Flying High

This post marks the 2nd anniversary of Seventy In the City. I asked my agent, Peter, what adventure I could write about to mark the occasion. He suggested we buy a male mouse and put him in the cage with Missy and Sissy. Sorry readers, but I wasn’t ready for that much action!

Next Peter suggested we visit Downsview Park. This tract of land, east of Keele St between highway 401 and Sheppard Ave, is near where Peter used to live when he went to high school. Back then it was just open fields. He remembers his mom going there to pick chicory/dandelion greens for salads. Now it’s been transformed into a gem of a park. In between, a lot of aviation history was made here.

The area was originally settled by Irish immigrants beginning in 1793. One family named their farm “Downs View” because, well you guessed it, there was a good view of some downs. In 1929 the land was purchased by De Havilland and a large factory was built for manufacturing planes. These planes,, particularly the mosquitoes, nicknamed the “mossies,” were used in World War II. During the war, the Royal Canadian Air Force expropriated some property and built a landing strip. When the war ended, they bought out De Havilland and moved them across the street. The newly created air force base became home to many enlisted soldiers and their families.

In 1960 the base branched out into space. The Canadian Space Agency built part of our first scientific satellite on these very grounds. The building, which had been De Havilland’s aircraft factory, became the site where parts of the Alouette I, (the mechanical frame and the antennae), were built. Once all the pieces of the Alouette were assembled, the satellite was flown to California where it was successfully launched in 1962 – making Canada the 3rd country to enter the space race. You can probably guess the other 2 countries, but did you know that Canada was 3rd?

In 1996 the Canadian government decommissioned the Downsview base and announced that the land would be used for recreation. But it wasn’t until 2006 that all the details were worked out and Downsview Park would be officially opened.

The first thing that visitors notice is a large body of water aptly named Walkabout Lake. And you certainly can. There are paths and trails around the circumference, along with benches and stepping stones. The geese and ducks have already settled in and are showing off their babies. Elsewhere in the park one can find an off-leash dog park, a vegetable garden, and monuments and plaques with historical data. Overhead are sculptures of planes built in the De Havilland factories.

Meandering further north along wooded pathways, visitors can stop and use their cellphones to listen to the trees. The paths follow along beside a drum circle, and a playground consisting of a wooden plane, a child-sized control tower, and a landing strip; all family-friendly. And there are even washrooms nearby.

The best seats in the house are 2 red Muskoka chairs at the top of a hill, far about the lake and close to the skies. It’s a bit of a climb for us oldies. But it’s a fitting place to sit and imagine the aircraft history that happened down below and up above.


Walkabout Lake
One of the planes built by De Havilland
Listen to the trees
Climb up – you can do it!

3 thoughts on “Flying High

  1. Great research Sue! I never knew any of that. Laura once worked there for a concert being held on the site. It sounds like a great place for a walk. I’ll try to convince Gary to go. I agree that a male mouse was not a great idea unless you were going into the mouse breeding business.


  2. 2 years of entertaining us, amusing us, educating us, offering walks for us to try, etc! Well done, Sue!! I’m looking forward to many more entries over the years to come. πŸ₯³πŸΎπŸ₯‚πŸŽ‰πŸŽˆ
    And a tip of the hat to your agent, too! πŸ‘
    Evie xo


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