Cedarvale's residential development began in 1912 when Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, the builder of Toronto's famous Casa Loma registered a plan of subdivision for the south end of this neighbourhood under the name "Cedar Vale". Vale denoted the ravine that runs through the centre of this neighbourhood and the Cedar part of the name makes reference to the many cedars that grew in the wet lowlands of the ravine.
The Cedarvale Ravine which has long been the foundation of this neighbourhood was threatened in 1966, when the proposed Spadina Expressway was slated to run straight through the ravine on its way downtown. Some Cedarvale houses were expropriated and the floor of the ravine was clearcut to make room for the expressway.
Fortunately strong opposition to the expressway was voiced throughout the city and in 1974 the decision was made to stop the Spadina Expressway (officially called the W.R. Allen Road) at Eglinton Avenue, thus preserving the centrepiece of this popular Toronto neighbourhood.
The defining feature of this neighbourhood is the Cedarvale Ravine, which cuts a wide diagonal swath through the middle of Cedarvale. This ravine provides numerous recreational opportunities.
Cedarvale has an established Jewish community that has grown up around the Holy Blossom Temple and Beth Tzedec Synagogue, which are both situated on Bathurst Street.
In addition to the traditional recreational amenities found in many Toronto parks such as baseball diamond, tennis courts, soccer pitches and a skating rink the city of Toronto has recently added an enclosed off leash area for dogs and an innovative environmental education program called Families In Nature.
The Families In Nature program is situated in the middle of the park in a meadow with a stream running through it. This watercourse is a tributary of the Don River. The city parks department has smartly converted this grassy meadow into a wetland habitat where native flora and fauna can thrive while at the same time improving water quality and mitigating drought and flooding conditions.
Families In Nature has been assisted by over 300 volunteers from the community. Some of the initiatives have included planting native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses. Educational interpretive signs installed along the foot-path overlooking the meadow allow visitors to learn about the plants, birds and animals which may be seen in this restored habitat.
Cedarvale Park with its emphasis on recreation, the environment and inclusion for dog owners is innovative and would seem to be a model for urban parks across Toronto in the future.