The three-year challenge which ran from 2014-2017, transformed the way parks are understood, funded and operated in Toronto. The Weston Family Parks Challenge has created a lasting legacy. Please note: This program is no longer active and applications are not being accepted.

Great parks are essential to Toronto’s health and vitality. They strengthen the community and provide environmental, economic and social benefits. With a commitment of $5 million over three years, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation launched the Weston Family Parks Challenge to ensure the long-term sustainability of Toronto’s parks. Building on the success of the first year, the Ontario Trillium Foundation joined in 2014 with an additional commitment of $1.125 million towards the initiative. Park People brings expertise and is administering the program. 

The Weston Family Parks Challenge supports projects that enhance the natural elements in parks, engage a broad range of partners and the local community, offer new solutions to manage and maintain parks, and have the potential to be replicated in other jurisdictions.

The program is built around the following core elements:

  • Nature focus – Enhances the natural elements of green spaces.
  • Connection to community – Enables communities and organizations to come together to support their local park, encouraging stewardship at a personal and community level and revitalizing their relationship with nature.
  • Sustainability – Contributes to high-quality maintenance and management of parks for the long term through community engagement, strong partnerships, and diverse funding streams.
  • Innovation – Generates new park solutions, designs and partnerships that can be replicated elsewhere in Toronto and Canada.

The three-year challenge has transformed the way parks are understood, funded and operated in Toronto. The Weston Family Parks Challenge has ended and applications are no longer being accepted.

2016 Recipients

Franklin the Turtle’s Habitat Restoration and Bring Back the Wild Program

This innovative partnership between the City of Toronto and Earth Rangers will create a thriving wetland ecosystem focused on turtle habitat restoration at the pond in Franklin’s Garden on Centre Island. As a new Toronto hub for the Earth Rangers’ programs, Franklin’s Garden will also host environmental education for school groups, recreational visitors and local residents. The long-term sustainability of the project will be ensured through its strong partnerships and community engagement.

A Tale of Two Parks

This project will engage residents in nature-focused activities and improvements in Broadacres Park, located in Etobicoke’s West Mall neighbourhood. Inspired in part by an innovative partnership with the City of Toronto’s Community Policing Program, local youth and families are at the centre of a process to develop community cohesion through green space revitalization and environmental projects. With support from The Weston Family Parks Challenge, A Tale of Two Parks will lay the groundwork for a comprehensive plan for a nearby Toronto Community Housing green space called West Mall Park.

Community Grown Flemingdon: Vibrant Market Gardens and Community Owned Spaces

The Weston Family Parks Challenge is supporting FoodShare Toronto and the Flemingdon Health Centre’s Community Grown Flemingdon: Vibrant Market Gardens and Community Owned Spaces in Flemingdon Park. As part of the City’s Community Engagement and Entrepreneurial Development (CEED) Garden pilot project, this initiative will test a new model for urban agriculture in hydro corridors by transforming under-utilized green space into a thriving community hub. FoodShare’s collaboration with local partners and the City will ensure the project’s long-term sustainability. In a dense, high-rise neighbourhood, this project will lay the foundation for a community-based urban farming model that could be replicated in cities across Canada.

Gardens for Nature Project: Restoring Urban Bird and Wildlife Habitat

Located in the Humber Arboretum, the Gardens for Nature Project will demonstrate how residents and community groups can successfully plan, create, and maintain gardens that support thriving populations of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife species. Illustrating that urban habitat creation efforts at any scale can provide meaningful benefits to birds, biodiversity and the environment. Gardens for Nature will engage diverse communities and train volunteer habitat stewards with the support of the Weston Family Parks Challenge.

Morningside Heights Community Farm

The Weston Family Parks Challenge is supporting Malvern Family Resources’ Morningside Heights Community Farm. As part of the City’s Community Engagement and Entrepreneurial Development (CEED) Garden pilot project, this initiative will provide residents in Scarborough with opportunities to grow organic food locally and to develop vibrant public space in an under-utilized hydro corridor. With an outdoor learning classroom and food market space, the farm will also offer opportunities for hands-on-learning and community economic development. The project will engage children, youth and families in nature-focused activities for years to come.

Aptus Teaching Landscape

A nature-focused educational environment and activity hub for students with complex disabilities and the greater community, the Aptus Teaching Landscape in North York is an enhanced learning green space that will include a fruit orchard, edible garden and mini-arboretum. Through the Weston Family Parks Challenge, education and stewardship opportunities will engage students and local residents in environmental programs as well as complement the City’s recreational improvements to an adjacent park.

Black Creek Community Farm

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is providing a grant over the next three years to the Black Creek Community Farm project. The funds will be used to restore woodlands, create a food forest and gardens, and provide community programming. “The farm is an exciting project that transforms a previously hidden piece of land into an incredible natural asset for the Jane-Finch neighbourhood and the residents of Toronto”, said Camilla Dalglish, Director of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. “We are delighted to support this innovative partnership between the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and Everdale that will transform this site and revitalize the community’s connection to nature.”

San Romanoway Revitalization Project

The Toronto Region Conservation Authority’s San Romanoway Outdoor Revitalization Project will transform lawns surrounding three apartment towers into vibrant community green space and serve as a model for similar tower communities. An orchard, vegetable gardens, and native plants and trees will increase biodiversity and connect the community to nature. In a densely populated neighborhood, a landscape skills training program and a small market will create income opportunities for residents. The results of this public, private, and non-profit partnership demonstrate how innovative solutions can be found to revitalize community green space.

William Burgess School

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is supporting Bringing Back Nature to William Burgess School with a grant to transform the schoolyard into a natural community gathering point for the entire neighbourhood. The funding will complete a multi-year effort that involves a partnership between the school, parents, the city councillor, and several non-profits who have been working for three years to bring their vision to life. The project will include a new natural playground, discovery trail and improve natural landscaping. “We’re happy to add The W. Garfield Weston Foundation as another partner in transforming William Burgess School into a green oasis for our community” said Alexandra Maric Jones, director of the Bringing Back Nature project at the school. “This generous gift from the Weston Foundation will allow us to complete the vision of a natural community gathering place which we’ve been working towards for 3 years.”

Youth and Community Natural Area Study and Stewardship at Rouge Park

The Weston Family Parks Challenge is supporting Friends of the Rouge Watershed’s Youth and Community Natural Area Study and Stewardship project. Through an innovative partnership with the Toronto District School Board, students will explore natural systems in designated Nature Study Areas on school grounds. Youth will increase their connection to nature by participating in field trips and stewardship events in various parks in Scarborough. The result of this public, private, non-profit partnership will demonstrate the impact of engaging youth in green space conservation.

Regent Park

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is supporting an innovative and collaborative partnership in Regent Park to engage the community with the City of Toronto’s newest park. The contribution of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation will support community engagement efforts to ensure the long-term sustainability of this new park space as part of the revitalization of the Regent Park neighbourhood. “The generous contribution of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation will ensure this new green space in the Regent Park neighbourhood will be off to a successful start when it opens in 2014” said Liz Curran, Community Food Centre Manager at CRC. “The funding being provided by the Weston Foundation will ensure that the local community is engaged with the wonderful new amenities in this park, which will become a community hub for all who live in the area.”

Ritchie Parkette

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is supporting improvements to natural surroundings at Ritchie Parkette with a grant provided through the Weston Family Parks Challenge, a big boost to this small park setting. The Rotary Club of Toronto, the Friends of Ritchie Parkette, and the Toronto Department of Parks, Forestry & Recreation will use the grant to rehabilitate the parkette’s natural environment, introduce wildlife education and programming.

Roseneath Park

Roseneath is a popular hub for families, young adults, seniors and other members of the community. The parkland was purchased by the City of Toronto approximately four years ago following the previous owner’s attempt to redevelop the site which caused the local community to protest and save the park. The project, in partnership with Arts for Children and Youth, focuses on enriching the park through coordinated eco-action and eco-art projects including a garden shed, an eco-art mosaic (community-built), eco-art workshops, tree plantings, flower plantings and erosion control. “We are very grateful of this support from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation”, said Kasia Briegmann-Samson of Friends of Roseneath Park. “This investment will help us to strengthen the community’s connection to nature by maximizing the “green” factor in a local park space surrounded by concrete.”

View full Recipient list

The Weston Family Parks Challenge is an initiative of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation

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