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Grading our greenspace

July 31st, 2015 · No Comments

Steel leaves welded onto the Toronto Transit Commission venting grills at Matt Cohen Park add to the park’s theme of balancing nature and urban living.

Steel leaves welded onto the Toronto Transit Commission venting grills at Matt Cohen Park add to the park’s theme of balancing nature and urban living.

Park marks

The return of summer also marks the return of Grading our Greenspace, The Annex Gleaner’s annual parks review. In this popular feature, we visit local parks and rate them on factors like amenities, cleanliness, and ambience. In part one, we rate eight parks, noting when we visited each one, and featuring our favourite overheard bon mots. Let us know what you think of our assessment by dropping us a line at gleanerpub@ gmail.com. All reviews and photographs are by Justine Ricketts.

 

Matt Cohen Park

Spadina Avenue and Bloor Street West

Time: 12:00 p.m.

Grade: C+ (last year C)

Reason to go: The park is conveniently located at Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue and is immediately adjacent to the western flank of University of Toronto Schools (UTS). Plaques line the pathway of the park, featuring excerpts from the work of Toronto author Matt Cohen, for whom the park was named. It is an outdoor lounge for UTS students to sit and talk. Huge domino-shaped stone seats and beautiful steel leaves bring artistry to the area. The winding pathways, tall trees, and abundance of flowers create a pleasing aesthetic. Unfortunately, on the day of this review, the smell of tobacco, the use of profanity, and litter were apparent. The loud sounds of traffic can also be heard around the park due to its close proximity to the busy drivers on Bloor Street West.

Overheard: “You’re not the boss, you’re not the manager, so give me my beer and get out of my face.”

Fact: Named in 2001 to honour the late Matt Cohen, who was a long-time resident of the Bloor-Spadina neighbourhood. In his 1999 memoir, Typing: A Life in 26 Keys, Cohen described Spadina Avenue as “the centre of the universe”.

 

Taddle Creek Park

Bedford Road at Lowther Avenue

Time: 9:40 a.m.

Grade: A+ (last year A)

Reason to go: The park is well maintained and it is a quiet area for people to relax and enjoy the sounds of birds chirping and children playing. There are a lot of mature trees surrounding the park with a backdrop of red brick Victorian homes that add to its visual appeal. The ground is free of litter and the metal benches are spotless. This well-constructed park is accompanied by a huge steel fountain that sits surrounded by lush greenery. The playground is equipped with multiple slides, swings, climbing bars, and a sliding pole. Often, children can be seen playing in the sandbox, with a variety of toys from beach balls to toy trucks.

Overheard: “No Granny! I can go down the slide by myself!”

Fact: The park is named after Taddle Creek, a lost river that is buried under our streets today. It once flowed south from Bloor Street, passing the University of Toronto campus and the Royal Conservatory, where it continued and formed McCaul’s pond, named after John McCaul, the first president of University of Toronto.

 

Huron Street Playground

Huron Street and Lowther Avenue

Time: 11:40 a.m.

Grade: B- (last year A)

Reason to go: There are not many reasons to go to this park. It is unkempt, the grass is sparse, and in its place is dirt. The park is completely fenced and is small-dog friendly, but there is already a graffiti problem on the playground equipment as well as on the storage room nearby. There are only two benches, which provide insufficient seating, and several bird carcasses were spotted on the day of this review. It’s shocking to see such a poorly maintained park in this otherwise quaint neighbourhood.

Overheard: Sounds of nearby construction.

Fact: Jane’s Club students from the University of Toronto took the initiative for renovations to the park.

 

A stone border lines the pathway at Gwendolyn MacEwen Park.

A stone border lines the pathway at Gwendolyn MacEwen Park.

Gwendolyn MacEwen Park

Between Walmer Road and Lowther Avenue

Time: 11:40 a.m.

Grade: B (last year B-)

Reason to go: Gwendolyn MacEwen Park is a nice community greenspace with a stone slab walkway and several plants along its path. A number of benches are scattered around the park with great shade provided by the tall trees overhead. There is a need for more garbage receptacles as most of the benches are covered with litter. In the centre of the park, surrounded by flowers, is a bust of Gwendolyn MacEwen, a Toronto-born author and poet; under the bust is a popular quote from her poem, Late Song.

Overheard: “Let’s bring Josh here with us next time.”

Fact: Gwendolyn MacEwen served as a writer-in-residence twice at the University of Toronto (1986 and 1987), and the park was named in honour of her memory and her contribution to literature.

 

Huron and Washington Park

Huron Street and Washington Avenue

Time: 12:20 p.m.

Grade: A (last year B)

Reason to go: This park is lively and welcoming. It has newly renovated playground equipment that attracts a lot of children who come and go throughout the day. The updates to the playground include slides, swings, and spring riders as well as a new rock climbing wall and balancing beam. There is also a well maintained sandbox. The playground area is completely fenced and tall trees line its perimeter. The park did have a need for more garbage receptacles in previous years but that doesn’t seem to be a problem this year. There is plenty of seating on benches, picnic tables, and a grassy hill at the south end. Overall it is a great park with a good location and a large playground and picnic area.

Overheard: “Come look, the horse has water in it!”

Fact: The Huron-Sussex Residents Organization hosts a pumpkin carving festival in the park on Halloween.

 

Nestled behind the ROM, Philosopher's Walk is lush and peaceful.

Nestled behind the ROM, Philosopher’s Walk is lush and peaceful.

Philosopher’s Walk

Bloor Street and Hoskin Avenue

Time: 12:40 p.m.

Grade: A+ (last year A+)

Reason to go: This is the most crowded and fun park visited in this year’s review. It is lively with a beautiful brick footpath and Victorian-styled lamp posts. The trees shade the walkway and make the trail seem secluded from the hustle and bustle of Bloor. The park is situated between the ROM and the Royal Conservatory of Music, and receives many visitors enjoying the sights and office workers out to have lunch. Summer camps also visit the park to play ball games and eat lunch. It is one of the best spots for a picnic or just to relax and, because of this, the park is busiest during lunch hours.

Overheard: “Let’s play sandman! Oh wait never mind, there’s no sand here.”

Fact: The winding landscape of Philosopher’s Walk was once the natural waterway of Taddle Creek and was buried in the 1880s but still flows underground today.

 

Aura Lee Playground

Robert Street and Sussex Avenue

Time: 12:00 p.m.

Grade: F (last year F)

Reason to go: This park has little appeal to it. On paper there are plenty of facilities including an artificial ice rink, playing field, street hockey court, tennis court, volleyball court, and ample trees and flowerbeds. Unfortunately, none of these are in working order except for the field which is padlocked and the trees that have withstood neglect. This is a prime example of the University of Toronto (U of T) and City of Toronto’s inability to work together to create something worthwhile for the community.

Overheard: The silence of a park not worth visiting.

Fact: The playground is owned by U of T while the south portion is on loan to the City of Toronto and is used as a park, also known as Robert Street playing field.

 

Albany Parkette

Albany Avenue, north of Bloor Street West

Time: 9:00 a.m.

Grade: B (last year B)

Reason to go: This is a well used parkette that has improved tremendously in recent years. It is right beside Bathurst subway station and attracts a lot of commuters who take short cuts along the alley that runs south of the station to the parkette. Many stop to admire the beautiful graffiti mural there. There are multiple stone tables with built-in checkered boards to play chess or checkers. There are large flowerbeds and sufficient garbage receptacles although on the day of this review there was trash strewn about. Despite the proximity to the subway station and busy Bloor Street, it is a quiet oasis.

Overheard: “Just leave the bird alone.”

Fact: Also known as Seaton Park, which was named after Lord Seaton, a former lieutenant governor of Canada.

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