Green Line Implementation Plan already being put into action

With land in cities becoming scarce and expensive, we need to get creative about how we provide new parks for growing communities. By using existing land within an urban hydro corridor to create a linear park and trail, the Green Line in Toronto is an innovative way of creating new green space and pedestrian connections in neighbourhoods that need them. 

The Green Line started as a community initiative with an ideas competition in 2012 spearheaded by local resident Helena Grdadolnik of Workshop Architecture. Park People got involved in late 2013 to help build support for the idea at the City and lead events like community walks, photo exhibits, mural parties, pollinator gardens, and more.  Huge, heartfelt thanks to the many, many community members that contributed time, energy, and expertise over the last several years. 

All of this work helped push the project forward, harnessing community energy and political support to keep the dream of a connected linear park alive. We always believed that this project is important to the local communities through which it runs, but also in promoting a vision of what creative park thinking can accomplish. 

That work resulted in the City of Toronto hiring a team of consultants led by DTAH and Workshop Architecture in 2017 to produce a Green Line Implementation Plan–the final version of which was recently released and featured in CBC. Park People was a partner with the City on the plan, providing comments throughout the process.

An implementation plan was critical since the parks along the Green Line have only ever been planned and designed as single parks, not as a longer, cohesive public space. Creating a plan that laid out how to connect and improve the entire 5km together is key in building the Green Line over time. 

In fact, as we’ll outline below, two new parks are already scheduled to be designed and built as part of the plan, which is very exciting news!

The plan proposes…

What the Green Line could look like

The plan proposes the Green Line as a connected trail from Earlscourt Park in the west to just west of Spadina Road in the east. The trail would run through existing and new parks, across roadways using new signalized crossings, and through and around the existing parking lots east of Christie. In time, those parking lots could become new green spaces as parking needs change in the neighbourhood.

As an overall master plan, the plan’s goal was finding a way to stitch the entire 5km route together into something cohesive, safe, and beautiful. To do so, the plan includes design principles related to pathway design, materials, plantings, lighting, and furniture. 

While it does lay out some ideas for where specific amenities like dog parks, public art, and community gardens could be placed, the detailed park design and the placement of these features will happen through a separate public consultation process as those parks are being designed—just like other parks in Toronto. 

Green Line = parks + streets

When you have a 5km linear park that threads through neighbourhoods, including parking lots, and across roadways, you need to think about streets as much as about green space. The Green Line is about creating new and better green space to be sure, but it’s also, critically, about creating connections.

To do so, the plan proposes new pathways as well as six new signalized intersections so people won’t have to dart out through a gap in traffic to get from one park to another anymore–something that frequently happens today and creates unsafe conditions. The first of these traffic lights at Dovercourt and Geary is being installed this summer.

The plan also proposes a number of improvements to streets that run alongside the Green Line, including most significantly Geary and Bridgeman Avenues.

On Geary, for example, the plan proposes new traffic calming measures like narrowing the roadway, which also increases room for sidewalks, green space, and tree planting. This will help create a more inviting, walkable public realm for an area that is already a community hub with restaurants and services for this growing neighbourhood.

 

The Green Line is not your average park

The Green Line is often compared to New York’s High Line in the media, but in fact it’s nothing like it. While the High Line was built on a decommissioned elevated rail line, set apart from city streets, the Green Line must be built at ground level through an active electricity transmission corridor that crosses several roads. This presents opportunities to create a unique space, but also some very difficult challenges.

The land in the hydro corridor, including the current parks and parking lots, is actually owned by the Province of Ontario and operated by Hydro One. In order for the City to create new parks, it must license land from the Province and abide by Hydro One’s regulations related to safety and access in the hydro corridor–regulations that have become more stringent since the original parks were created in the corridor in the 1970s. 

For example, Hydro One’s technical requirements meant trees are only allowed to certain heights because of the high-tension wires overhead and amenities, like benches, need to be spaced out from the base of towers to provide access for maintenance vehicles. 

It also meant, unfortunately, that the pedestrian bridges over the roadways, dreamed up in the initial community-led ideas competition in 2012, were not allowed by Hydro One, despite the design team and City trying many different iterations of how they could work.

All of this is to outline both the challenge of constructing parks within active hydro corridors and the opportunity that the Green Line Implementation Plan provides in laying out a method for doing so, which could act as a lesson for other hydro corridor parks. 

The plan will take time to build, but new parks are coming soon

The Green Line was always going to be a long-term project, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t see big improvements to the Green Line within just a few short years. 

A few of the priority projects the plan targets to begin within three years include:

The City also just announced that the as the first step toward implementing the Green Line plan, the City’s Parks Forestry and Recreation division is moving forward with two of the park projects identified in the plan. 

PFR will engage in further public consultation, detailed design and tendering of two new parks: one on Geary Avenue which will expand the existing Geary Avenue Parkette and the other a new park in two sections flanking the hydro station on Macpherson Avenue near Davenport. Construction is anticipated to begin in late 2020 with completion in 2021-2022, pending approval of the capital budget.

Plans are great, but they are only as good as the budgets that support their implementation, so it’s great to see the City putting money into the plan to get new parks completed quickly.

Get Buzzed at the Bee Line Parade and Pageant

For the past several Sundays, I’ve found myself creating bee bodies from cardboard, painting yellow and black stripes, and cutting out insect wings with our friends from Clay and Paper Theatre in preparation for our Bee Line on the Green Line Parade and Pageant. The Festival happens on Sunday, June 18th in Bartlett Parkette and you can register now to be part of this grand Father’s Day rumpus.

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The costumes, props, and puppets for the parade and pageant are being created through community art workshops that have taken place on Sundays at 226 Geary Avenue between 11am and 5pm.

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The Bee Line on the Green Line Parade and Pageant will bring to life (larger than life) the work of nearly 30 community pollinator garden stewards who are helping to plant four new pollinator habitat gardens this spring in parks along the Green Line with Park People. It is a celebration of our pollinator friends and everything that buzzes, tweets, and flaps.

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People have stopped into the public art drop-in sessions with their kids to make flags, prints, and lend a hand in creating the giant bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that will populate the June 18 parade. What’s really cool is that people will be able to participate in the event by wearing some of the costumes and props that they helped make. If you ever wanted to be a giant butterfly or a big bee, now’s your chance!

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But this Sunday, June 11 is the last chance to drop-in and take part in bringing this festival to life through the work of the local community around the Green Line. “Bee” there or be square (sorry). So come by 226 Geary Avenue between

So come by 226 Geary Avenue between 11am and 5pm to make make some pollinator art that will be featured in a real-life parade!

Remember to come out on June 18th to the Bee Line on the Green Line Parade and Pageant to see all your work in action and be part of the festivities.

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A community garden with accessibility at its heart

The Green Line is a vision to create a 5km linear park and trail to connect communities through the Dupont hydro corridor. Read more about the project here and sign up as a supporter. Written by Friends of the Green Line member Erika Hennebury.

It’s a bucolic late-summer scene at the Frankel Lambert Community Garden. Bees drift between heavy sunflowers. Crickets (almost) drown out the street noise. The trees that line the garden cast cool shadows over the communal picnic table, where meetings and monthly potluck suppers are held, and the garden is heaving with ripe produce ready to harvest.

The distinctive sunflower mural at the eastern entrance to Frankel Lambert Park, where the garden is located, acts as a cheerful greeting. It was coordinated by retired art teacher Barbara Bunting and maintained by a team of senior artists from nearby Christie Gardens, a long-term care and retirement community.

Wherever you look you see the dedication and energy of local community members.

In 2008 Councillor Joe Mihevc and his staff held a community meeting at Christie Gardens to propose a community garden along the linear park just north of the corner of Dupont and Christie Streets. One year later shovels were in the ground and the Frankel Lambert Community Garden was born.

 

Councillor Mihevc’s support has been instrumental, offering help with permits and applications and helping to secure resources such as fencing, a shed (with a green roof), and access to water. Local community members and businesses pitched in too, donating building materials, expertise and labour to dig garden plots, build a compost bin and raised beds. They even helped to erect a weathervane as a memorial to a respected community member.

What makes Frankel Lambert Community Garden unique is its commitment to accessibility.

“We strive to ensure that the garden is a space that everyone who lives in the neighbourhood feels welcome”, says Charles Levkoe, one of the garden’s founding members. The garden, designed by a local architect and garden member, is composed of ground level and raised garden beds (for easier access), and carves a more organic path than many of the grid-like allotment gardens in the city.

 

As well as family and individual plots, the garden includes communal plots, lush landscaping of trees and plantings, and paths to stroll along. A recent expansion includes a pollinator garden that celebrates the Green Line.

 

“These kinds of projects, including day-to-day activities, highlight the value of the garden as a space for a wide range of people from the neighbourhood to come together and form relationships – not to mention grow and share amazing food”, says Levkoe. Membership is comprised of Christie Gardens community members, Fred Dowling Co-op members and residents from local Toronto Community Housing as well as private homes and apartments in the neighbourhood.

Zooming out on Green Line connections

Intro: The Green Line is a vision to create a 5km linear park and trail to connect communities through the Dupont hydro corridor. Read more about the project here and sign up as a supporter.

Zooming out on Green Line connections

One of the exciting things about the Green Line is how it can connect multiple communities from Davenport Village in the west to the Annex in the east. The Green Line runs through three City wards, nearby three others, and passes within or near approximately 11 resident association areas.

But if you zoom out from the Green Line you begin to see a number of other connections that thread out to other areas of the city.

In the west, there is the West Toronto Railpath, an off-road cycling and walking trail that ends just north of Dupont Street and travels down to College Street. While the Green Line doesn’t immediately connect with the rail path now, its a future possibility with the bike lanes on Davenport acting as the go-between. Currently, the City is working on plans for the second phase of the railpath, which will extend it down to King West. Once there, it will connect in with the planned Fort York Pedestrian Bridgeover the rail corridor, allowing people to travel down to the waterfront and access the great parks around Fort York.

There are also potential opportunities for public space improvements and connections to the Green Line with the recently announced Metrolinx project in theDavenport Diamond Overpass. This will elevate the GO tracks between Bloor and Dupont Street just west of Lansdowne, opening up space underneath for improvements. Right now a citizen’s committee is working with Metrolinx on what those could be.

Another connection is found in green space. The Green line starts at the bottom of Earlscourt Park at Davenport and Lansdowne, with the park acting as a green connection up to St. Clair Avenue West. From there, the Prospect Cemetery stretches all the way up to Eglinton, offering a large green northern connection to the Green Line.

In the east, the Green Line connects to the Shaw Street Bikeway, which travels south to King West, passing by a number of great parks along the way like Christie Pits, Fred Hamilton, Trinity Bellwoods and Stanley Park. It also acts as one connection to the Davenport Road bike lanes which roughly follow the route of the Green Line in the north.

When you put all these together, the Green Line acts as a needed off-street east-west connection to several already established or planned north-south routes that connect to both the downtown core, waterfront, and neighbourhoods to the north. Can you think of any others?

Green Line would serve neighbourhoods low in parkland

Intro: The Green Line is a vision to create a 5km linear park and trail to connect communities through the Dupont hydro corridor. Read more about the project here and sign up as a supporter.

Green Line would serve neighbourhoods low in parkland

In our last blog post, we took a look at some of the ways that the Green Line would connect in with the parks, trails, and bike lanes that surround it. This week, we wanted to explore how the Green Line would create new green space in several neighbourhoods that are low in parkland.

Currently, the City scores parkland by using Local Parkland Assessment Cells that divide up the city into areas based on barriers, such as rail lines, ravines, and high-speed roads. They then measure the level of parkland within those cells compared with the population of that area to see where it falls. Areas that are low in parkland (shown in red and peach) are prioritized for parkland acquisitions. Areas that are dark green and light green are areas that are already well served by parks.

While this method doesn’t provide a complete picture of parkland needs (it’s based solely on space provided, rather than whether those spaces actually serve community needs, for example), it does give us an indication of where existing park space might not be enough to satisfy the needs of residents.

What’s immediately clear is that neighbourhoods in the city’s core and midtown area are the ones that are in most need of more park space. This isn’t surprising considering how many people live in these neighbourhoods, with some of them containing many high-rise towers packing more people together to share limited park spaces.

The Green Line, shown in light blue on the map above, travels through several neighbourhoods that are low in parkland, falling within the two lowest categories of amount of parkland in the city.

One of the benefits of the Green Line is that it would take existing small parks within the hydro corridor and create one linear park and trail by connecting these together. This would ultimately create a “larger” park by linking all these spaces together, much like knocking down the walls in a house creates a larger room from multiple smaller ones.

The map above, which shows the west portion of the Green Line from Earlscourt Park to Christie Street, illustrates how this could be done by filling in some of the gaps that exist between current parks.

This would not only create those connections between communities and allow people to travel through a green corridor, but it would also add much needed parkland to neighbourhoods that need it by building from the parks we already have.

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