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GRADING OUR GREENSPACE: More attention to green spaces means parks are improving (July 2018)

July 18th, 2018 · No Comments

Tall trees provide lots of shade for the University of Toronto faculty and students who often congregate at Bloor-Bedford Parkette. Easily accessible from St. George station or the parking lot behind the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the park also features paved walkways and several benches. AHMED-ZAKI HAGAR/GLEANER NEWS

Annual review highlights spots for a picnic, spots for strolling, spots for playing

Our annual review of the green spaces in the Annex is one of our most popular features. This year’s inspection reveals that a local focus on green spaces has yielded parks that, for the most part, are cleaner and better maintained. There’s a definite improvement this year over last. However, some standouts remain — Paul Martel Park on Madison Avenue is woefully neglected and, given the amount of picnicking that goes on, many of our picnic tables could use some love. Watch out for part two in our next edition, and be sure to let us know what you think of our reviews or the parks themselves.

By Geremy Bordonaro, Ahmed-Zaki Hagar, and
Billie Wilner

Huron Washington Parkette

Huron Street and Washington Avenue
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Grade: B+ (last year B-)
Reason to go: Directly behind the University of Toronto Schools you will find Huron Washington Parkette, a lively park busy with people of all ages. The park includes a large, fenced-in playground with benches as well as a large empty sand area where groups of older kids can be found goofing around. Outside the fence, there are plenty of picnic tables and benches, as well as a grassy area and hill. Large parts of the park are well shaded by the many trees that have been planted around the site, but there is also no shortage of sunny areas to enjoy. Even when crowded, there’s still plenty of room for both younger kids and teenagers without them getting in each other’s way. The grass and trees are maintained well but the picnic tables are slightly cracked and not all that clean, but this did not stop people from sitting down to eat their lunch. There is a functioning water fountain, and the garbage bins, though a little dirty, seem to be regularly emptied.
Overheard: “Why does this always happen!”—teenage boy after tripping, face first, into the sand.
Fact: Earlier this year, Huron-Sussex Residents’ Association hosted a Parkette Design Charrette, where community members worked with architects to redesign the Huron-Washington Parkette.

Paul Martel Park

Madison Avenue, north of Bloor Street West
Time: 2:30 p.m.
Grade: D+ (Last year D-)
Reason to go: The Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) intended Paul Martel Park to be a volunteer-run small community green space. Unfortunately, the park does not seem to have lived up to expectations. There is a dirt trail through a garden, which includes many different plants but is poorly maintained, and the trail itself is littered with cigarettes. There are three relatively clean benches and recently emptied garbage bins. There is a sign at the front of the park explaining the history and plant life that grows there, but it seems to imply that there were plans for much more planting to occur than actually did.
Overheard: Birds chirping
Did you know: The first Ecology Park, which was located in the same spot, was founded in 1987 by the Pollution Probe Foundation.

Matt Cohen Park

393 Bloor St. W.
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Grade: C (last year: C)
Reason to go: Matt Cohen Park serves as an adequate place to take a break from work or school, but it is in no way a break from the city. The park is located at the intersection of Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue, right next to University of Toronto Schools, and the noise level remains equal to its surroundings. Every honk, siren, and car can be heard. There is a smattering of litter and graffiti here and there, and only small patches of grass, which have been trampled down. That being said, the park does act as a solid place for students and people working in the area to sit down, socialize, or eat lunch. There is lots of seating, even more so if you count the large sculpture of dominoes found at the front of the park, on which students can be found.
Overheard: Sirens, loads of sirens.
Did you know: Part of Spadina Avenue is dedicated to Matt Cohen, who often wrote of Spadina Avenue and its impact on him and his stories.

Several large trees provide shade at the recently renovated Huron Street Playground. This popular spot for local children has a pair of tire swings and a tall climbing web.

Huron Street Playground

495 Huron St.
Time: 12:00
Grade: B (last year B+)
Reason to go: Huron Street Playground is a popular spot for young children to play in. With a pair of tire swings and a tall climbing web, it is a great place for parents to bring their children. There are several large trees that give shade and a little grass, as a large part of the playground is covered in brown wood chips. The apartment building nearby is undergoing renovation, which may cause loud noises for park visitors.
Overheard: The sound of construction from the nearby apartment tower as children play.
Did you know: Huron Street Playground underwent a renovation two years ago, transforming it from a park with near failing grades to its current incarnation.

Taddle Creek Park

40 Bedford St.
Time: 1:00
Grade: A (last year A+)
Reason to go: With large trees providing cool shade, this park has more adults relaxing and eating lunch than other parks. The park’s centrepiece is “The Vessel,” a tall avant-garde sculpture of a water jug by artist Ilan Sandler, which also serves as a fountain. Many people use the park to play, socialize with friends and neighbours, or relax in the spring weather. While there are several adults and children at the park, it is quieter than the Huron Street Playground, which is a short walk away. The park is well-maintained and clean, even with the number of people who visit. Despite being quite close to Bloor Street West, it is a quiet and peaceful oasis in the busy city.
Overheard: A dog barking as it returns a ball to its owner.
Did you know: The Vessel is made out of four kilometres of stainless steel rod, which is approximately the length of Taddle Creek, which stretches from the park to Lake Ontario.

Philosopher’s Walk offers a mini tour of the city’s architectural history as you traverse from area to the next. AHMED-ZAKI HAGAR/GLEANER NEWS

Philosopher’s Walk

78 Queen’s Park Cres. W.
Time: 12:30
Grade: A- (last year A)
Reason to go: Philosopher’s Walk is a scenic trail that connects Queen’s Park Crescent with Bloor Street. Located on the U of T campus, Philosopher’s Walk is a popular spot for students and faculty for a peaceful stroll or a place to relax. The trail is also a short detour from Bloor Street West to Queen’s Park. You can choose to relax underneath the shade of a tree or on the several black benches on the path. When you walk the trail, you get a sense of the city’s architectural history, from the Gothic Revival style of Trinity College to the modern Lee-Chin Crystal at the ROM. The trail is well-maintained and has several trash bins, but the ROM’s Crystal is undergoing renovation, which means the north side of the trail is very noisy.
Overheard: A guy sitting on a bench playing guitar for a friend.
Did you know: The north entrance of the trail has a plaque that commemorates Prince George and Princess Mary’s royal visit to Philosopher’s Walk in 1901.

Bickford Park has is popular with dog owners for its large open off-leash area. AHMED-ZAKI HAGAR/GLEANER NEWS

Bickford Park

468 Grace St.
Time: 2:30
Grade: A (last year A)
Reason to go: Bickford Park is a large, spacious park in Little Italy. Many joggers run down the long path that starts from Grace Street and ends at either Montrose Avenue or Harbord Street. There were picnickers under the trees, and people conversing on benches. It also has two baseball diamonds, two bocce ball courts, and a soccer field. The park is very popular with dog owners who walk their dogs in the open field or let them play in the off-leash area. Public amenities like the bathroom and drinking fountains are clean and usable. The park has a scenic view of the neighbourhood and of the CN Tower on a clear day.
Overheard: Several dogs barking as they play in the off-leash area.
Did you know: Bickford Park was named after wealthy railway contractor Edward Bickford, who owned the land until the City of Toronto bought it in 1908.

Village of Yorkville Park

115 Cumberland St.
Time: 12:30
Grade: A (last year A-)
Reason to go: Surrounded by designer stores, the park is a great place to relax during a shopping trip. It is divided into 11 sections including marshland, orchards, and a large granite outcrop that showcase Canada’s diverse landscapes and is packed at around noon, with people of all ages sitting on the benches, at picnic tables or on the granite socializing and having lunch. The park is a block away from Bay Station, making it easy to access, and there are drinking fountains available. The park is very clean and colourful, however, the amount of traffic may cause a lot of noise.
Overheard: The sound of music playing from a group of people having lunch on top of the rock.
Did you know: The Village of Yorkville Park received a Landmark Award of Excellence from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2012 for its strong presentation of Canadian identity.

St. Alban’s Square

90 Howland Ave.
Time: 1:50
Grade: B+ (last year A)
Reason to go: St. Alban’s Square is a simple spot for strolling and relaxing. A green square with a paved sidewalk cutting through the middle, it provides a shorter path through the neighbourhood. Several trees are placed around the square, providing shade for people sitting on the benches. The park was very clean and has garbage and recycling bins. The square is next to the historic St. Alban’s Cathedral, the former owner of the park.
Overheard: A couple of kids skateboarding down the path.
Did you know: Environmental group Grassroots Albany had a beautification project of the square in 1990, which included planting a rose walk on the north fence.

Bloor-Bedford Parkette

245 Bloor St. W.
Time: 11:20
Grade: B (last year B-)
Reason to go: Located near a Tim Hortons and a Starbucks, this spot serves as an outdoor space to sit on one of the several benches and enjoy a coffee. Since it is beside the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) building, U of T students and faculty are often sitting in the area. The park has several tall trees that provide a cool shade for people sitting on the benches. You can easily access the parkette by bus or by subway at St. George station, or by car by parking in the lot of the OISE building.
Overheard: The sound of cars driving down on Bloor Street.
Did you know: The city added paved walkways to the Bloor-Bedford Parkette in 2008.

Home to some of the area’s most popular events including the Open Tuning Festival and the Annex Residents’ Association’s annual corn roast, Jean Sibelius Square has a lot of space and a little bit of everything for everyone. AHMED-ZAKI HAGAR/GLEANER NEWS

Jean Sibelius Square

50 Kendal Ave.
Time: 1:30
Grade: B+ (last year B+)
Reason to go: Jean Sibelius Square has a bit of everything, a playground for children, picnic tables for friends and family to relax, and space to go for a stroll. The park was relatively clean and also has public bathrooms and fountains, making it a great pit stop for a jog in the neighbourhood. Jean Sibelius also has Bike Share for people who want to rent a bike to cycle around the neighbourhood.
Overheard: Children yelling as they play on the jungle gym.
Did you know: The square hosts a variety of popular events, including the Open Tuning Festival and the Annex Residents’ Association’s annual corn roast.



GRADING OUR GREENSPACE: Parks on the fringe (AUGUST 2017)

GRADING OUR GREENSPACE: Open spaces in the heart of the Annex (July 2017)

GRADING OUR GREENSPACE: Survey reveals significant upgrades (June 2017)

GRADING OUR GREENSPACE: Meet our parks supervisor (August 2016)

Part two of our 2016 parks review (July 2016)

PART ONE: Green sanctuaries in the heart of the city (June 2016)

Grading our Greenspace (2015)

Tags: Annex · General · Life