An update from Janie Romoff, General Manager of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation
At this year’s Park Summit, I shared my top priorities for Toronto’s Parks in 2016. While the first two priorities (expanding our environmental stewardship initiatives and imagining creative new public spaces) were celebrated, it was my third priority, improving the ways in which we work with our communities to animate and strengthen our parks, which received the greatest applause.
Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation is the keeper of our common grounds – the places where we can come together as a community to learn, to grow, to celebrate, to relax, to regenerate, and to build a healthier and more welcoming city. Over time, in an attempt to ensure equal access to these spaces, we’ve created systems and policies that have, in some cases, actually prevented our communities from accessing them.
I know that for many of you, permits, policies and by-laws can seem like unnecessary bureaucracy, but I can assure you that none of these systems were created without cause. Stories are told of fist-fights breaking out between wedding parties and feuds over picnics and BBQs. However, it’s clear to me that there is such a thing as too much process, I’ve even heard some of you say that if feels like one needs a master’s degree in public administration to navigate the permit system. That’s why, this year, we will undertake a review of our permit process.
Our special event permits can include as many as sixteen government departments and hours of work – an overwhelming number of stakeholders when what we’re often talking about is something as small as a family Canada day BBQ in a park. We know this business process can be improved and we’ve engaged a consultant to help us reimagine this system. We are looking forward to your feedback through that process to ensure we can be as helpful, efficient and effective as possible.
We have also initiated a replacement of our central database. This system processes over 600,000 recreation program registrations and more than 500,000 permits every year. It has reached the end of its life and we will work to ensure that our new system will provide a more modern and effective solution to permitting our facilities.
Our staff may be the keepers of our common grounds, but we keep them for you – and without you, without passionate residents, ‘friends of’ groups and other committed parks people, our parks would not be as lively and vibrant as they are today. We know that our systems need to be flexible enough to meet the creativity and innovation that you are bringing to our public spaces, while balancing the pressures and challenges we face in meeting the needs of the entire city – I am looking forward to working with you over the next year to make this a reality.
Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation