Larger-Than-Life Wildlife Coming to the Port Lands

A rendering of a playground with a large owl structure.


POSTED: MAY 13, 2024


In This Blog:


  • A new park nestled around the renaturalized mouth of the Don River will open in 2025. 

  • This Spring, we’re welcoming a few playful animal structures to their new home, including a large Snowy Owl. 

  • These play features invite kids and adults to play in ways that are both challenging and imaginative. This approach to play is a pilot for a much larger play experience along the western edge of the island. When you see the play features come together, imagine that this is just a glimpse of what’s possible. 


As we get closer to completing the new mouth for the Don River in the Port Lands, work is underway on new parks that will line the river valley. Opening in Summer 2025, these will be places where people of all ages can play, eat, relax or just enjoy views of the river valley and lake. 

The park on the north side of the new river valley includes distinctive structures, some of which are being installed this Spring. 


The Snowy Owl and Reaching Raccoon 


A large owl play structure in a warehouse.

The snowy-owl play structure under construction.


The first structure to call the Port Lands home is this snowy owl. The owl has a stage built into its belly, and it will be surrounded by seating that looks like a nest. The stage is meant for kids to perform impromptu or imaginative shows. It also includes sound features such as a drum, bells, and talk tubes for the ‘director’ to call up to the performers waiting in the wings.  


People stand in a large play structure.

The Owl is also large enough for adults to climb inside.


A rendering of a large playground with a racoon.

A raccoon near the picnic areas will give kids a place to play in view of their caregivers.


Joining the snowy owl is the reaching raccoon,  of course inhabiting the nearby picnic area. Crews will install the raccoon later this Spring. 


An unexpected landscape: the badlands scramble 


While it’s not an animal, the largest play structure in this park is also unusual for Toronto. The 1600-square-metre ‘badlands scramble’ is inspired by the Cheltenham Badlands.  Its wavy terrain will be surrounded by planting beds and a pathway. It has three tiers or levels, broken up with flat sections of stone pavement and includes a water feature that invites kids to collaborate to pump water down its winding slopes. 

A playground under construction.

Building the ‘badlands scramble’ involves forming complex outlines out of lumber and steel, and then filling them with shotcrete – a method of spraying concrete onto surfaces that are not flat to create a rock-like surface.


A badlands mockup in a playground with construction workers on it.

 A mock-up of the badlands scramble crews used to test their technique and make sure the materials worked as planned. 



Animals That Are Significant in Indigenous Stories


A drawing of a bear interactive play structure.

Carved animal play features will incorporate Indigenous stories and culture in the playground. 


The playground will feature a series of carved wooden animals designed for play. The play manufacturer was guided in the choice of species and representation by Indigenous project team members from Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and MinoKamik Collective.  


The animals are also dodems, animals that represent a clan or family line in the Anishnaabe, Ongwehonwe, and Huron cultures. Each animal is associated with clan characteristics and important community teachings. In the park, you’ll find a bear, beaver, eagle, turtle, otter, wolf and musky fish. 


Want to explore more of the Port Lands? Check out the self-guided tour!