Featured Park Groups
Fairmount Park - Building an Ice Rink
Ray Bernard of the Fairmount Ice Masters explains how community volunteers have created a natural ice rink at Fairmount Park.
Wigmore Ravine - Connecting Communities to Nature in Parks
Tammy Yuen, of the Victoria Village ANC, talks about her eco-initiatives to connect new immigrants to nature in parks. Claudia Araya shares her experiences as a participant in these events.
Budapest Park - Hosting a Community Arts Event
Michael Burtt, Artistic Director at Making Room, teamed up with the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre to host and arts event in Budapest Park to connect Parkdale residents to Lake Ontario.
Littles Road Park & Neilson Park - Community Gardens
Alex Dow discusses the process that Malvern Action for Neighbourhood Change undertook to install community gardens in two parks in the Malvern neighbourhood of Toronto, Littles Road Park and Neilson Park.
East Lynn Park - Farmer's Market
Alison McMurray explains how her community activated and transformed East Lynn Park, beginning with a new Farmer's Market.
Trinity Bellwoods Park - Adopt-A-Tree Program
Michaelle McLean of Friends of Trinity Bellwoods explains why her group organized an Adopt-A-Tree program. She also shows us how participants care for trees on Park Days and throughout the year. Lastly, she explains why her group conducted a tree audit to monitor the on-going health of park trees.
Mabelle Park - Arts Programming
Leah Houston explains the successes and challenges of MabelleARTS, a non profit organization that uses art, performance, cooking and gardening to activate Mabelle Park and the surrounding tower community.
Woodford/Jeff Healey Park - New Playground Initiative
Janine Rechsteiner describes how her community worked with her Councillor, the Toronto Partnership Office, Parks Forestry and Recreation and local businesses to fundraise for a new playground.
Sorauren Park lies in the west end, in Roncesvalles Village. Adjacent to the park, separated by a rusty old fence, is old industrial land with two buildings which once housed a linseed oil factory. Apart from use by squatters and as a speakeasy, the old brick buildings along Wabash Avenue had long been abandoned, one the 40,000 sq ft factory, and the other the 2,000 sq ft office.
This changed in 2006, when a community group formed with a mandate to resuscitate the industrial land and incorporate it into Sorauren Park. The Wabash Building Society developed a long term plan, first to fix up the smaller office building, then the land, and lastly the large factory space. The first stage is already completed, and in 2008 "The FIeldhouse" opened,with washrooms, meeting space, and a small kitchen for park users and the community. Operated by the City of Toronto, it's an invaluable asset for the park, offering classes such as yoga, martial arts, music, arts & crafts, and a much appreciated storage space to help the farmers' market and other park activities including the natural ice rink.
The next stage is the creation of a 'town square' on the land between the two buildings, including a bake oven and amphitheatre. The community spirit and drive to revitalize this park, with the support of the City's Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department, leave little doubt that this will soon be realized. When we asked Doug Bennet, a member of the Wabash Building Society, what he attributed their success to, he cited a couple of factors. Firstly, the community incorporated the not for profit Wabash Building Society, with a bank account and a means to fundraise. Gord Perks, Councillor for Ward 14, and his two predecessors, have also been instrumental in shepherding this project, and local businesses have been generous in providing materials for The Fieldhouse. We look forward to eating pizza from the bake oven in the near future!
For more details and inspiration visit www.SouraurenPark.com.
When Sabina Ali saw R .V. Burgess Park, she realized that life in Canada wasn’t going to be everything she’d hoped it would be. It was her second day here -- she’d just immigrated from India, after spending a number of years in Saudi Arabia -- and she liked her new neighbourhood, Thorncliffe Park. But the state of R.V. Burgess, the park that acts as a backyard to a complex of apartment towers that houses close to 30,000 people (most of them new Canadians), was dispiriting.
“The sod was all worn down, there was a lineup for the swings, there was trash everywhere ... I found myself wondering if I was actually in North America,” recalls Ms. Ali. But that day, she also spotted a group of women who’d gathered to talk about how to improve the park, and she quickly became involved.
Since then, the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee has worked to turn around R.V. Burgess. The park isn’t perfect: The play area is still limited (they’re expecting some used playground equipment from Leaside this spring), and when the kids aren’t around, the sparsely treed green space can sometimes feel deserted. But it has new sod, lighting, pathways and benches, and on Friday afternoons, it’s home to a community bazaar that typically draws about 500 residents -- and transforms R.V. Burgess into the neighbourhood hub that it was designed to be.
The physical improvements came after the women’s group met with their local councillor, John Parker, during the summer of 2008. Friends of Dufferin Grove Park gave them some early support, and offered advocacy assistance. The Thorncliffe Community Bazaar launched in 2009, after members of the group made a trip to Dufferin Grove Park and saw how local residents there had started popular events and activities like a farmer’s market and community dinners.
“People there are so involved,” says Ms. Ali, project co-ordinator for the Women’s Committee, “and that was the model we wanted to follow.”
The bazaar began small, but now features a rotating roster of about 100 micro-businesses. “It’s amazing what happens when it’s bazaar day,” she says. “The park is full of people -- it becomes a real gathering spot. You’d never know it was the same place.”
The women aren’t finished yet. Ms. Ali has plans to grow the bazaar and develop the skills of the women who participate in it. They’re starting a walking club to encourage Thorncliffe Park residents to use the ravines that surround their neighbourhood. And they’re hoping to come up with other ways to get people involved in their local park. (One enticing idea that they hope to get off the ground this spring: an outdoor tandoor oven.)
“The winter is when people really need to get out,” says Ms. Ali, looking out at the snow-covered space during a recent February visit as if she was seeing it for the first time. “We need to think about that, too. If we can get people using the park during that time, that would be wonderful.”