 years, the city worked on property acquisition and land assembly to secure these first 200 acres for the future park. In 2013, through public consultation, the vision for the land was refined to create a signature park that would become a major destination for culture and recreation. Input received also identified potential for public and private partnerships to help the city execute the vision.

2013 to 2016: Phase 1 of North Maple Regional Park begins

After public input was received, the city conducted feasibility studies and developed plans that would become a catalyst for development of park facilities. Funding for Phase 1 of North Maple Regional Park’s development was approved in 2015, and design began in 2016. Phase 1 included the design and construction of two artificial turf soccer fields, a pavilion, driveway, parking area and trails throughout the park. Construction started in May 2017.

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2018: Vaughan Council endorses the 900-acre park vision

In 2018, Vaughan Council endorsed an expanded vision for the park, which added 700 acres of land to the site (including the former Keele Valley and Vaughan Township landfill sites) for a total of 900 acres of land. The goal was to create a signature park, recreation and cultural destination and legacy for future generations to enjoy. North Maple Regional Park is located on the Oak Ridges Moraine and the headwaters of the Don River. The site’s environmental significance continues to play a key role in the park’s vision.

2018: Phase 1 of park development is complete and open for public use

North Maple Regional Park (NMRP) | City of Vaughan

Phase 1 of the park’s development included two FIFA-certified artificial turf soccer fields, trails, a pavilion, parking lot and more.

In 2018, 80 hectares (197 acres) of the park opened to the public, including the following facilities:

  • two FIFA-certified artificial turf soccer fields with built-in spectator seating
  • a variety of walking and hiking trails
  • a park pavilion, which includes a terrace, washrooms, changerooms and water fountains (opened in 2019)
  • picnic areas with shade shelters and seating
  • a toboggan hill
  • an asphalt parking area

2021: Trail enhancements and expansion

In 2021, the city received funding from the federal and provincial governments to enhance and expand the park trails, and improve accessibility and connections throughout the park. Upgrades included paving some of the existing limestone trails with asphalt, replacing the Nevada Park Bridge, adding seating areas and planting trees. This work was completed in November 2022. Further trail and wayfinding signage are coming soon.

2022: Phase 2 park development begins

NMRP Phase 2

Preparing the site for future amenities, including a cricket pitch (top left) and a lawn area for large gatherings and events (bottom right).

Phase 2 of the park’s development began in 2019. In total, 52 hectares (130 acres) of the site are being prepared to support future park development of new facilities and amenities. The Phase 2 works include:

  • site grading and stormwater management.
  • the installation of underground services (water, storm, sanitary, electrical, gas and telecom).
  • reconstruction and extension of the current park roadway and creating a second park access from Keele Street.
  • environmental restoration, enhancement and connection of the existing pond, wetland and habitat areas.
  • design of park amenities including a family recreation area for picnics, playgrounds, seating areas, special events area, cricket field and tobogganing area for winter use
  • consideration of potential partnership opportunities including reviewing the feasibility of the park becoming the future home of the National Soccer Training Centre
  • concept planning and grant funding submissions to support development of an eco-classroom for environmental education activities and programs
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As part of this work, environmental restoration is a priority. As such, the city is removing existing invasive trees, grasses and shrubs, which will be replanted in a way that improves and further supports the ecosystems on the park grounds. All work is being completed in co-ordination with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

2022: The City honours Vaughan CARES’ contributions to NMRP

The City of Vaughan named the park’s main roadway as “Vaughan CARES Way.”

In December 2021, in honour of Vaughan CARES’ achievements, Vaughan Council approved the naming of the park’s main roadway as “Vaughan CARES Way.” A commemorative ceremony was held in June 2022 to celebrate the group’s instrumental role in the official closure of the Keele Valley Landfill – which paved the way for the creation of North Maple Regional Park.

 2023: The park’s development continues

Now, in 2023, the city will begin a comprehensive community engagement and master planning process for the full 900 acres to establish North Maple Regional Park as a signature City park – a major destination for active living, recreation and culture, experiencing nature and community-building. Follow along with the park’s transformation and see how our vision is unfolding at vaughan.ca/NMRP.

Profile photo of Jamie Bronsema

Written by Jamie Bronsema, City of Vaughan’s director of parks infrastructure planning and development.

Featured image: In 2021, park enhancements included public seating, tree planting, paved trails and more. 

Image credits: City of Vaughan.

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