The three-year challenge which ran from 2014-2017, has transformed the way parks are understood, funded and operated in Toronto. The Weston Family Parks Challenge has created and lasting legacy.
Please note: This program is not currently active and applications are not being accepted. Learn More >
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.
CHECK OUT THE PROJECTS
Alex Wilson Community Garden 20th Anniversary Restoration
Youth and Community Natural Area Study and Stewardship at Rouge Park
Project: Restoring Urban Bird and Wildlife Habitat
Morningside Heights Community Farm
Community Grown Flemingdon: Vibrant Market Gardens and Community Owned Spaces
Franklin the Turtle's Habitat Restoration and Bring Back the Wild Program
Aptus Teaching Landscape
A Tale of Two Parks
Downsview Park Tallgrass Project
Gatineau Hydro Corridor Revitalization Phase II
Chester Le Diverse Community Garden Project
Pathways to Park 8: Oakdale Park
High Park Nature Centre Outdoor Urban Restoration Space (OURSpace)
Colonel Samuel Smith Park Improvement Project
The Learning Garden Hub at Panorama Park
San Romanoway Revitalization Project
Black Creek Community Farm
From Obscurity to Radiance at MacGregor Park
William Burgess School
Revitalizing Public Spaces at Thorncliffe Park
Scarborough Centre Butterfly Trail
When you hear the words “hydro corridor” it doesn’t necessarily stir up images of native grasses waving in the wind amongst wildflowers with delicate butterflies perched on their petals. And yet, for portions of the Gatineau hydro corridor in Toronto’s Scarborough district, that’s exactly what you will encounter.
This week, with new $25 million in funding announced from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, that portion of meadow is being extended, with the ultimate goal of creating “The Meadoway”—a complete meadowland trail and bike path from the Don River Valley to Rouge Park through Scarborough.
This follows a recent growth in philanthropic funding for parks and public space projects in Toronto with the $25 million by Wil and Judy Mathews to establish The Bentway and $340,000 from Ken and Eti Greenberg and The Balsam Foundation to support our recent Public Space Incubator.
The project started back in 2013 and 2014, as part of Park People’s Weston Family Parks Challenge program, funded by The W. Garfield Weston Foundation and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Through this program, funding was provided to the Toronto Region Conservation Authority to transform mowed grass in a hydro corridor into a thriving habitat for butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.
The project created over 124 acres of meadowland through partnering with 3,000 people from nearby schools and community groups to help with the planting about 10,000 wildflowers and grasses. You can find more about this project in our Breaking New Ground report, which highlights the learnings from the Weston Family Parks Challenge.
Biking through the hydro corridor, as I did in the summer of 2015, the impact upon reaching the meadow was immediate. The air buzzed with insects, things began to smell sweet, and I slowed down to take in my surroundings. I wasn’t the only one either. Whereas the kilometres of hydro corridor trail I had travelled had been mostly empty, snaking around hydro towers in large grassy areas, the bike path through the meadowland was active with people.
As we’ve written about in our Making Connections report, the parks of the 21st century will not look like the parks of years past. As our cities continue to grow and densify, we must get creative in finding new space for parks and focus on tying these spaces together into a connected system across our city. Parks can be places, but they can also be great connectors. Our work on another hydro corridor park and trail project, The Green Line, is a good example of that philosophy.
The Meadoway is forward-thinking on both counts. It revitalizes kilometres of mowed hydro corridor grass with little biodiversity value into a thriving natural habitat that creates a new, natural amenity for people. But it also helps tie communities together through green space with a trail that will ultimately connect people right across Scarborough. When it’s complete, you will be able to ride your bike from Rouge Park through The Meadoway to the Lower Don Trail and down to the central waterfront—almost entirely through off-road trails. That’s pretty astounding.
With a lot of the focus in the last few years on big downtown projects such as Rail Deck Park and The Bentway—both much-needed, innovative public space projects—it’s important that we ensure we’re improving parks and connecting people across the city.
We’re excited at the possibilities of The Meadoway thanks to this generous gift from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation and encourage you to hop on your bike or take a walk through the existing meadowland this spring!
Toronto has a massive new park called The Meadoway. It stretches 16 km across the city, from downtown #Toronto all the way to Rouge National Urban Park! What will you do in The Meadoway? #MyMeadoway #Scarborough @TorontoComms @RougePark @TRCA_news @LivingCityFDN pic.twitter.com/GBag03GaM9
— TheMeadoway (@TheMeadoway) April 11, 2018
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.”
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.
A Park of Many Paths is a one-year project to establish new green infrastructure on the grounds of Mabelle TCHC in Etobicoke. MABELLEarts will work with landscape architects, artists, community leaders and local residents to construct and plant new rain and community gardens in the Mabelle Park. The rain gardens will consist of native plants and shrubs that will serve to divert storm run-off water away from sewers and into the often-dry Mabelle Park. The community garden will host native edible plants such as wild leeks, garlic, and mint to both increase the variety of native flora in the park and to provide a basis for some of MABELLEarts’s community engagement and educational activities. “This support from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation is critical to this innovative project on a community housing owned greenspace,” said Leah Houston, Artistic Director of MABELLEarts. “It will help us work with community members of all ages and backgrounds to transform a neglected greenspace within a high-density community housing complex into a dynamic, natural park and creative community hub.”
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.”
Toronto and Region Conservation’s (TRCA) Scarborough Centre Butterfly Trail Phase I will be supported by The W. Garfield Weston Foundation Weston Family Parks Challenge. Over the next three years a grant will be used to plant a native wildflower butterfly meadow along a 3.5 km stretch of hydro corridor in central Scarborough which includes new recreational trails for residents to enjoy. See also: Gatineau Hydro Corridor Revitalization Phase II.
The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is supporting the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee and FoodShare to transform R.V. Burgess Park into an outdoor natural classroom in the heart of one of Canada’s most dense and diverse neighbourhoods. The funding from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation will enable new Canadians to learn and be inspired about conservation and healthy living and open a gateway to exploring the vast ravine system in the Don Valley. “R.V. Burgess Park is an essential part of the Thorncliffe Park community, and the support of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation will bring an appreciation for this essential green space to members of our community” said Sabina Ali, Project Coordinator at the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee. “Neighbours will participate in every aspect of the natural environment, including planting, stewardship, clean-ups and education, and will have a new appreciation for conservation and healthy living as a result.”
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.”
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.
The Weston Family Parks Challenge is supporting MacGregor Park, From Obscurity to Radiance, an innovative partnership between the Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club and the MacGregor Park Art Club. Education and stewardship programs will help transform this underutilized park into vibrant community green space. Local youth and community members will engage in hands-on environmental programs in three new teaching gardens. This project will demonstrate the impact that nature-focused programs and events can have on connecting communities to their green space.
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.”
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.
The Rexdale Community Health Centre’s Panorama Park: The Learning Garden Hub project will bring together innovative partners to engage local youth and residents in hands-on education programs in the community garden at Panorama Park. In a densely populated neighbourhood, this project will provide jobs, youth training and park stewardship opportunities. This initiative demonstrates the impact that nature-focused programs and events can have on connecting communities to their green space.
Humber Arboretum’s Colonel Sam Smith Park Improvements and Programs will bring together diverse partners such as the City of Toronto, Friends of Sam Smith Park, and Citizens Concerned About the Etobicoke Waterfront to improve wetland habitat and create a new outdoor classroom. Environmental programs and stewardship opportunities will connect youth and community members to nature by raising awareness of the importance of providing and maintaining natural areas for birds and other wildlife. Public, private and non-profit partnerships will ensure the long-term sustainability of the project, enhancing one of Toronto’s most popular birding destinations for future generations.
High Park Nature Centre’s Outdoor Urban Restoration Space (OURSpace) will bring together innovative partners to create a nature-focused outdoor classroom. Through hands-on education opportunities, High Park Nature Centre and the community will restore an under-utilized area of the park back to the original oak savannah ecosystem. Public, private and non-profit partners will enable the long-term sustainability of the project, facilitating the larger vision of a leading urban nature hub in the historic Forest School building in High Park.
The Jane and Finch Boys and Girls Club and Green Change have formed an innovative partnership to launch Pathways to Park 8: Oakdale Park. This pilot project will test a new model for investing in community-led environmental rehabilitation of under-utilized parks, ravines and open spaces. In a densely populated neighbourhood, this initiative will bring together a wide range of partners to improve green space and to provide programs to connect youth and residents to nature. This model has the potential to inspire the transformation of green spaces adjacent to other Boys and Girls Club locations in the Jane and Finch community.
For Youth Initiative’s Ki Bimaadiziwin means, “The Land is the Good Life,” in Anishnaabemowin-Ojibwe. This project involves an innovative partnership between For Youth Initiative and Naadmaagit Ki Group (NKG), with additional participation by the TRCA. The Weston Mount Dennis community will have an opportunity to learn about an aboriginal approach to stewardship by improving natural habitat at six sites along the Humber River. This innovative new model will promote long-term community engagement in the stewardship of nature.
Agincourt Community Services is launching the Chester Le Diverse Community Garden Project. This initiative will expand the existing garden and connect newcomer populations to nature through innovative environmental programs in four different languages. Public, private and non-profit partnerships will sustain the garden and the nature-focused programs for years to come.
The Alex Wilson Community Garden’s 20th Anniversary Restoration project will connect residents to nature in a changing and intensifying downtown community. In preparation for the garden’s 20th anniversary, 43 native species of grasses, vines, shrubs, and trees will be planted, improving habitat for birds and pollinators. This unique and successful partnership model will sustain another 20 years of volunteer stewardship and could be an inspiration for other projects around the city.
The Weston Family Parks Challenge is supporting the second phase of the TRCA’s ongoing naturalization of the Gatineau Hydro Corridor in Scarborough. This phase is part of the larger Weston Family Butterfly Meadow project with a vision to build and naturalize a greenway trail connecting the Lower Don River Trail to Rouge Park. Building on the 88-acres of naturalization to date, diverse partners and local community members will work together to plant a 25-acre native wildflower butterfly habitat. Through education and stewardship programs, community members will be encouraged to connect with nature, take active ownership of the space and maintain it for years to come. See also: Scarborough Centre Butterfly Trail.
An estimated 3% of Ontario’s Tallgrass habitat is all that remains of this vanishing ecosystem. To help address this challenge, the Weston Family Park Challenge is supporting Tallgrass Ontario’s five-acre prairie at Downsview Park. This project will educate local school children and a city-wide audience about the importance of biodiversity and habitat preservation. Strong partnerships will support the planting of native species, community engagement and the long-term maintenance of the site.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
About Weston Family Parks Challenge
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.