In this special series, Park People explores the people who make up the Park Friends movement. Each month, we ask one person dedicated to city parks to share what makes them tick. This month, we talk to Angie Buado, a founding member and current coordinator of Friends of Earl Bales Park.

How Did your Involvement with Parks Begin?

Earl Bales Park was like a second home when I moved to Toronto.  I would ride my bike here and I rest, read a book or join a barbeque. It was free and close to home. It’s where I spent my downtime.  

My church community at Filipino Seventh-day Adventist, takes on community service projects. In 2012, together with 2 other Filipino groups, our church group joined Clean Toronto Together to pick up litter in the neighbourhood. Over 100 people, from kids to seniors, came to that first cleanup.

We wanted to find out how to get more involved in the park, so we contacted Mandana Attarzadeh, Community Worker at Action for Neighbourhood Change at Unison Health and Community Services. She connected us with Park People who actively works to create Friends of Park groups in underserved neighbourhoods (as part of their Sparking Change initiative). We’ve been working in Earl Bales ever since.

What Makes Parks Better?

People make parks better. Earl Bales Park has great amenities like an amphitheatre, bike trails and a ski hill. But there are people living in apartment buildings, community housing, seniors and so many different cultural groups who could be coming here. We want them all to enjoy the park.

What’s Your Dream for this Park?

I love sports: volleyball, tennis, basketball. My dream is for this park to have more sports facilities–courts and fields. There’s so much space we could use for sports! It would draw more people into the park and build more connections in the community.

Also, I want the amphitheatre to host events every day of the week. On July 31, we have a free Multicultural Celebration with music, dance and art. This summer there’s music and theatre.But, I want this to be like Mel Lastman square: a hot spot for concerts, movies, music and theatre.

IMG_2581

What’s Been Your Biggest Triumph?

I’m proud that Earl Bales Park is a flagship site for Clean Toronto Together. Every year, more people help clean the park.

To me, that says they see Earl Bales as a place that’s important enough to care for. I’m most moved when I see kids cleaning the park and taking responsibility for and ownership of their park.

It’s grown so much since that first clean up 5 years ago.

What’s the Craziest Thing That’s Ever Happened?

Volunteering with Friends of Earl Bales Park has led to so many surprising opportunities. When the City recognised Friends of Earl Bales at a City Council meeting, I was invited to speak in front of City Council. That was a big deal.

Then, I was chosen to be a panelist at Civic Action’s Better City Bootcamp and I presented to politicians, business leaders, community leaders–even Olympians.

I didn’t imagine this volunteer position would lead to so many amazing (and scary) experiences. You just never know.

What Advice Would You Give?

We’ve always had the philosophy: Anyone who wants to join Friends of Earl Bales Park can join. We’ve partnered with Park People, the Earl Bales community centre, Unison, The City Councillor James Pasternak, religious groups, cultural groups. These partnerships have helped bring new ideas, funding and promotion to the park, which in the end, brings more people.

Below: Watch Angie talk about Earl Bales’ approach to partnerships in this video, made as part of our 2014 Parks Summit.

c