Peter Cameron’s pictures from 2004 of the St. Johns Sideroad reconstruction project certainly bring back memories. What was once a two lane, non illuminated, country road is now a four lane road with a major railway crossing, a spectacular McKenzie Marsh boardwalk on the North side of St. John’s Sideroad, and a wonderful Atkinson Wetland boardwalk on the South side.
Yes, the stretch of St. Johns Sideroad from Yonge Street all the way to Bayview Avenue was just simply a two lane country road. The subdivision adjacent to St. Andrew’s Golf Course on the North side of the St. Johns Sideroad was one of the first subdivisions built on this stretch, and was completed around 1998. That was before the explosion of subdivisions, supermarkets, and traffic on St. John’s Sideroad that we know today.
Back then, turning from Yonge Street to St. Johns Sideroad East at night was like entering a dark tunnel. There were no street lights, there was no indirect illumination from the houses. Driving at night one could appreciate the light of the full moon from the South East side sky illuminating Atkinson Wetland and the surroundings.
During the cold winter weekends families would gather and skate at the Atkinson Wetland mainly and some on McKenzie Marsh. It seemed liked parking was allowed on both sides of the road and skating was allowed at both ponds. Even the old sign for the McKenzie Marsh at that time indicated to ‘ski or skate at your own risk‘. The frozen pond was always full – parents, children, teenagers, and all kinds of pond hockey equipment. Today, skating on the pond is no longer permitted; however, occasionally you may find some kids continuing to play where they leave behind their hockey nets, sometimes until the ice thaws.
After the reconstruction, parking along St. Johns Sideroad, especially closer to the boardwalk, was no longer allowed due to safety. During the reconstruction project some members of Aurora Council and the public expressed interest in on-road parking to accommodate visitors to the area. All the requests were denied as the study indicated that it would not be safe to park along St. Johns Sideroad on either side from Yonge Street to the railway crossing. To date on the same stretch there is also no crossing recommended from one side of the boardwalk to the other and warning signs are installed.
The $20 million St. Johns Sideroad reconstruction project was officially completed on June 26, 2006. On this date local stakeholders, Town, Regional officials and staff attended the ceremony. The project was one of the most environmentally significant projects completed by York Region to date. It was a recipient of the Ontario Public Works Association’s 2006 Project of the Year in the environmental category and the American Public Works Association’s 2007 Transportation Project of the Year.
We would like to thank Peter Cameron for his kind photo contribution.