WARNING: THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS QUITE POSSIBLY THE MOST CYNICALLY DEPRESSING THING I’VE WRITTEN AND IS MEANT TO BE THE ANTITHESIS OF THE TYPICAL CITY BUILDING PIECE DESIGNED TO FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES OF MISSISSAUGA.
Mississauga is a gleaming, modern city, that rose from the sprawling suburban foundation and currently growing upwards, while expanding transit options and re-developing itself into a more modern form. Mississauga has gone from the worst example of suburban sprawl into a shining example of urban development. But most of us, when we drive around this city, see the modern structures and commercial/residential buildings and never wonder where the by product of that development goes, or whether there was anything left out in the rush to growth and development. Walking the Dross this past weekend, May 15, was one way of finding that out.
I was perplexed initially at the name for this particular Jane’s Walk, especially what ‘Dross’ meant. But Jane Jacobs, besides encouraging us to find the beauty in our urban environment, also encouraged society to stay in touch with a critical approach in an overheated, resource-devouring and unbalanced world, as Steven Caufield, 51, the Dross Walk leader described. Dross, as defined by Websters dictionary, are ‘unwanted material that is removed from a mineral in order to make it better’, and along this walk the raw material left behind by Mississauga’s development was the main constant that was visible along the way. This walk began at the northeast corner of Mavis and Burnhamthorpe, and continued in a rectangular formation from there, down Mavis to Dundas St, west on Dundas to Wolfedale, then back up along Wolfedale to Mavis and back where we began. In short, we were ‘walking the unwalkeable’ as Steven aptly summed up our experience.
We began here, the site of the former Goodwill in Mississauga, now shuttered and abandoned due to that non profit’s recent closure of several offices in the GTA. In a hugely appropriate nod to the situation, the Dross began at a location where we had something quite useful in the city, and because of outside forces was suddenly abandoned and the place where it once stood hollowed out for all to see. It’s striking to see how the shuttered storefront sits right next to existing businesses and service centres.
If you wanted a little something that exemplified Dross, it’s these poor excuse for stairs that we found linking two lots. You can see they’re not even aligned, making me wonder what genius engineering was used to put them here. As for the sign (pictured on the right), this company Gardin is no longer operating at this address, but it’s quite a unique thing that it still stands long after this company departed Mississauga. The last use that this location had, was to serve as the campaign office of an unsuccessful Conservative candidate in the federal election. That little tidbit from me elicited some groans.
You can see the Mississauga’s developing skyline in the background of this plant, and there are plenty of these plants, factories and similar areas, very grey and bland. This is where the raw material that is left over from the rush to development goes to sit. Not a lot of people realize this, I noted as this walk continued down Mavis Road from Central Parkway to Dundas.
This corner of Central Parkway and Mavis had a veterinarian hospital and a Muslim community centre. What is odd to me is that these places I thought would be more fitting in the main street of a small town, not at a busy intersection. Anchored right next to the busy T&T supermarket plaza, it’s very indicative of how the newer businesses are moving in while the older ones are just surviving by being there still. This veterinarian hospital had some history to it, as it was formerly operated by the late Dr. Bob Horner, former PC MP for Mississauga North in the Mulroney years. At least they tried to beautify the area a bit by planting flowers at the base of their sign, but you can see in the background a sign advertising the new Parkside Village being built on Confederation. In fact, from where I was standing, you can see the skyline for that new development being built. Very clever marketing strategies being used here..
You may be wondering why there’s a bouquet of flowers tied to the power line here. This was the site of an accident involving a cyclist riding through this intersection. Originally, a Ghost Bike was tied here, but it seems that ruffled some feathers with officials at the City and they removed it. Looking at this small bunch of flowers, where a human live once thrived until it was untimely cut short, makes you realize just from standing there little has been done for cycling infrastructure in Mississauga. We have these events around Mississauga for cyclists to ride through different neighbourhoods around, but when it comes to putting down actual bike lanes on routes that would allow people to use bikes beyond a recreational purpose, there really isn’t much there. Specifically, I wouldn’t want cycling infrastructure here because it seems to attract more fleet traffic due to what we saw down Mavis Road, but generally there is not much cycling infrastructure to actually make cycling a viable transit option in Mississauga.
One last point of contention: no garbage cans at Mavis/Central Parkway! C’mon, really?
Mississauga seems to be moving into an economy based on services, which is widely documented, but also an economy of salvage. You can see from these photos below that there’s a lot of services for auto-mobiles, a nod to the automotive culture and also a very large yard for scraped cars, as well as raw material dump sites.
The bottom two photos are an asphalt dump site, and a wood dump site, most of that is mulce used, I believe, for tree planting (since I participated in a tree planting a few weeks ago and mulce was used, though I didn’t ask where it came from). It’s a familiar theme as you venture down this stretch of Mavis Road, where the primary industries or services centre around cars or waste management. Steve called the scrapyard the Automotive Hellscape, where cars go to die, their component parts broken down and the raw material reused to make new cars. Again, perpetuated the unending cycle of the automotive industry. Even the asphalt landscape and ‘species landscape’ of dead wood feeds into that never ending cycle of the car.
Steve was definitely on the mark when he said no Heritage buildings would be present along this walk. I mean, look at these buildings, quite an eye-sore. The only purpose is for those who work there, once they’re done time to go home. No reason to linger any second longer.
Believe it or not, at this intersection on Mavis with the CNR is where the 1979 derailment happened. No heritage structures to mark the event, just a small plaque on the other side of the road. I know people usually focus on how orderly the evacuation was, and how Hazel did an amazing job handling the crisis. Steve actually did his homework and outlined some specific details as to how the derailment happened, and some information that is not widely documented, let alone etched on that nice plaque across the street. One man that did not get acknowledged was a gentleman named Larry Cupra, who was the brake-man on the train at the time who went back to release the coupling, allowing the train to move further down into Cooksville, away from the blast zone. The tracks today are still being used to haul freight, so that is a concern. Hopefully, this ‘Missing Link’ idea of redirecting freight traffic freeing up this rail-line for GO Transit pans out.
Steven actually brought some of the original pieces from the derailment, specifically the rail spike and plate that was on the track at the time of the incident. He was carrying it in his backpack the whole time; I do not remember how he obtained these items.
This is the bus station for the eastbound MiWay bus, at Mavis and Dundas. It’s quite embarrassing to see a stop at a major intersection look like this, and against the backdrop of a ravine area that didn’t have anything other than shrubs and bland trees. From what I can see with the land available, there really isn’t much you can do for improvements. The Dundas Connects initiative does not even mark this intersection as one of the priority growth areas.
We then passed by the Mississauga News/Brampton Guardian building, which fit right into the dross scape with the blandness of the building and it’s obscure appearance along Wolfedale. It looked more like a factory, or spy training facility since something like that should be kept a secret. So as a suggestion to anyone out there interesting in shooting one of those spy thrillers, or espionage action flicks, please use our news publication’s building. They are perfect…for that reason and that reason alone.
I’ll end this piece by posting the last few photos of the walk, which basically consisted of more dross against the horizon of the new emerging Mississauga. This walk was extraordinarily enlightening, showing how the pace of development has left behind areas of our city that, while not the most beautiful areas of Mississauga, are grudgingly necessary. Every city has some areas like this; it’s important to remember that.