By Annemarie Brissenden
Although it may seem from his last name that his future was pre-ordained, Brian Green’s career at the City of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department really began as the result of a lark. Thirty-one years ago, he wrote a gardener’s test at the suggestion of his sister. When he passed, his jaw dropped, and he eventually worked his way up to parks supervisor for wards 19 and 20, which includes the Annex. Following on the heels of our popular annual parks review, we thought that we would learn a little more about the man tasked with overseeing all things park-related in the Annex.
How many parks do you oversee?
I manage 80 parks, but it’s a big geographical area that includes some of the city’s biggest parks: Trinity-Bellwoods, Canoe Landing, and Christie Pits.
What makes a great park?
A space where people are enjoying themselves doing multiple kinds of recreation from playing to reading books. I recently saw two guys on a huge bench in Christie Pits writing a song. That was great.
What’s the one thing you wish people could know about parks in our area?
I’m interested in the history of the area. A lot of people don’t know about that. I recommend going to the Grange Park next year; it represents the concept of future parks, and is being built as we speak. It will have lots of art, new fountains, and lots of new benches. It will open July 2017.
How often are the parks maintained?
We try to get to most parks every day or every second day. Keeping up with the litter is hard. Most parks have garbage cans just outside the park, so people have to go outside to put garbage into the bins. If [the bins] are not obvious, the garbage is left on the ground.
What’s a big problem in our parks?
Garbage and litter. It’s tough to keep up with garbage in the parks, particularly the smaller ones that are right on the periphery of our ward. We’re losing a lot of ash trees due to the ash borer, which gets inside the bark and stops the nutrients from being transferred to the leaves, so the trees die. We have a solution, but we don’t have total control; I think we’ll probably lose more, and it takes 20 to 30 years for a tree to be able to provide ideal shade. It’s also hard keeping up with increased density; it’s difficult to provide spaces for trees to grow and for people to relax.
How often should the parks be renewed?
Every 15 to 20 years. That’s generally when standards kind of lapse.
Do you think the Gleaner’s reviews of the local parks are fair?
I thought they were fair. I wouldn’t be debating any of them. I look forward to improving the parks that didn’t get great marks. We will take Huron Playground to a different level in September when it is renewed. Sergeant Ryan Russell Parkette is due for a major reno in 2017. It’s an older park that hasn’t had much significant work aside from being renamed. I’d like to see a more meaningful memorial, and maybe some relevant play equipment like a little police car.
What’s your favourite park?
That’s like asking a Dad to name his favourite kid. I love the Garrison connection, which goes from Fort York to Stanley Park, Trinity-Bellwoods, Fred Hamilton, and Christie Pits; how they interconnect. I also like the philosophy of the David Suzuki Foundation, the notion of the city as a national park, integrating park spaces, getting the community involved, and creating pathways for birds and animals. One of the Annex’s smaller parks, Gwendolyn MacEwen Park at Walmer Road, is a lovely little park, even if it needs some work.
NEWS: Renewing Margaret Fairley Park (July 2016)
GRADING OUR GREENSPACE: Part two of our 2016 parks review (July 2016)
GRADING OUR GREENSPACE: Green sanctuaries in the heart of the city (June 2016)
NEWS: Huron Street Playground renewal (April 2016)