TD Park People Grants Program grows to foster more community events across Canada

TORONTO, January 16, 2018

Park People and TD Bank Group are thrilled to announce that the TD Park People Grants Program has officially opened for 2019 funding submissions. This year, the program will expand to two new cities and will provide essential funding to support 75 community groups and 225 park-based events in Metro Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax Regional Municipality.

In 2018, TD Park People Grant Program supported 155 events in green spaces across Canada. Three of those events were hosted by Hives for Humanity, a Vancouver non-profit that builds resilient communities through beekeeping, that hosted a series of bee-themed walks in urban green spaces close to the city’s Downtown Eastside. “The skills and understanding the 30 participants developed, by interacting with bees and plants in urban green spaces, serve as a foundation for building a deeper respect for the natural world, empowering action, and connecting people to each other in community.” says Sarah Common, the organization’s Co-Founder.

“It’s been proven that well-programmed parks are key to realizing the benefits of our shared green spaces.  With TD’s support, we’ll help increase the positive impacts of parks across Canadian neighbourhoods through outdoor events for everyone to enjoy,” said Dave Harvey, Executive Director of Park People.

“Green spaces help build healthy, vibrant communities for everyone to enjoy,” said Carolyn Scotchmer, Executive Director of TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.  “As part of TD’s global corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment, we’re proud to support accessible and inclusive events that help build stronger ties within communities and foster a deeper connection with nature.”

Starting today, Qualified organizations and community groups that have experience hosting accessible, sustainable park events are encouraged to apply to receive a $2,000 grant to host three events in their local parks or green spaces between Earth Day, April 20, 2019, and New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2019. The application process is simple, and TD and Park People have developed a number of resources to help groups plan and host engaging community park events in green spaces. Deadline: March 4, 2019

About Park People

Park People supports and mobilizes people to help them activate the power of parks to improve quality of life in cities across Canada. 

About TD Global Corporate Citizenship

TD has a long-standing commitment to enriching the lives of its customers, colleagues and communities. As part of its corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment, TD is targeting CDN $1 billion (US $775 million) in total by 2030 towards community giving in four areas critical to opening doors for a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow – Financial Security, Vibrant Planet, Connected Communities and Better Health. Through The Ready Commitment TD aspires to link its business, philanthropy and human capital to help people feel more confident – not just about their finances, but also in their ability to achieve their personal goals in a changing world. For further information, visit td.com/thereadycommitment

For other stories about successful grant applicants from 2018 see:

 

 

It’s the last weekend of summer, so here’s what to do in parks

It’s going to be beautiful, hot, and sunny–basically the summer we didn’t really have all crammed into the last two weekend days before Autumn starts. We were on Metro Morning today to talk about how to make the most of this gorgeous weekend by exploring Toronto’s parks. Missed the interview? No problem, we’ve also compiled a list that includes what we talked about–and a bit more we didn’t get to mention.

Guild Park & Gardens, Scarborough

Part outdoor sculpture museum, part nature trail, part historic building and restaurant, Guild Park is one of Toronto’s most unique parks. Formerly an artist colony, it features remnants of 19th and 20th century buildings demolished in Toronto before we decided to protect little things like heritage. You can see the columns from the Bank of Toronto building, demolished to make way for the modernist TD Centre, reconfigured as a greek theatre. Well worth a visit.

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Rouge Beach, Scarborough

Toronto is a waterfront city. Don’t believe us? Check out one of the amazing parks and beaches along our huge stretch of lakefront. Rouge Beach, right at the border with Pickering and at the mouth of the Rouge River, is a great one to explore. Just a short walk from the Rouge Hill GO Station, you’ll find trails, rocky breakwaters, bricks rolled smooth by the lake, and a nice sandy beach. Bring your sunscreen.

Humber River Trail, Etobicoke

If you want to stay cool, there’s no better way that dipping down into one of Toronto’s many ravines and going for a walk in a shady green tunnel. The trail along the Humber River is one of our favourites because it takes you top to bottom in Toronto, with only a few interruptions in the trail along the way. Lace up your walking shoes or bump up your bike tires and head out.

Edwards Gardens, North York

One of the city’s stunning garden parks (the others are Allan Gardens and Rosetta McClain Gardens), Edwards Gardens is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll through a manicured landscape. It also houses the Toronto Botanical Gardens and has a cafe on site in case you get peckish.

Scarborough Butterfly Trail, Scarborough 

This 80-acre butterfly meadow was created by the TRCA through a grant from the Weston Family Parks Challenge, a program Park People administered. It’s a beautiful naturalization of a hydro corridor trail and it’s the perfect time to go to see a bunch of Monarch butterflies flitting around. If you want a bit of a tour, you’re in luck. You can join a walk with MP Salma Zahid on Saturday, September 16 from 11am – 1pm. Register here.

Trillium Park, downtown 

Toronto’s newest waterfront park is also one of its most stunning, with beautiful views of downtown Toronto and grassy hillsides to lounge on. It’s also one of, if not the only, waterfront park near the downtown where you can actually get down close to the water. It’s connected to the Martin Goodman Trail, so it’s a perfect pitstop on a larger waterfront bike ride.

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Grange Park, downtown

A well-worth-the-wait revitalization of this park was just unveiled this summer and it’s everything we could have hoped for and more. With the AGO as a dramatic blue sky backdrop, this is the perfect spot for a green reprieve from a day of downtown shopping. The park also features one of the coolest playgrounds in Toronto, which looks like its own art piece to accompany the Henry Moore sculpture that now lives in the park.

 

Events

 

If more structured fun is what you’re after, then there’s a host of amazing events and activities that are happening around the city. Here’s a few of our favourites.

City Cider, Spadina House (Sept 17, 12pm – 5pm)

A fundraiser for the lovely non-profit Not Far From the Tree, which salvages our city’s fruits, this event features live music, food, games for kids, and of course fresh-pressed cider — both alcoholic and non. Also included are tours of Spadina House, one of the city’s heritage sites.

On Common Ground, Fort York Historic Site & The Bentway (Sept 15 – 17)

A mutli-cultural fest at the Fort York Historic Site and the forthcoming Bentway — one of Toronto’s most creative public space projects that will create repurpose space under the Gardiner Expressway as a linear public space. The festival features, dance, music, food, and of course tours of The Bentway.

OpenStreetsTO, Yonge & Bloor Streets (Sept 17, 10am – 2pm)

Bike, run, walk, roll, jump, skip, and play in the middle of Bloor and Yonge Street as the streets are closed to cars and opened up to people from 10am until 2pm on Sunday, August 17. Experience the city in a way that you never have before.

Butterflyway Parade, Kew Beach (Sept 17, 1pm – 6pm)

Celebrate our pollinator friends at this parade and party along the Beach boardwalk from Woodbine to Kew Gardens. This event is put on by the David Suzuki Foundation as part of their Butterflyway Project, which seeks to create more natural habitat for pollinators in cities. There will be music, crafts, food, a short film, and, of course, a parade.

Creating a park plan for downtown Toronto: Power to the People

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This is the third in a trilogy about TOCore, the City of Toronto’s initiative to create a parks and open space master plan for the downtown (among other related planning things). In the last two posts I broke down the challenges with buying parkland and the need for flexible design.

Pretend you’re at a community consultation for park improvements. (I mean, what else would you be doing on a Monday night, right?) There’s a sprinkling of people in the room, mostly adults from the neighbourhood. The landscape architect is at the front of the room gesturing with her Pilot Fineliner at three different concepts on poster boards and asking what you think. Should the pathway curve this way or that? Do you like this slide or this climbing structure? How about this bench?

You place little stickers on the things you like and then you go home, pour yourself a bottle of wine, and fire up Netflix (may I suggest Master of None?).

But is that the best we can do?

We have all these super-engaged people in a room together all nerding-out about the park and yet the conversation is almost always only about design. But what happens after the ribbon is cut on that new park with its curving pathways, slide, and bench? How do community members stay involved?

We should use the opportunity in park consultations to engage community members in more long-term direct involvement the park, like developing a programming and engagement plan led by local residents and organizations.

What kind of programming do people want to see? What organizations are nearby that could assist? A community health centre? A yoga studio? Who are the users of the park? Local schools? A nearby homeless shelter? How can local community members be involved? Can they adopt a new tree and help water it? Tend a garden? Lead nature programming for kids? Organize community picnics? A massive flash mob of people silently reading on blankets (my dream)?

These programming and engagement plans would really come in handy because…

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We are using our parks more and more

As the City’s Downtown Parks Study found, the number of permits issued for parks has gone up every single year since 2005–not surprising given the population growth we’ve seen. But it also means our parks are more and more active with more and more people. People want to use parks in new and different ways than previously. For cultural activities, for movie nights, for farmer’s markets. Demand on park space has never been higher. This is great…

…until it’s not

We go to parks for social reasons, but we also go to parks to get away from people and be in nature. The city can be a crowded, loud, hard place sometimes and the neighbourhood park is a good place to sit on some grass and read a book for a few hours without anyone else disturbing you. Seriously, all you moms and dads with screaming gaggles of three-year olds in tow, do you really need to set up your children’s birthday party right next to the guy quietly reading under a tree?

Um, anyway

Sorry.

So it’s all about balance

Right. It’s this balance–between active programming and passive uses–that a community-led programming and engagement plan could help maintain. In partnership, of course, with the City, who are the park permit gatekeepers.

Oh, right. Those

Technically, if you want to host a community event in a park you need a permit. Currently that’ll cost you about $120 for the lowest tier. It can be a real barrier, both financial and psychological, to community members hosting activities for their neighbourhood. I’ve pulled a few permits. It’s not exactly an easy experience, even for someone who knows parks relatively well (ok, who am I kidding, I love drawing waste management maps).

So shouldn’t we just get rid of permits?

Well, no. Permits are needed to help the City balance use of public space to make sure that we all get an equitable opportunity to enjoy it. This way your acoustic music festival and drum circle (shudder) doesn’t clash with my Patsy Cline-themed artisanal hotdog cook-off (don’t ask). They’re also a source of revenue that help maintain our parks.

Ok, so…

I think we need a new class of permits that recognize the limited capacities of many community groups and encourage the kind of fun, social activities that make our neighbourhood parks great. Call it a Community Event Permit.

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This could build on the City’s newly introduced free art and music-related permits will allow local musicians and artists to better animate parks and promote themselves. Look for my interpretive dance on the effects of amalgamation on Toronto coming to a park near you.

But, seriously, a Community Event Permit could be either free or set at a much-reduced price. It could be limited to local community groups and capped at 75 attendees so that maintenance issues are minimal. It’s totally do-able.

All of these ideas apply not just to downtown, but the whole city.

In short, it’s all getting people more directly involved

And not just when you have some money for new designed elements, but in the ongoing management and operation of the park–both in creating programming that brings people together and in creating a plan that helps manage the effects of that programming.

Dufferin Grove, the closest we’ve gotten in Toronto to a community-managed park, does this well. You’ll find friday night dinners, campfires, and a number of other community-focused programming.

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These volunteer-led park friends groups, of which there are over 100 in Toronto, are a great way to tap into local energy around a park. Some of these groups are doing the kind of work I’ve talked about here, but it would be nice to see this embedded more directly into the way we think about “engagement” and “consultation” in Toronto’s parks.

Because who better to involve in a park than the people who live and breathe it everyday?

 

photos by Park People except the movie night, which was the Canadian Film Centre

This post is written by Jake Tobin Garrett. Jake is a writer and wanderer living in Toronto who works as manager of policy and research for Park People.

 

TIFF In Your Park in 2015

This summer Park People and TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) piloted TIFF in Your Park, an event series celebrating TIFF’s 40th anniversary, in collaboration with ten community groups across the GTA to bring movie nights to parks via Community Games Festivals. Each Festival consisted of a variety activities promoting healthy and active living as well as showcasing current park programming initiatives within each community. The summer long event series totalled over 3000 attendees and concluded on September 4th at Prairie Drive Park.

David Carey, Director of Government & Foundation Relations and Philanthropy at TIFF, noted the importance of teaming up with local partners for this project: “like Park People, we think that when communities get involved, parks get better. There’s something very special about watching a film outdoors; sharing a communal cinematic experience with your neighbours. In addition to acting as meeting places and recreation hubs, Toronto’s parks and green spaces make for pretty great cinemas too”.

To complete the Community Games Festivals experience, attendees were also given a staple movie snack – popcorn! For Joseph Villegas, owner of the Toronto Popcorn Company, it was important to be involved: “Toronto Popcorn Company is a business that was inspired by our dear city’s diversity. Being an immigrant myself, I am very fortunate to have been able to be given the opportunity to jump start a small business It’s our own little way of reciprocating the warmth and acceptance that this wonderful city has offered us”.

Overall, the program has received positive response throughout. In addition to providing local residents the experience of a new type of park programming, it also allowed them the opportunity to build a sense of community. Anthony Rampersad, a Community Leader of Scarborough Village, said: “Apart from looking at concrete walls and sitting at home all day we were able to experience engaging with the community, being outside enjoying nature and experience what the community has to offer. Having this event makes you understand who you are living next to. It gives you a connection. I feel being in a community of apartments it limits you because you cannot go and meet people and build relationships. This event does that.”

Finally, we would like to thank the Toronto Popcorn Company, Kernels Popcorn Limited, Toronto Foundation, Friends of the Games, and the Toronto International Film Festival.

TIFF in Your Park returns in 2016. Stay tuned for details on how you can get your community involved by joining our mailing list.

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