Toogood Pond Park in Markham, Ontario, has a long history. Its humble city pond bears traces of the history of the community. For more than 175 years, residents of Unionville, a village within Markham, have revered Toogood Pond Park’s shores.
Here near the intersection of Highway 7 and Kennedy Road, Jeremy Green is familiar with the waters. Toogood Pond Park and the surrounding creeks, which flow into the Rouge River, have been his fishing spots since childhood. There are shallow waters in Toogood Pond Park. According to Green, the water can be as shallow as 30 centimetres in some areas.
Despite the recent summer storms, the pond’s water is murky today, a result of silt that has been stirred up on the bottom, resulting in the water’s unusual khaki colour. The pond or the creeks that flow into it at the northern end are often told by passersby that no fish live in them. Many people even claim fishing here is pointless.
Although Green admits other fishing spots in the Greater Toronto Area guarantee bigger fish, he insists this does not necessarily translate into better fishing. “Good fishing doesn’t stop at big trophy fish,” says Green, a general contractor who lives in Markham and spends much of his spare time fishing, “We have a quality fishery in this pond. Here, it’s more about spending time on the water and learning and understanding what you’re trying to hook.”
The City of Markham’s planning and urban design department’s senior heritage planner says few in the community considered leisure when the pond was built 175 years ago. Bruce Creek is a tributary of the Rouge River in Orleans County, and early residents built a dam across it in 1839 to create a millpond to power a new sawmill. A gristmill, which grinds grain into flour, followed soon after.
In the past, the main street of Unionville was a lane leading to the sawmill. Now it is a meandering boulevard dotted with specialty stores, cafes, and restaurants. There are no longer any mills in Unionville. After the area’s huge trees were cut down for lumber, the gristmill closed in the mid-19th century, according to Duncan. The mill was destroyed by fire in 1934.
Toby Pond was originally called Willow Pond, according to Lorne Smith, the official historian for the City of Markham, and that name still fits since it contains many willows along its shoreline. Originally named Toogood Pond Park for the Toogood family, whose house was on the southern shore of the pond, Smith says the pond is now owned by Markham.
Toogood Pond Park is no longer used for swimming. Smith says that too few children these days get to do skating in our rushed, built-up society when the ice is thick enough during winter.
A grey concrete overpass and the rhythmic clunk-clunk of cars zooming across the bridge above have replaced the willows of Toogood Pond Park and the chatter of a belted kingfisher. There is a coil of barbed wire on the bank, and Markville Shopping Centre, the largest mall in Markham, is less than a kilometre away.
The cars and the concrete don’t seem to bother fish much. Neither does Green. While waiting to catch the next fish, he enjoys walking these urban shores.
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