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Making the grade

April 8th, 2014 · No Comments

Keeping tabs on the urban landscape

By: Beth McKay

Bobbie Rosenfeld Park and Salmon Run Fountain

Between the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre

Time: 1:15 pm

Grade: B (Last year: B+)

Reason: Nestled in between the CN tower and the Rogers Centre, this park pays tribute to Toronto’s waterfront through artist Susan Schelle’s salmon water fountain. In spite of the nearby two iconic skyline landmarks, the park is a reminder that Toronto is so much
more than just a bustling city, as it also has a magnificent waterfront. This park is a nice break from the loud traffic and offers a serene space to relax.

What’s there: Sixty bronze salmon can be seen vaulting up over a large piece of glass, and are accompanied by 4,000 gallons of water. Adults and children alike have thrown pennies into the fountain, and there are many benches which invite walkers to sit and take a break. There is very little garbage.

Suggestions for improvement: Introducing some greenery into this park would make the area more appealing and natural looking.

Fun Fact: The Salmon Run Fountain was installed in 1991 when the park was renamed Bobbie Rosenfeld Park in honour of one of Canada’s most famous female athletes.

Olympic Park

Bremner Boulevard, near Metro Convention Centre South Building

Time: 2:00 pm

Grade: B (Last Year: A-)

Reason: This park is very loud and very exposed. There is construction happening directly across the street which makes it difficult to hear. Though the park backs onto the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, it is on a corner and therefore open to traffic noise and the hustle and bustle of Toronto life. However, it is a nice green space in a very industrialized area.

What’s there: There is a large circle of green grass surrounded by a paved path. There are well maintained hanging baskets around the perimeter of the park, and a few trees and vegetation.

Suggestions for improvement: Perhaps a fresh fence could be installed between the park and the road. Or, a tree line could act as a fence which would make the park more secluded and much less noisy.

Stanley Park

King Street, between Stafford and Walnut streets

Time: 12:00 pm

Grade: A (Last year: A)

Reason: This park is clean and well maintained. University-aged students laugh while jogging around the area which creates a welcoming and vivacious atmosphere. A baseball game was being played during my visit, and a family was attempting to have a
picnic, but the bugs were being relentless, so bring bug spray!

What’s there: A baseball diamond is located near the well used, yet well maintained playground. There is a shallow wading pool that has aesthetically pleasing safety barriers protecting it from run-away basketballs.

Suggestions for improvement: More grass and more trees which would provide privacy.

Victoria Memorial Square Park

Bathurst and Wellington streets

Time: 11:30 am

Grade: A (Last year: C)

Reason: This shaded square was once a military cemetery created in the late eighteenth century. There are hundreds of soldiers still buried in the ground and a few gravestone markers remain. The park is blanketed by shade and a sombre vibe, which makes it a great reading or contemplation destination.

What’s there: The focal point of this park is a large bust atop a monument. The bust is unnamed but appears to be of an older soldier. A wide paved walkway peacefully meanders through the park and, in some areas, is lined by lampposts. There are a number of original gravestones off to the side which have been preserved and arranged for viewing. This park is great for walking your dog, taking a nap, or playing guitar. A man was doing some tricks on his skateboard for a small gathering of his peers, but respectfully stopped performing the tricks as I walked by, which was very courteous.

Suggestions for improvement: It depends on one’s opinion of what constitutes a park. This space could easily hold a playground or swings although the introduction of these elements would hinder the reverie the park provides.

St. Andrew’s Playground

Corner of Adelaide and Brant Streets

Time: 11:15 am

Grade: B+ (Last year: N/A)

Reason: During my visit, this park had uncountable children in it belonging to many different daytime camp groups. It is a wonderfully shaded area; however, with so many people present it was hard even to walk in a straight line.

What’s there: The park is fenced, clean, and very breezy; a nice relief on a hot summer day. The playground has multiple slides and appeared to be very modern. There is a paved pavilion, and benches are scattered throughout. This would be a great park to enjoy a picnic and play a game of frisbee or tag. There is a nice large dog run in the far corner.

Suggestions for improvement: Try to avoid the area at times when so many children are there because of day camps. The park is probably very serene and enjoyable, but when it is blanketed with kids, it is not very calming. Fewer pigeons would also be a benefit.

Clarence Square

Spadina Avenue and Wellington Street

Time: 11:45 am

Grade: B (Last year: N/A)

Reason: Clarence Square is located in a tight niche. It is quite noisy on the side closest to Spadina, and there is quite a bit of litter. Yet one must applaud Toronto for preserving such a large green space in a considerably busy area.

What’s there: There is a never-ending supply of shade in this park as large trees grow abundantly throughout. Though there is litter, it is not because the city has not supplied enough garbage cans as they are all over the park, silently encouraging pedestrians to use them. Long benches can be found towards the centre of the park, and people of all ages occupy them.

Overheard: “I wish he’d just hurry up and pop the question already!” one woman exclaimed to what appeared to be her close friend.

Suggestions for improvement: Perhaps the city could hire someone to help better maintain this park. It has so much potential, but because of its hectic location, it is subject to lots of garbage which limits its usage. I do not recommend having a picnic on the grass in this park!

Roundhouse Park

Corner of Lower Simcoe Street and Bremner Boulevard, near the Gardiner Expressway

Time: 2:15 pm

Grade: A (Last year: N/A)

Reason: This is such a fantastic area. Though Roundhouse Park is right across the street from Olympic Park, this green area trumps its neighbour on so many levels, particularly in the noise department. It is above street level which decreases car noise and is extremely spacious.

What’s there: Roundhouse Park was created in 1997 and is home to a live steam miniature railway. There is also a fully operational 120-foot-long locomotive turntable, and a collection of full-sized railroad equipment. Old railroad tracks lead through the park, which are remnants of Toronto’s early industrialization. Trees surround the
perimeter creating a sound barrier, and there are a few benches as well. There is a nice paved walkway throughout.

Suggestion for improvement: More people! This park is a great place to learn about Toronto’s history, but it is also quiet enough to read or even take a nap.

Isabella Valancy Crawford Park

The corner of Front and John streets

Time: 12:55 pm

Grade: C (Last year: N/A)

Reason: It is a far stretch to call this small slab of concrete a park. In its defence, it is a nice oasis away from busy Front Street, but there are so many businessmen and businesswomen rushing to meetings or grabbing lunch at the hotdog vendor, that it is far from relaxing.

What’s there: There is a large concrete staircase leading up to different buildings as this park is nestled between two office buildings. Seating consists of concrete sidings that double as planters. There are gardens of ivy at the base of a few young trees which appear to be growing out of the concrete. The park does have a nice entrance as it is directly below the CN tower.

Suggestions for improvement: There is not much to do with this small amount of space. It might be nice to remove some of the concrete and plant grass; however, it would likely be trampled by the busy foot traffic. Perhaps some benches.

Osler Playground

Argyle Street, just west of Ossington Avenue

Time: 3:30 pm

Grade: A (Last year: A-)

Reason: This playground is nicely fenced in, so if your kids or dogs make a run for it, they will not get to the street! The park is a child’s playground dream.

What’s there: There is a large playground set complete with swings and a teeter-totter, and even a wading pool; so bring your bathing suit! Shade blankets some areas due to mature trees and there are benches so parents can watch their kids play.

Suggestions for improvement: Not much has changed since last summer, as this park still needs better bike parking. Bikes have been locked to the fence which is noticeably an inconvenience as people’s bikes are tangled together.

Overheard: “Weeeeeeeeeee” a young boy squealed as he played on the teeter-totter.

Trinity Bellwoods Park

West of Ossington, between Dundas and Queen streets

Time: 5:15 pm

Grade: A (Last year: A+)

Reason: This park promises hours of endless fun, and you can literally get lost in its tall trees, rolling hills, and shaded grass.

What’s there: Trinity Bellwoods, if you haven’t already heard, is the envy of all other parks in the area. There is a beach volleyball court, outdoor hockey rinks, a playground, greenhouses, an off-leash dog park, a fire pit, and so much more. Oh, and did I mention countless trails? There is also plenty of shade to rest and read, or sunny patches to work on your tan.

Interesting fact: This park has been in the media lately due to excessive noise and the distribution of police tickets in response to drunken behaviour. Though it is common for people to bring a bottle of wine to a picnic in the park, currently the police presence has been stronger and you may get a ticket for having a casual alcoholic beverage.

Suggestions for improvement: A tree line on Crawford Street would help to buffer the late-night noise.

George Ben Park

Ossington Avenue, just north of Dundas Street West

Time: 4:00 pm

Grade: C (Last year: C-)

Reason: This park is located directly beside St. Luke’s elementary school and because of its small size, it looks as though it is the school’s personal playground. Though it is an open area, it is not as aesthetically pleasing as most parks in the area.

What’s there: There is a pathway through the park which connects Ossington to Roxton, and it is accentuated by a few benches which have seen better days. There is a field that could be used for soccer or a game of tag, and there is also a baseball diamond.

Suggestions for improvement: This area has the ingredients to become a great park, it just currently lacks charisma. With a few trees, a garden, and maybe a couple of new updates to the benches and baseball diamond, this could be an inviting space. It needs more people!

Linear Park North and South

Blue Jays Way and Spadina Avenue

Time: 10:00 am

Grade: C+ (Last year: D+)

Reason: Train tracks run parallel to this odd but amusing park, which demonstrates that it was once a functional place that has fallen into a bit of disarray. There is very little green space, and people seem to flock to it.

What’s there: The first item to catch my eye was the monument commemorating Chinese railroad workers. To take in this monument while watching trains chug along was somewhat of a fascinating moment. There are two large rocks at the entrance to Blue Jays Way that add landscaping to a somewhat drab area. Though this park may not have the colourful qualities of others, it holds railroad history and naturally displays it in a grey, concrete, and industrialized way.

Suggestions for improvement: More people. Also, the park would benefit from greenery simply to please the eye, and also to give visitors a place to sit down and rest.

Tags: General