Putting Caledon on the Map

Caledon townsfolk identify their community’s most important features.

March 22, 2007 | | Back Issues | Spring 2007

Maps. Since the Stone Age we have used them to shrink our wide world onto a smaller, more comprehensible canvas. Whether hastily sketched on a scrap of paper, a labour-intensive pen and ink masterpiece, or a digital satellite image, they all share common purposes. Maps help us navigate from point A to point B. They give us a bird’s-eye view of the terrain, relating one feature to another. And they define borders – of a kingdom, a county or a farmstead – clearly delineating what belongs to whom.

Now the Town of Caledon is embarking on a map of another kind – a map that goes beyond roads, topography and political boundaries to capture the environmental, cultural, and historic characteristics of the community.

“Over the years there have been many maps of Caledon,” says Deanna Coop, the co-ordinator of the Community Mapping Project, citing the 1859 Tremaine’s map of the County of Peel through to more recent tourist maps. (The fascinating Tremaine’s map, on permanent display at Peel Archives in Brampton, shows the lot lines and owners, including many still-familiar names, of all of the county’s early farms.)

“But all previous maps – in fact, almost every map everywhere – has been about the community, not by the community. That’s what makes this one different. The community map will show exactly what natural, cultural and historical features matter most to the people of Caledon.”

Which is why, for the past eight months, Coop has been travelling the town, microphone and tape recorder in one hand; tea, coffee and treats in the other; rolls of chart paper and sample maps tucked under both arms; and one question for everyone she meets: What natural and cultural features of Caledon are important to you, and why?

The idea for this project began, as many good ideas do, over some wine and good conversation. Two years ago a group of volunteers from the Caledon Environmental Advisory Committee met over dinner to decide how to celebrate the committee’s tenth anniversary. Sara Peckford, the town’s environmental progress officer, suggested the group create a map using the Green Map System, an internationally recognized process of community-driven environmental map-making.

Such maps can be used for ecotourism, increasing environmental awareness, and as a catalyst for green economic development, says Peckford. “I felt the creation of a green map was a great anniversary project since it entails extensive community engagement and celebrates Caledon’s unique features.”

Her idea was immediately embraced, and then quickly expanded. “In Caledon we are living in a natural landscape that is also a cultural landscape,” says Debbe Crandall, a local environmental advocate and the CEAC lead on the map project. “The mill ponds we skate on, the shape of the hills we slide down, the pockets of forests we take firewood from, the curve of the river, even the old quarry ponds we swim in are all cultural remnants. But they are also today’s natural landscape. Basically the natural and the cultural are inexorably intertwined.”

With that in mind, CEAC enlisted the participation of Heritage Caledon, a group also celebrating an anniversary: its thirtieth. The Caledon Countryside Alliance, a community-based environmental advocacy group, also came onboard. Then, inspired by the magnitude and originality of the idea, the Metcalf Foundation, the McLean Foundation and the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation each agreed to support the project financially, altogether adding $70,000 to the town’s $100,000 budget for the map.

Since then, Coop has gone from schoolrooms to libraries to farmhouse kitchen tables, sitting down with hundreds of Caledon citizens – from the youngest kids to the eldest residents – asking for their stories and ideas about important historical and environmental features. She has collected old photos, historic maps, beautiful ink sketches, family heirlooms, as well as hundreds of stories.

Which leads to the big challenge: how to choose what to include? At a size of 90cm by 66cm, this map is a mere billionth the size of the town. Plenty of distillation must occur to make a map that is clear, comprehensible and attractive.

The first decision was what not to include. Most commercial enterprises will be excluded, unless they are operating within a historically important building. Likewise, most private buildings and features will be excluded, unless the owners give permission, so that map readers do not think they have permission to traipse across private property. Finally, rare, threatened and endangered species of flora and fauna will not be pinpointed, for fear that people could further harm them or their habitat, accidentally or otherwise.

Those three broad criteria, however, were the easy part. The bigger challenge is getting the community’s consensus – to the extent that is possible – on the most valued features across Caledon. Between now and May, when the map is slated to go into production, will therefore involve a constant back and forth between Caledon’s many communities, Coop, and the map artists.

Alton Mill artist Jim Stewart (a regular contributor to this magazine) is providing the illustrations of such local highlights as a Jefferson’s salamander, a century homestead and a fly fisher. Then cartographer Chris Brackley will integrate those features with the local geographic data. Brackley enjoys the challenge of making maps that blend technology with art. “I like to get away from cold, line-based documents and create maps that evoke a real sense of place,” he says. “And it is great to make this map with the community’s input.”

Brackley is no stranger to community mapping. He made his entrée into the world of cartography with a compass and a ten-metre rope, slowly mapping an island in Algonquin Park with the help of its campers. Word spread and he was commissioned for other community mapping projects, of which, he says, Caledon’s is the most ambitious.

“I’ve seen it time and again: If it’s a map of an area you know, you get excited about it,” says Brackley. “And if it’s not only a map of your area, but some of the special features you know and care about – maybe ones you contributed to the map – are included, then that map really creates a sense of civic pride.”

The foundation of Brackley’s map is a satellite image of the town. He will overlay it with such basics as roads, rivers and place names, plus the community-chosen natural, cultural and historical features.

Brackley’s decision to tilt the photo at a forty-five-degree angle (like viewing Caledon from the cockpit of a low-flying plane) will help emphasize the town’s geography. “I want people to look at this map, see the Niagara Escarpment rising to the left and the town’s many hills and valleys, and then feel as impressed as I always feel driving into Caledon.”

Everyone involved in this map is energized by its community-building potential. Like maps that show us how to get from point A to point B, this map will show how Caledon went from its rural past to the present. But it will also give directions for the future.

“With every other map,” says Crandall, “we knew what was important to the person or group that made the map. But the community map will be the only one that shows the values that all of us share in common. It will be the only one that shows what the community cares about. And that is really exciting.”

Plans, and funding, are already in place to launch an interactive web-based version of the map next year.

The reverse side of Caledon’s community map will include two secondary maps of the town. One shows the town’s waterways and the other focuses on its woodlands and green space. Below is a preliminary version of the waterway map along with a few of the illustrations by Jim Stewart that highlight the town’s natural, cultural and historic features.

Fly fishing on the Credit

The West Credit River is home to one of the few native brook and brown trout fisheries in southern Ontario. That coupled with the æsthetic charm of its many villages make it one of Ontario’s premier fly fishing destinations. Anglers are encouraged to release their catch to sustain these populations.


Jefferson salamander

The most uncommon amphibian in the Credit River watershed, the Jefferson salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum) was discovered in Ontario in 1976. Deemed a threatened species, it lives in mature deciduous forests in fish-free pools of water where its young can survive. Emerging only briefly to breed, it spends most of its time underground which makes it difficult to spot.


Patullo wall

Located on the southeast corner of the Grange and Mississauga roads, this designated heritage feature was built by the Patullo family in the 1800s. Using no mortar, the wall’s construction relies upon hundreds of split cedar shims and a wide base with narrow top to keep it standing.


Century-old farmhouse

A late 19th century farmhouse with typical gable roof, gingerbread, polychromatic brick and L-shaped plan. Caledon still has a rich agricultural livelihood with mixed farms, cattle operations, dairy herds, canola, soya beans, corn, oats, apples and hay dotting the countryside.


Train engine

The story of the arrival and departure of the railroads in Caledon is a rich part of its heritage. Many villages sizzled, fizzled, bustled or boomed when the railway came or left. This steam engine was part of the Credit Valley Railway, built in the 1870s, that went from Streetsville to Orangeville stopping at Ferndale, Inglewood, Forks of the Credit, Cataract, Alton and Melville. Today you can hop aboard the Credit Valley Explorer to discover this historic route with scenic views of the Credit River, Forks of the Credit Provincial Park and Niagara Escarpment.


Elm tree

This lone majestic tree in the north part of Caledon is a survivor of the deadly Dutch elm disease that spread to Ontario in the 1940s. This deadly fungus, coupled with an aggressive government cutting program, decimated most of Ontario’s American elm tree (Ulmus americana) population. But this survivor was one of nearly 1,000 in Ontario that formed part of the Elm Recovery Project out of the University of Guelph’s Arboretum. This tree has been affectionately named “Henry” after the passionate founder of the project, Henry Kock, who passed away December 25, 2005.


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