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Green sanctuaries in the heart of the city

June 15th, 2016 · No Comments

Annual parks survey returns

Upkeep, or lack thereof, marks the return of our popular Grading our Greenspace feature. Published in two parts, we visit parks in our coverage area and review them based on cleanliness, amenities, and atmosphere. Our round-up reflects a mixed bag: some parks continued to be great, while others seem to have dipped further into mediocrity. Unkempt parks, with uncut grass, poorly maintained amenities, and dying flowerbeds, are a major complaint among park users, something that shouldn’t be difficult to address. With greenspace at a premium in our neighbourhoods, our parks have become more important than ever. What our reviews demonstrate is that parks, when well maintained, are thriving community hubs. We’ll publish our second part in the July edition and look forward to your comments, whether they be on parks or on our reviews. All reviews and photography were done by Geremy Bordonaro and Emily Rea.

Taddle Creek Park is built on the former site of Sir Frederick Banting’s house.

PHOTO BY EMILY REA: The Vessel, a sculpture by Ilan Sandler made of stainless steel rods, serves as a centrepiece for Taddle Creek Park, which was one of the best parks reviewed this year.

Taddle Creek Park

Bedford Road and Lowther Avenue

Time: 4:00 p.m.

Grade: A+ (last year A+)

Reason to go: Taddle Creek Park is a clean, spacious park located at the corner of Bedford Road and Lowther Avenue, a block north of Bloor Street. The playground is not fenced in, but set back from the street and protected from traffic and noise by large planters and trees that create a natural barrier and make the park feel more open. During the spring, hundreds of daffodils and pink tulips bloom in the planters, adding a dose of colour. The playground has a wood chip base and features two play structures, a swing set geared toward younger children, and a sandbox. The centrepiece of the park is a large stainless steel sculpture of a jug that doubles as a fountain. The playground and the fountain are surrounded by long metal benches that provide ample seating for parkgoers. The apartment building that the park borders on its south edge is currently undergoing construction on its parking lot, so there is temporary noise pollution. Taddle Creek Park is a beautiful park that has been well maintained since its 2011 revitalization, making it one of the best in the neighbourhood.

Overheard: “Don’t lick the hand sanitizer off your hands!”

Did you know: Taddle Creek Park is built on the former site of Sir Frederick Banting’s house. Banting won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1923 for the isolation of insulin for the purpose of treating diabetes.

PHOTO BY EMILY REA: Philosopher’s Walk, framed by the Royal Ontario Museum and the Royal Conservatory of Music, is both park and path. It’s also a great spot for a picnic.

PHOTO BY EMILY REA: Philosopher’s Walk, framed by the Royal Ontario Museum and the Royal Conservatory of Music, is both park and path. It’s also a great spot for a picnic.

Philosopher’s Walk

Bloor Street and Hoskin Avenue

Time: 3:30 p.m.

Grade: A+ (last year A+)

Reason to go: Used as a thoroughfare between Hoskin Avenue and Bloor Street, Philosopher’s Walk is a very popular park favoured by locals and people who work in the area. The winding path features a wide diversity of trees and benches along its side for the length of the park, providing lots of seating. Down the hill off the path, there are areas perfect for a summer picnic or lunch break. Philosopher’s Walk is framed by the beautiful buildings of Trinity College, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, the Royal Conservatory of Music, and the Royal Ontario Museum. The serenity of the southern portion of the path is temporarily disturbed by construction of a new Faculty of Law building, but the rest of the park remains a serene spot in the middle of the bustling downtown.

Overheard: “Does anyone like vacuuming?!”

Did you know: The gates at the northern entrance of Philosopher’s Walk were originally constructed in 1901 at the corner of Bloor Street and Avenue Road and were later moved to the top of Philosopher’s Walk when Avenue Road was expanded in 1960.

PHOTO BY EMILY REA: The fenced in playground, and large number of equipment, makes Huron and Washington Park a perfect destination for families.

PHOTO BY EMILY REA: The fenced in playground, and large number of equipment, makes Huron and Washington Park a perfect destination for families.

Huron and Washington Park

Huron Street and Washington Avenue

Time: 3:00 p.m.

Grade: A- (last year A)

Reason to go: Huron and Washington Park is a pleasant park conveniently located just south of Bloor Street near Spadina and St. George subways. The fully fenced-in playground area is large and has a wide variety of equipment, including a climbing wall and balance beam that are great for older children, as well as spring riders, a sandbox, and other equipment that is friendly to smaller children. This park is usually busy with families, children from the nearby playschool, and students from University of Toronto Schools during the day. The relatively small green space adjacent to the playground has areas shaded by large trees as well as a hill perfect for sunbathing. There are multiple picnic tables and benches available. The park does not have many plants aside from the trees, but nonetheless is a pleasant place to sit or play.

Overheard: “Can my car go down the slide?”

Did you know: The park is an equal distance (350 metres) from Spadina and St. George stations.

 

Blood-Bedford Parkette

248 Bloor St. W.

Time: 2:00 p.m.

Grade: B (last year B+)

Reason to go: Bloor-Bedford Parkette is a small park nestled between the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and the Faculty of Social Work on busy Bloor Street. It is most popular for office workers on their lunch break and people taking a break from walking down Bloor Street. The park is clean and features lush grass and large trees that cast shade and there are several benches that provide lots of seating. It is small and bordered by a parking lot and a busy street, affording no sense of seclusion from the bustling city. The dose of green space provided is nice to have in the middle of Bloor Street, but Bloor-Bedford Parkette is not a destination in and of itself.

Overheard: The sounds of Bloor Street traffic.

Did you know: Before the Bloor-Danforth subway opened in 1966, the Bedford Loop was located on the grounds of Bloor-Bedford Parkette. The loop provided passengers leaving St. George station easy access to eastbound and westbound streetcars.

PHOTO BY EMILY REA: Jean Sibelius Park has lots of space and many amenities, making it attractive to all ages.

PHOTO BY EMILY REA: Jean Sibelius Park has lots of space and many amenities, making it attractive to all ages.

Jean Sibelius Square

50 Kendal Ave.

Time: 4:00 p.m.

Grade: A+ (last year A)

Reason to go: Jean Sibelius Square is a spacious park with ample seating and green space, and a clean public washroom. The large swathes of shaded and sunny grass provide plenty of space for parkgoers to play sports or sprawl out on the ground. The playground at Jean Sibelius Square is surely one of the best in the neighbourhood, featuring a large climbing wall and web that is great for older children and a fenced-in section for younger children that includes a sand pit with a faucet. Jean Sibelius Square is an excellent, quiet park, perfect for spending a summer afternoon there.

Overheard: “I hope I don’t fall!”

Did you know: Every winter community members make an ice rink on the field in the park.

 

Albany Parkette/Seaton Park

Albany Avenue, north of Bloor Street West

Time: 12:30 p.m.

Grade: B (last year B)

Reason to go: Despite its proximity to both Bloor Street and Bathurst Station, this parkette provides a good quiet getaway. There is an ample amount of seating to just sit, relax, and admire the beautiful graffiti mural. Flowers, grass, and foliage are kept in good condition and placed strategically to cover potential blemishes like the nearby subway grating. Many people end up using this park as a shortcut to the street from the subway but find themselves stopping to relax. Despite there being two light fixtures and plenty of garbage bins this park is not ideal for visiting any time aside from midday due to its location.

Overheard: “You’ve got to swish your hips!”

Did you know: The nearby graffiti mural bears the logo for Sonic Boom Records, which has moved to Spadina Avenue.

 

Ed and Anne Mirvish Parkette

In front of Bathurst subway station

Time: 12:00 p.m.

Grade: D+ (Last year C)

Reason to go: This small space of green in front of Bathurst station does not have much going for it. There is a single bench at the far south of the park. The grass is thick, uneven, and cluttered with dandelions and weeds. Some flowers are clearly dying and there is a small dead tree taking up space in the middle of the area. Its location is another downside as the constant hum of streetcars and oncoming Bathurst Street traffic stop this park from being even a good place to relax. On the day of this review cigarette butts were strewn all about the park bench. The one saving grace is that it is otherwise pretty to look at and breaks up monotonous concrete.

Overheard: A car honking at another commuter trying to turn left at Bloor and Bathurst streets.

Did you know: The park’s single bench is dedicated to Leonard and Gwendolyn Johnston, owners of an influential Black-culture bookstore in Seaton Village.

PHOTO BY GEREMY BORDONARO: A rotting tangerine tied to a fence post is the most depressing aspect of Aura Lee/Robert Street Park. This odd feature reflects how deep the park has fallen into disrepair in recent years.

PHOTO BY GEREMY BORDONARO: A rotting tangerine tied to a fence post is the most depressing aspect of Aura Lee/Robert Street Park. This odd feature reflects how deep the park has fallen into disrepair in recent years.

Aura Lee Playground/Robert Street Park

Robert Street and Sussex Avenue

Time: 1:30 p.m.

Grade: F (last year F)

Reason to go: Fans of urban decay can rejoice knowing this park exists. The tennis courts are the only accessible parts as the rest is completely padlocked shut. Old equipment is strewn about, ground is sinking, and buildings are clearly in disrepair. At the time of this review, the ice rink was being used as storage space for broken sidewalk garbage disposals. Grass on the field is well maintained despite the fact that it’s completely inaccessible and there are clothes thrown about it. There is a new code blue emergency pole in case you decide to go to the park in a crisis. The most entertaining part was a rotting tangerine hanging from a shoelace tied to a fence.

Overheard: The quiet sound of despair that hangs over this park.

Did you know: This park is owned by the University of Toronto with the southern part being on loan to the city.

PHOTO BY GEREMY BORDONARO: Though not very accessible for people living with disabilities, Hillcrest Park is a great place to relax, bring your children, or get in some physical activity.

PHOTO BY GEREMY BORDONARO: Though not very accessible for people living with disabilities, Hillcrest Park is a great place to relax, bring your children, or get in some physical activity.

Hillcrest Park

950 Davenport Rd.

Time: 1 p.m.

Grade: A (last year A+)

Reason to go: Hillcrest Park has everything. There are basketball and tennis courts, an off-leash dog park, plenty of playground equipment for the kids, a surprisingly clean washroom, and lots of seating. All of these amenities, as well as the grass and trees, are in great condition. The playground has a good number of swings sets, slides, and climbing activities as well as a wading pool that is open during the summer. This park is well populated for good reasons. The downside here is accessibility: it is located on a fairly steep hill making it difficult to get to for people with disabilities, especially those in wheelchairs. Despite that Hillcrest Park remains a must-go park this year.

Overheard: “Ball! Sorry, about that, man,” as a basketball comes flying towards the benches.

Did you know: Since the park is located on such a steep hill it gives a beautiful view of the Toronto skyline and Lake Ontario.

PHOTO BY GEREMY BORDONARO: Nestled in a thriving neighbourhood, Margaret Fairley Park has a popular wading pool feature with a small labyrinth mural.

PHOTO BY GEREMY BORDONARO: Nestled in a thriving neighbourhood, Margaret Fairley Park has a popular wading pool feature with a small labyrinth mural.

Margaret Fairley Park

100 Brunswick Ave.

Time: 2 p.m.

Grade: A (last year A)

Reason to go: This is one of the best parks for families with children. There are a large number of toys and play-sets around here for kids to use. Picnic benches and log benches bring in just enough seating for everyone. The neighbourhood gives an ideal atmosphere and quick access to a nearby convenience store. Although the grass here is thin in places, the trees and other foliage are in great condition. This park may prove small at peak hours, as even with only a few families there, at the time of this review, children did not have a lot of space to run amok.

Overheard: “Konichiwa. Bye-bye park!”

Did you know: The stone plate in the middle of the park is dedicated to namesake Margaret Fairley, a political activist.

PHOTO BY GEREMY BORDONARO: Euclid Park, littered with garbage and emitting a sickening smell, has very little to offer but a dirt path.

PHOTO BY GEREMY BORDONARO: Euclid Park, littered with garbage and emitting a sickening smell, has very little to offer but a dirt path.

Euclid Parkette

711 Euclid Ave.

Time: 12:20 p.m.

Grade: D- (last year D-)

Reason to go: This small parkette is cursed by both its location and its lack of upkeep. Its location, behind a KFC and dumpsters, should make the sickening smell of garbage mixed with fried chicken enough to keep most people from visiting. Though bins are readily available there were half-empty smoothies, plastic bags filled with broken metal, and plenty of cigarette butts out on the ground at the time of this review. Most of the space here is a dirt path with only small pieces of unkempt grass and flower beds to break it up. The three benches provide more than enough seating but they are all in differing states of disrepair. If a bad look and even worse smell aren’t deal-breakers then there is enough shade here to keep comfortable for a little while.

Overheard: A group of nearby bicycle police asking a young man about the neighbourhood.

Did you know: Euclid Park is in the middle of Koreatown, and plenty of great Korean restaurants are just a short walk away.

 

Matt Cohen Park

­Spadina Avenue and Bloor Street West

Time: 1:00 p.m.

Grade: C (last year C+)

Reason to go: This park is located on the busy intersection of Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue, adjacent to the University of Toronto Schools, and is tiny, covering only the southeast corner. There are benches and large domino-shaped rocks that serve as seating. Students often use the park to eat a quick lunch or settle down to work. Aside from the seating there is very little else to Matt Cohen Park. Noise from the cars in the streets was overwhelming and makes the space more of a convenience for locals than a destination.

Overheard: “Let’s get Pizza Pizza.”

Did you know: Metal leaves adorn the subway grating in the park as part of the park’s theme of nature and city living.

 

Christie Pits Park

750 Bloor St. W.

Time: 12:00 p.m.

Grade: B+ (Last year A)

Reason to go: Christie Pits has something for everyone. There are basketball courts, baseball fields, soccer fields, a covered patio, an ice rink, and new lookouts. The park also has a water park that has a large water slide, a pool, and water attractions for kids to play in. The area is currently undergoing construction, which makes many of the facilities inaccessible, and the noise from the machines occasionally ruins the park’s normally great atmosphere.

Overheard: “This is such a great park! And they have a kiddy pool!”

Did you know: Christie Pits Park was a dumping ground for trash during the 2009 garbage strikes.

 

Sgt. Ryan Russell Parkette

250 Avenue Rd.

Grade: D+ (last year C)

Time: 1:15 p.m.

Reason to go: Though there is a playground and a few benches around the area there isn’t very much to this parkette. The grass is thick and full of weeds. Cigarette butts, abandoned construction signs, and other trash littered the ground. This parkette is in desperate need of upkeep, which it had not received at the time of this review. Nearby traffic and the occasionally passing train make the noise level around the area nearly unbearable.

Overheard: Two minutes of oncoming freight train horns.

Did you know: Formerly known as the Dupont Parkette, the parkette is dedicated to Sgt. Ryan Russell who was tragically run down in the winter of 2011.

 

Sally Bird Park

194 Brunswick Ave.

Grade: B (last year B)

Time: 12:30 p.m.

Reason to go: Sally Bird Park is a well-secluded area with a fair amount of shade. There is quite a bit of seating around the park to sit back and relax. The pathway is easy to access and provides a good get-away in a quiet neighbourhood. Workout equipment is available though and well used. On the day of this review there were lots of weeds in the gardens but they weren’t intrusive.

Overheard: “Yeah hey man, what’s up?”

Did you know: Last year, Sally Bird was one of the meeting points for performances of The Postman, the popular site-specific theatre production about Canada’s first Black postman.

 

READ MORE:

Grading our Greenspace (2015)

Tags: Annex · Life