The Humber River – Promoting Cultural Heritage
A Determined Alliance
For nearly two decades, the Humber Watershed Alliance has worked to preserve and protect the ecology, history and culture of the Humber River in Toronto’s west end. This remarkable volunteer Alliance includes residents, elected officials, community groups, government agencies and local businesses. It was their work that led to the designation of the Humber River Watershed as a Canadian Heritage River in 1999.
A Remarkable Urban River
The Humber was one of the first “urban” rivers to be designated and it remains the only Canadian Heritage River to feature a subway stop!
In 2011, the Humber River Heritage Bridge Inventory, which identified 33 heritage bridges on the Humber River, was one of two key projects that earned a Heritage Canada Foundation National Award. One of the most comprehensive such inventories ever undertaken in Canada, it provides a clear picture of the state of the Humber’s heritage infrastructure and will help the Alliance protect the river’s cultural resources.
Telling the River’s Stories
The second award-winning project in 2011 was The Shared Path/Le Sentier Partagé: Toronto’s Historical Park. Following the natural contours of the Humber shoreline, the Shared Path has created detailed interpretive signage and a dozen themed story circles that tell the story of the river’s Aboriginal heritage, the fur trade and the ecological impacts of water-powered industry.
These two important projects have led to new partnerships and a greater public awareness of the river’s role in Toronto’s development.
A River Report Card
The Alliance monitors more than two dozen indicators to produce periodic watershed ‘report cards’ which assess how well heritage resources and landforms are being protected. It examines the health of natural vegetation, fish and wildlife, and answers such key questions as: How swimmable are the waters? How involved are people in stewardship of the river?
Recently, the Alliance gave the watershed a “C” or “fair” health rating.
The Humber River was designated a Canadian Heritage River for its historic and recreational values. Located in a transition zone between the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest Region in the north and the Carolinian or Deciduous Forest Region in the south, the Humber contains species common to both regions. A total of 473 archaeological sites representing the full range of human occupation within the Humber River watershed have been located and registered with the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.