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NEWS: Huron Street Playground renewal

April 7th, 2016 · No Comments

City to break ground later this year

The City of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department is considering two layouts for the renewed Huron Street Playground. The first option (above) includes welcoming park entrances, a southest corner activated by destination play equipment, and the removal of the existing fence. In the second option (left), a perimeter path surrounding the play equipment will provide a circuit for racing or running. The existing fence will remain, complemented by the addition of new welcoming entrance options. Images courtesy of Forest and Field Landscape Architect and the City of Toronto.

The City of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department is considering two layouts for the renewed Huron Street Playground. The first option (above) includes welcoming park entrances, a southest corner activated by destination play equipment, and the removal of the existing fence. In the second option (below), a perimeter path surrounding the play equipment will provide a circuit for racing or running. The existing fence will remain, complemented by the addition of new welcoming entrance options. Images courtesy of Forest and Field Landscape Architect and the City of Toronto.

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By Annemarie Brissenden

Do you prefer a tetherball over a maypole? Would you scramble up a high ropy climber, or cling with glee to a lower rotating one? Would you rather sit on a log, dig through a sandbox, or watch the world go by from your perch on a bench?

These are the considerations at play as the City of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department refines the design plan for a revitalized Huron Street Playground at Huron Street and Lowther Avenue.

“It’s going to be a huge upgrade versus what we have now”—Brian Green, park supervisor, wards 19 and 20

“It’s going to be a huge upgrade versus what we have now,” said Brian Green, the city’s parks supervisor for wards 19 and 20. “There’s going to be some challenge to this park, and by that I mean for the kids. There’s going to be some climbing equipment and stuff, not just let’s slide down the slide.”

At a community meeting on March 1, Katy Aminian of Parks, Forestry and Recreation presented two design options, which, for Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), reflect different “visions of how we want people to move through the park”. In the first option, linear paths cross the park, the existing fence would be removed, and activity would enliven the park’s corners, particularly in the southeast, which would feature destination play equipment. In the second option, a perimeter path would surround the circuit of play equipment, and the existing fence would remain.

The park will be designed for children aged eight to 12 — nearby Taddle Creek is aimed at younger children — and accessible in accordance with provisions in the province’s Disabilities Act.

One of the challenges of designing a playground for this age group, explained Michelle Lazara, a principal at project designer Forest and Field Landscape Architecture, is that the children aren’t always on the structures. Her colleague Matthew Sweig added that “the shade [in the park] is amazing and we want to maintain it”.

The designers also have to consider what’s around the park, said Green.

“In this instance, there are two huge apartment buildings near the park. I don’t think the surrounding neighbours necessarily want to see a lot of [the] musical instruments that we would put in other parks.”

Cressy is particularly excited that approximately $250,000 from the city’s Playground Enhancement Program has been secured for the revitalization, which is expected to begin in the fall and could take anywhere from six to eight weeks to complete. He also noted that students in a number of classes at Huron Street Junior Public School are contributing to the community consultation process by doing projects exploring what they would like to see in the final design.

It’s the kind of thing that Josh Fullan, who is on the board of the Annex Residents’ Association, believes engages people in the overall health of a neighbourhood’s assets.

“Around seven or eight years ago, grade nine and ten students at University of Toronto Schools adopted the park for a volunteer project. They raked leaves and put away garbage,” explained Fullan. “They also conducted a survey with nearby residents…and heard two things: that maintenance was a real issue and that there were no benches.”

Consequently, the students raised money and installed a bench, as well as planted some flowerbeds.

According to the Gleaner’s annual parks survey, maintenance has been an ongoing issue at the park. Reviews regularly note graffiti, the need for more seating, and out-dated play equipment. Another recurring issue is whether or not to include an off-leash area for dogs.

“I’d like a third of the park to be an off-leash area,” said Pawel, a local resident who regularly walks his dog there. “There are a lot of people who let their dogs out here.”

According to Green, “dogs are the biggest issue in all of our parks. [People use] closed areas to let their dogs go [off-leash], and go into a playground for instance. We can’t monitor all that, and that’s a concern. If we have dogs in the park we…want to separate the children from the dogs.”

Cressy explained that while funds have been secured specifically for playground improvement, he does recognize the desire of some community members to have designated off-leash areas (DOLA), and that the park is being designed in such a way that a DOLA could be added in the future.

“There’s not anything on the western edge, where that could be accommodated,” he said.

Cressy expects that the park’s final design will be ready for the community to review in the next month or two.

—with files from Michael Chachura

READ MORE:

Grading our Greenspace (July 2015)

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