Previous: The Village of Malton
(This portion of the article was printed a couple of months ago in the news magazine Caledon Perspectives and is reprinted here with permission)
The City of Brampton was formed in 1974 with the amalgamation of Chinguagosey and Toronto Gore Townships. With the new city ready to accept Toronto’s sprawling development, the lands around Airport Road transformed from rural to industrial very quickly. These industrial parks take advantage of the road’s connection to the Airport, obliterating the farmers fields and whatever hamlets may have existed before.
The new, big factory and warehouse buildings turn their backs on Airport Road. Unlike the ramshackle developments along Dixon Road, these structures are clean and cold, and I become starved for people.
At the north end of Brampton, I see my first signs of housing, if not life. It’s clear that Toronto’s urban sprawl is continuing its run to the north and west, here. Fields of houses under construction stretch away along the rolling hills, and shopping plazas stand in the middle of nowhere, offering banks, grocery stores and the occasional Tim Horton’s, once the area is ready to make use of them.
Then, quite suddenly, I’m staring at fields of worked green, and my first grain silo. Brampton gives way to Caledon, the rural township of Peel Region, formed in 1974 with the merger of old Caledon and Albion townships, where Airport Road acted as the boundary between the two. The road narrows as well from four lanes with sidewalks to a two-lane country road with soft shoulders. The land gets more rugged as well.
I’ve heard it said that Caledon’s job as a municipality was to preserve the rural lands at the north end of Peel Region from the encroaching developments of Mississauga and Brampton. New suburban and industrial development has been concentrated in satellite villages and towns, including Bolton to the northeast. The change in appearance is sudden and welcome, like bursting from a cloud.
Kelly Darnley, president and chief executive officer of the Caledon Chamber of Commerce, cautions against the use of the word “rural” as a description for her township, however.
“I don’t think rural is as accurate as the word ‘countryside’,” says Darnley. “There are seventeen communities in Caledon, and each one of these has a very distinct local character, a unique style, from Palgrave and its rolling hills and the Forks of the Credit with its escarpment cliffs and ski lodges.”
She and I are speaking about the community of Caledon East, a warm, prosperous-looking village located in a valley surrounded by farmland. “A word I’ve heard to describe some of the communities of Caledon, like Caledon East, is ‘rurban’,” says Darnley. “I think of the countryside communities as rurban, because you have a distinct rural flavour and mindset, but still have services at your fingertips.”
“I live in Palgrave,” she adds, “and Palgrave is more rural. I can’t walk to my services in Palgrave, I have to get in the car. I was raised in the country, and a country mile means something different than in the city. There is a new subdivision in Caledon East; there is a regional senior centre there. You can walk to your grocery store or your local deli in Caledon East. You could get out of your car and live in that community.”
Darnley agrees that the country character of Caledon is something new residents are buying into, and there is a challenge in maintaining this character. Part of the strategy for this is channelling new development into denser pockets.
“The southern boundary is getting more urban thanks to our proximity to Brampton,” says Darnley. “Caledon East is one of the designated urban boundaries in Caledon and is a part of the greenbelt, and is therefore protected under provincial policy. And then you have Bolton, which is quite an urban core, housing 46% of the population. That’s your subdivision area. If you like to have neighbours and be very connected that way, that’s a place to go.”
“The countryside feel is a part of the community of Caledon, and people moving here are buying into that life,” says Darnley. “Caledon is about small towns, and I think Caledon East will be able to remain a small town for a very long time.”
If you blink, you may miss the community of Mono Road. I know I did. As I prepared for my journey, I planned to stop for lunch at Airport Pizza. And as I mounted a ridge and stared down a steep slope as Airport Road descended into the valley housing the community of Caledon East, I missed the handful of houses at the top of the ridge. After walking around Caledon East unsuccessfully looking for Airport Pizza, I discovered that I’d left it almost a kilometre behind.
The community of Mono Road was established after the small town of Caledon East, when one of the railroads extending from Toronto decided to follow the height of land rather than the valley below. As the name Caledon East was already taken, the station was named after the roadway instead, and at the time, Airport Road was known as Mono Road. The community that grew up out of the station took up the station’s name.
Airport Pizza exists in a renovated brick building that used to be the community’s general store. At the height of land and surrounded by fields, the area has almost a prairie-style appearance compared to the wooded lands of Caledon East at the bottom of the river valley.
Inside, the atmosphere is casual. Pictures of the building in earlier days adorns the walls. On a hot summer days, a screen door lets in the breeze but keeps out the flies as people from the area stop for lunch.
Carla Seeka, a mother of four children, the eldest of whom is in university with another about to graduate high school, is frankly shocked at my interest in Airport Pizza. She tells me she doesn’t know anything about the history of the building, but quickly it’s the building’s importance to her family that intrigues me.
Carla shares the business with her husband Ori. They’ve been serving pizzas for twenty years, and Ori and his parents have been in the building even longer.
“We’re just here making a living,” she says. “I’ve lived here in Mono Road all my life. I met my husband here, and my children all go to school here. I love the people; I love the small town mentality.”
Even so, Carla admits that the city calls to her, even though the area pulls her back. Twenty years ago, she took a job downtown. She didn’t mind the commute. “When you’re young, you just grab a job and you work.”
But twenty years ago, Ori’s parents were operating the pizzeria while, next door, Ori was operating a hair salon. She met him while she was having her hair done, and she kept coming back.
“I would come and help his parents,” she said, “and it got to the point where I was here more often than I was home.”
When Ori tired of his hair salon and his parents tired of the pizzeria, it was a natural move for the young couple to take up the business.
“Twenty years have gone by so fast, that I don’t realize that we’ve been in business for twenty years.” says Carla, warming up. “You just get busy with life. I should appreciate what I have a little more, but when you get in the grind and working, you just take it for granted.”
From Caledon East, travellers along Airport Road enter Escarpment Country. This describes the area around a geologic feature known as the Niagara Escarpment. Winding its way from Niagara Falls around Lake Ontario and north to Tobormory on the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula on Georgian Bay, this is a bluff of land, rising as high as one hundred feet in places, marking the place where a pre-glacial lake lapped at its shores.
The spectacular scenery, largely undeveloped thanks to the challenges of building along this slope, has made the Escarpment a provincial treasure, with a provincial commission controlling development along its route, and with thousands of tourists annually treking up its many trails, the most famous of which, the Bruce Trail, runs the 800 km length from Niagara Falls to Tobermory.
Those wanting a walking trip a little less strenuous than that offered by the Bruce Trail should check out the Caledon Trailway, which crosses Airport Road at the south end of Caledon East. This trail runs along the route of an abandoned railway line that Caledon has maintained as a walking and biking trail. As a former railway, it’s a flatter run, but it still meanders past some fantastic scenery as it crosses the whole of Caledon from Terra Cotta in the west to near Palgrave in the northeast. Caledon East, boasting shops, services and a restaurant or two, is a good base-camp for such a trek.
Airport Road climbs out of the valley containing Caledon East, and continues climbing. The engine strains as I near Mono Hills, and I’ll soon be entering the highest and steepest portions of my trip.
Next: The Town of Mono
North of Steeles, and north of Highway 407, we enter Brampton. Airport Road was the former boundary of Chinguacosy Township and the Toronto Gore before they were amalgamated into the new city in 1974. The houses of Malton have given way to large industrial/commercial buildings feeding off their proximity to the airport.
I have been over an hour on the road (spending some time watching the planes come in). North of Brampton, we finally see some signs of countryside. But sprawl threatens even here.
Caledon is a rural township, formed when the smaller township of Caledon was merged with Albion Township. Airport Road (Sixth Line) was the boundary here as well. Developments are gathering around some of the rural hamlets, but some of the character seems unchanged from the 19th century.
Airport Pizza in the community of Mono Road (pronounced Moh-no!, thank you very much) in the heart of eastern Caledon. Airport Road used to be known as Mono Road, when it was established to serve the Townships of Mono and Mulmur in the 1820s (running as far south as Montgomery’s Tavern in Islington). The community itself is much newer, however…
Just up the road is the larger community of Caledon East. A railway to Toronto used to serve this community, running along the bottom of the town’s river valley. A competing railroad couldn’t build in this valley, and so had to run along the height of land, well south of the town. The Caledon East stop was named “Mono Road Station”, and the community of Mono Road grew up around it. Both railways are now gone.
Entering Caledon East from the south. The town boasts restaurants, an LCBO store, the Caledon Inn, and an idyllic setting. It’s a perfect place to visit.
A big reason to visit Caledon is its nature trails. The Bruce Trail passes winds its way through the forks of the Credit River. If you want something elss strenuous but just as beautiful, try the Caledon Trailway, an abandoned railway that has been converted into a nature trail sweeping the breadth of the township. Caledon East is a perfect rest stop.
A map of the trails of Caledon.
Leaving Caledon East, the landscape starts to get more rugged. North of here lies the Niagara Escarpment and the headwaters of rivers running into Lakes Ontario (including the Humber River), Erie and Huron. I thought this was a steep hill, but I hadn’t seen anything, yet.