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GRADING OUR GREENSPACE: Grading the green (August 2020)

September 9th, 2020 · No Comments

Park it here

In this year’s installment of evaluating park spaces within the Gleaner’s catchment area, our observers noted the impressive revival of Queen’s Park North showing what a great city can do when it focuses its imagination and resources. The neglected Euclid Avenue Park, near Koreatown, shows what happens when these resources are withheld. Compiled by Mary An, Tanya Ielyseieva, and Nicole Stoffman.

Queen’s Park North

11 Wellesley St. W.

NICOLE STOFFMAN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 12:00pm

Grade: A- (Last year B)

Reason to go: To enjoy the new and improved park, completed in August of 2019. The clean, new paving, and graceful black and wood benches and picnic tables make Queen’s Park North an attractive, central spot for an outdoor lunch or dinner date. The upgraded King Edward VII and Highlanders of Canada plazas, now tied together by a grand walkway, are now elegant settings in which to contemplate these monuments. Even the sculpture of Canadian poet Al Purdy was improved by the addition of a new paved area at its base. Learning to identify trees, thanks to the ROM’s “Trees for Toronto” project is another great reason to while away the hours at this signature park. It was nice to see park users sharing the space with the homeless, temporarily camped out in six tents, which were given to them by charities to address dangerous overcrowding in the shelter system during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Overheard: A cyclist, barreling through the park, to pedestrians, “Go ahead, I’m not going to take you out, I promise.”

Did you know: As part of the “Queen’s Park North Improvements,” over 160 new trees were planted and all are native species.

Huron Washington Parkette

420 Huron St.

TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 2:00 p.m.

Grade: No grade (last year no grade)

Reason to go: The park is located directly behind the University of Toronto Schools (UTS). However, it was relocated to 406 Huron St. to accommodate the UTS expansion. The original park has trees and a couple of benches left. It is well shaded with a few sunny spots. There is also a kids’ playground with slides and swings, which is now closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Due to UTS?renovations, the area is now empty and silent—perfect for anyone looking for quiet. 

Overheard: The quiet sounds of birds singing.

Did you know: The University of Toronto students from the urban archeology course once  excavated one-metre-square holes looking for ancient relics.

Huron Street Playground

495 Huron St.  

Huron Street Playground is spacious, and welcomes kids and dogs.
MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 2 pm. 

Grade: C (last year B)

Reason to go: This park is not too far from St George station, located at Huron Street and Lowther Avenue. It does not have many playground structures, leaving only a swing set, a rope climber, a sandbox, and a small rock climber. However, it does have plenty of space, seating for picnics, and provides a quiet atmosphere for residents to relax. Due to the lack of playground equipment it would be hard to have many kids play in this space. Unlike other playgrounds, this one welcomes dogs and provides lots of shade for visitors. This playground is not as busy as others, and would be great for families who prefer to sit and relax. 

Overheard: “I challenge you to a race to the top!” A child challenged one of his friends. 

Did you know:  FFLA, the landscape architecture firm who completed the park’s renewal in 2016, designed the park in such a way as to preserve the 40 healthy trees on site. 

Taddle Creek Park 

40 Bedford St.

“The Vessel” by Ilan Sandler in Taddle Creek Park is made from 4 km of stainless steel rod, about the length of the former creek itself. NICOLE STOFFMAN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 9:00pm

Grade: A- (Last year A+)

Reason to go: You live in an adjacent apartment tower, you enjoy gazing up at oversized public art, or you want to commune with an ancient copper beech tree. “The Vessel,” by Ilan Sandler,   is the legacy of the $1 million dollar revitalization of this park that took place in 2011, but its scale pushes people apart instead of bringing them together around water. This was especially true since the sculpture’s water feature was turned off, due to the pandemic. The silver coating of the surrounding seating was peeling badly. A beech tree that looks like a giant elephant’s leg has its own special place at the North side of the park, and is something to behold. However, the grass and gardens needed tending and watering. A faint whiff of urine could be detected. 

Overheard: “We’re trying to think of what patios are open that have full coverage. Hemingway’s is the only one I can think of.”

Did you know: Alfred Holden, a journalist with Spacing Magazine met his partner of 32 years at the fountain that used to be where “The Vessel” is now. It was a simple fountain surrounded by a flat place to sit. People would bask in the sunshine, or soak their feet to cool off. The two got to talking and have been together ever since. 

Philosopher’s Walk

78 Queen’s Park Cres. W.

TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 4:45 p.m.

Grade: A (last year A)

Reason to go: Philosopher’s Walk is located in a busy part of Toronto and connects Queen’s Park Crescent and Bloor Street. It is a hidden gem in the middle of the University of Toronto, where people can enjoy a deep breath of calm. It is surrounded by Trinity College, the Faculty of Music and Law, The Royal Ontario Museum and the Royal Conservatory of Music. The place is popular among students and faculty during the school year, which can make it crowded and loud. There are many benches for people to sit and relax and twice as many squirrels. The park is full of green spaces which makes it a great place to stroll, have a picnic, or just meditate.

Overheard: “Come back here, kid!” A mom shouting to her child who was chasing squirrels.

Did you know: The Bennett Gates at the Hoskin Street entrance to Philosopher’s Walk were installed in honour of Avie Bennett, the owner of Canadian publishing house McClelland & Stewart, who donated 75 per cent of his shares to U of T.

Village of Yorkville Park 

115 Cumberland St. 

MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 1:30 pm. 

Grade: B (last year A)

Reason to go: Being so convenient to Bay station and busy streets, this park is usually packed with adults. It’s not an ideal place for children, but is ideal for adults who are taking a break, setting up a meeting, or just want to relax after a shopping spree. The park is divided into sections, with different trees, flowers, and structures in all of them. It also has many seating areas covered with shade, but the area is usually packed throughout the day, making it hard to find seating. Though it’s in a commercial area, and you may be surrounded by other adults having different conversations, this park provides serenity in the midst of a chaotic street. 

Overheard phone conversation: “Let’s talk about it. Meet me here at Yorkville Park.” 

Did you know: This is no regular park: this park was made to be art, combining nature with steel to compose the juxtaposition of city life and the Canadian wildlife. The park splits into different sections, each with different trees, flowers, gardens, and metal features.  

Bloor-Bedford Parkette

245 Bloor St. W.

NICOLE STOFFMAN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 7:30pm

Grade: B (Last year B+)

Reason to go: The parks’ elegant benches are generously spaced apart: perfect for smoking or having a private conversation. Unfortunately, an abandoned single sleeping mat with a puddle of water on it sat in the small plaza at the north end of the park. The plaza faces an attractive fence, with a less attractive parking lot beyond. Tall trees grace the parkette on either side. A simple stone bench sculpture adds some visual interest. It is dedicated to a “Beloved Administrative Colleague,” from the Faculty of Social Work to the east. One of the black benches to the west is dedicated to an “advocate of public education,” a reminder that OISE is on that side. The black benches are graceful, well maintained, and create a stylistic unity with the fence at the North end.

Overheard: The mellifluous sounds of R&B coming from the cell phone of one of three young men with masks hanging from their ears. Their conversation was continually drowned out by passing traffic and the St. George subway. 

Did you know: According to a 2009 “Visioning Study” by the Toronto Planning Department, the Bloor-Bedford Parkette could “integrate a new, landmark-quality TTC entrance.” This idea should be actualized, as it would encourage more people to enjoy this open, green space.

Matt Cohen Park

393 Bloor St. W.

Matt Cohen Park features six commemorative plaques with Matt Cohen’s biography and excerpts of his work. TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 2:30 p.m.

Grade: C- (last year C-)

Reason to go: Matt Cohen Park is located on one of the busiest intersections of Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue. It makes a great space to enjoy lunch at your school or work break, or just to have a quick rest. Otherwise, there isn’t much to do. Since the park is located right at the intersection, there is not much fresh air, and the green space is minimal. The park has a lot of sitting areas for people to relax and enjoy some time off. However, the sounds of the streets might be intimidating as you can hear every car, bus, or truck. This park is not a family destination, it is more a five-minute stop on the way to it.

Overheard: “I’m looking for a police station. Can you help?”

Did you know: The park features six commemorative plaques with Matt Cohen’s biography and excerpts from his works.

Margaret Fairley Park

100 Brunswick Ave.  

MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 2:30 pm. 

Grade: B (last year A+)

Reason to go: At the intersection of Brunswick Avenue and Ulster Street, located away from the busy streets of downtown, this park provides many fun structures and seating for everyone. There is a sandbox, a tree house, and a few climbing structures, along with a small wading pool for children. Though the swing set is still tied up due to the COVID-19 precautions, other areas of the park are open for children to use. The area is very popular with residents, therefore making it a bit crowded at times. Since the park is located in a residential area it is fairly clean, has lots of shade, and projects a calm environment. The park also has a nice rustic design, with seating from park benches to picnic tables cut directly from a slab of wood. There is also a specific area for parents and other adults to sit by the wading pool.

Overheard: “Good job buddy!” A dad said to his son who was building a sand castle. 

Did you know: Margaret Adele Keeling Fairley, born in 1885, was a Canadian educator, political activist, and writer. She was the editor of the Communist Party of Canada’s booklet Canada’s Women, which helped form the National Women’s Committee. She was an editor for New Frontier Magazine, also known as Marxist Quarterly. Fairley authored The Spirit of Canadian Democracy in 1945. Fairley passed away in Toronto in 1968. The park was renamed in her honour in 1972.

Sally Bird Park

194 Brunswick Ave.

TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 5:00 p.m.

Grade: B (last year B)

Reason to go: The park is located between two houses on Brunswick Avenue and looks more like someone’s back yard garden than a park. It is very small, and you can miss it if you don’t know where to look. The place is great for people who like to be alone with their thoughts. Sally Bird Park has a couple of benches and two sets of workout equipment, for a great outdoor activity. The park is isolated from the city’s noise and problems, and because it is so hidden, from people too. There are also not many trees or shadows.

Overheard: Someone calling for their cat, which was relaxing under a tree.

Did you know: The park is named in honour of a much-loved member of the community who was active on the Sussex Ulster Residents’ Association, the predecessor to the Harbord Village Residents’ Association. 

Doctors’ Parkette 

15 Brunswick Ave.  

MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 2:30 pm.

Grade: C (last year B)

Reason to go: Located at the intersection of College Street and Brunswick Avenue, this parkette is easily missed. It is very clean, has plenty of trees, and a few plants. Though it has many seating areas available to the public and beautiful luminous lighting at night, this parkette lacks shade and space for people to play. It is a busy area, so the sound of cars and honks are deafening. This parkette would be the perfect place to relax if you’re able to drown out the noise around you and don’t mind the sun beaming down on your face. 

Overheard phone conversation: “I’m having lunch, I’ll just call you later.”

Did you know: The Harbord Village Residence Association held a design competition for the area where PMA Landscape Architects was asked to develop three concepts, one of which was chosen as the current design of Doctors’ Parkette. 

Robert St. Park

60 Sussex Ave.

TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 3:45 p.m.

Grade: No grade (last year D-)

Reason to go: Through the years this park has been the lowest-rated park in the Gleaner. This year it is not even a park. Currently, the site is full of dust, dirt, and construction equipment. Robert Street Park is set to receive a geothermal system that will provide energy to university residence buildings, and later on a playing field and community green space on the corner of Robert Street and Sussex Avenue.

Overheard: People chattering about the dust from the construction.

Did you know: The Robert Street Park will be replaced with a butterfly garden, playground, climbing boulders, and seasonal plantings. There is a Gleaner article about the Robert Street park’s demolition at gleanernews. ca.

Bickford Park

400 Grace St.

The lush surroundings of old trees in Bickford Park is a reminder that Garrison Creek once flowed through the ravine. NICOLE STOFFMAN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Grade: A- (last year A)

Reason to go: You want to swing in a hammock, relax with a beer on a gentle slope, have a picnic, watch your child in socially-distanced soccer camp, do some circuit training, or let your dog run freely on a bed of pebbles. Bickford Park adapts to many uses, and the lush surroundings of old trees is truly magical. The park is part of the City of Toronto’s Garrison Creek Discovery Walk. The creek once flowed through this large deep ravine, but was buried in an underground sewer in the 1880s. A broken down bench on the north end needs repair, and some crude graffiti in the men’s washroom needs to be removed. See if you can spot the Weeping Willow, a sign that the creek still flows below ground.

Overheard: “We played a round of golf in the morning, then hung out at Stakt all day.”

Did you know: Peperonata lane that borders Bickford Park to the West was so named in 2013 in honour of a red pepper roasting party, started 25 years ago by Francesco Gallé. The community event features an open fire where the peppers are roasted, and then peeled by hand by the guests, while sipping wine out of plastic cups. 

Healey Willan Park

504 Euclid Ave. 

MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 2pm. 

Grade: B (last year B-)

Reason to go: Healey Willan Park is located away from the busy streets at the intersection of Ulster Street and Euclid Avenue. It has a sandbox, swing set, monkey bars, a slide, and many more playground structures. This park also has a small wading pool for the children to cool off in during the summer time. However, this park does not allow for dogs in the area. There is also plenty of shade and seating areas for everyone. Healey Willan Park has a calm and clean environment for families and other residents to relax in. 

Overheard: “Hey, who wants to play tag!?” A kid said, running around in the small wading pool. 

Did you know: Each year, in June, The Palmerston Area Residents’ Association (PARA) has an annual neighbourhood event: “Party in the Park.” However, due to the pandemic, this year’s event is cancelled. 

Euclid Avenue Parkette

711 Euclid Ave.

TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 12:30 p.m.

Grade: F (last year F)

Reason to go: There are no good reasons to go to this park, so we’ll suggest that you don’t even look for one. The “parkette” is so hidden between a house and a building, that if you don’t know where to look you will not find it. The only reason you can call this place a park is because it has a sign. There are a couple of benches and lots of garbage. The park is very unkept with dead flowers and overgrown grass on either side of the small path that goes through the park. The only good thing is that this park has decent shade if you need to take a small break.

Overheard: Shirtless people talking about the heat while sharing pre-rolled cannabis.

Did you know: The location is steps to Koreatown and Bloor, where you can enjoy some of the best food in the area.

Paul Martel Park

10 Madison Ave.

TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 1:30 p.m.

Grade: F (last year F)

Reason to go: This park is a volunteer project by the Annex Resident’s Association (ARA) and was intended to be a beautiful small community green space. However, Paul Martel Park is lacking garden maintenance and the trail through the garden is covered in litter and cigarettes. The sign at the front of the park that explains the history of the garden was vandalized, taken down, and replaced numerous times. Even though the park is located right behind the Spadina station, the garden is relatively calm. It has a few benches to sit on and the location isn’t too loud.

Overheard: A man talking on the phone while sitting under the tree.

Did you know: Previously known as Ecology Park, it was renamed Paul Martel Park in 2014, after architect Paul Martel, who spent hundreds of hours with teams of volunteer gardeners to plant the many native species of trees and flowers that one can discover in the park to this day.

Jean Sibelius Square

50 Kendal Ave.

TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 2:45 p.m.

Grade: A+ (last year A+)

Reason to go: Jean Sibelius Square is a great place for a gathering of family or friends. It has plenty of space for a picnic or any kind of sports activity. There is a big playground which includes a climbing wall, web, and a sandpit, which makes it a perfect place for kids of any age. You can also find clean washrooms and lots of shady seating areas. This park has a lot of trees, flowers and bushes, which are all well kept. It is a beautiful, quiet park, perfect for reading a book in the shade or playing catch.

Overheard: “I hit it! I hit it! I get a point!” 

Did you know: There is a statue of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius as part of a memorial presented to the city by the Finnish people of Canada on Sept. 20, 1959.

Hillcrest Park

950 Davenport Rd.

TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 4:15 p.m.

Grade: A+ (last year A+)

Reason to go: If you love sports and long quiet walks, then this is the park for you. This place has everything for everybody. Hillcrest park features a basketball court, a baseball field, tennis courts, a stone tennis table, and lots of open green space. There is also lots of space for kids, with a wading pool and a big playground, featuring swing sets, slides, and climbing spaces. The park is located on a hill which may be a bit of a hike and difficult to get for some people. Despite that, this is an excellent park filled with laughter and happiness.

Overheard: “Don’t splash water on me!”

Did you know: The park features the Mashkikiiaki’ing (Medicine Earth) garden, a partnership between The Stop Community Food Centre and the Na-Me-Res Native Men’s Residence to exchange knowledge about healthy living, plant medicine, and gardening. 

Wychwood Barns Park

76 Wychwood Ave.

TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 4:45 p.m.

Grade: A (last year A)

Reason to go: Wychwood Park is spacious, bright, and soothing. This is a great place to go by yourself, with friends, or to spend time with family and kids. The area is clean and has a lot of green space. There are a lot of sitting spaces in the park, where you can relax and enjoy views full of beautiful flowers and trees. It also features a kid’s playground, a beach volleyball court, and, in winter, an ice rink. The park is also home to Wychwood Barns, a community cultural hub, that includes artist work studios, non-profit arts, and environmental organizations.

Overheard: “Let’s go up that hill and have some rest.”

Did you know: The original barns were built from 1913 to 1921, and later were converted into a community centre and multi-use park.

Boswell Parkette

4 Boswell Ave.

TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 6:15 p.m.

Grade: B (last year B)

Reason to go: This parkette connects Boswell Avenue with Avenue Road, making it a shortcut and nice pathway. The Boswell Parkette is located right behind a TTC stop, which makes it a great place to have some rest while waiting for the bus to arrive. There are a lot of shady places to sit. However, the location is right next to the street, which makes it noisy due to traffic from Avenue Road. The place is best for a quick recharge.

Overheard: The sounds of traffic.

Did you know: It was created in 1973 with just three planters in an attempt to insulate residential neighbourhoods from traffic.

Jesse Ketchum Park

1310 Bay St.

TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Grade: A (last year A)

Reason to go: The park features a lot of green space, with various trees and flowers. There are many benches located throughout. The park’s main feature is a very well-maintained soccer field, which is hardly ever empty. It is a great space for working out or a quiet walk. The park is located next to a school, so it can get a bit loud during the school semesters. Nonetheless, it is a quiet and nice place to rest.

Overheard:  A mother reading a book to her son.

Did you know: The park and nearby school are both named in honour of Jesse Ketchum, a tanner who was known for his philanthropy and gave many of his properties to schools, churches, and the city.

Christie Pits Park

750 Bloor St. W.

MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 5 p.m.

Grade: A+ (last year A+)

Reason to go: With over 20 acres of land, Christie Pits Park welcomes people of all ages for any season. Its vast area allows visitors to enjoy a picnic in the park, play on the playgrounds, or play any type of sport. Located near the middle of the park are a few playground structures for kids to play on, as well as a wading pool during the summer. Near the sides of the park there are areas for sports ranging from soccer, basketball, baseball, and even table tennis. These areas are all spaced out from each other with benches and picnic tables surrounding them. This park slopes into the middle, which means it would also be an ideal spot to visit during the winter for sledding. 

Overheard: “Did you have a good time in the water? Next time we’ll play on the play-ground.” A mother said to her child as she wrapped her in a towel. 

Did you know: In 1933, during the Great Depression, a riot broke out in the park. It lasted five hours, and luckily, no one was killed. When a predominantly Catholic baseball team won a game against a predominantly Jewish baseball team, a group of young men calling themselves the “Pit Gang” unfurled a blanket with a large Swastika symbol on it, causing members of the Jewish community and their allies to react to the situation and try to destroy it. After the riot, Mayor William James Stewart warned that anyone displaying swastika symbols could be prosecuted. 

Vermont Square Park

819 Palmerston Ave.

Vermont Square Park wooden landscape enriches children’s imagination, transporting them into a safe and fun forest-like world. MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 5:30 p.m.

Grade: A (last year A-)

Reason to go: Away from the busy streets, Vermont Square Park provides separate areas for children and adults. The playground is fenced in by a beautiful wood constructed bench fence that curves around the playscape. The playground has many play sculptures and a small wading pool for children, while the field is a great place to throw a Frisbee around or enjoy a nice picnic on the ground. Respecting the residents and children in the area, visitors are asked to keep their dogs on their leashes. Surrounding signs indicate off leash times.

Overheard: “Whoever gets to the top first wins!” A kid said to his friends as he raced towards the playground. 

Did you know: The armrests of the signature wood “Art Bench” that frames the playground will be filled with laser-cut artwork designed in consultation with the community.

St. Alban’s Square Park

90 Howland Ave.

MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 6 p.m.

Grade: B (last year A)

Reason to go: This park has a beautiful pathway straight down the middle surrounded by trees. While there is plenty of grass and some benches beside the trees, the park is also surrounded by roads. It has a majestic calming feel, and seems geared towards adults who want to relax on a bench away from the busy streets. There are no playground structures or any sort of activity areas, just plenty of green space. 

Overheard: “Let’s lie down here.” A woman said to her friend as she put down a blanket on the grass.

Did you know: In 2008, the residents of the park underwent a small debate about allowing dogs to be off leash in the area.  City councilors at the time terminated the motion, citing their belief that this park was not suited for off-leash dogs. 

Gwendolyn MacEwan Park

33 Walmer Rd.

MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Grade: B- (last year n/a)

Reason to go: Located in the middle of a round-about, Gwendolyn MacEwan Park is a nice place to rest while travelling. Though small, this park has some green spaces and shade surrounding the benches. It’s not an ideal place for children, or for any sport activity as it doesn’t have the space and is quite dirty. But it does allow residents to stop and relax by reading a book or connecting with someone. 

Overheard: “It was great catching up with you! Let’s do it again sometime.” A woman said to her friend sitting on the bench. 

Did you know: Gwendolyn Margaret MacEwan was a Canadian poet and novelist, publishing over 20 books in her lifetime. She published her first novel at 18 and wrote several radio docudramas for the CBC.

Jay Macpherson Green

255 Avenue Rd. 

MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 4 p.m. 

Grade: B+ (last year A-)

Reason to go: Though next to a busy street, this park provides some peace. The park has a long pathway in the middle with tall trees surrounding it, providing some shade. Grass surrounds the pathway, welcoming residents to bring their dogs or have a small picnic. It is a very clean park but the noise from Avenue Road is off-putting. 

Overheard: “Hey, let’s go through here!” A man said to his friend walking onto the pathway in the park. 

Did you know: Jay Macpherson was a Canadian poet and scholar. Macpherson won the Leviston prize from Poetry magazine, and the University of Western Ontario President’s Medal. She taught English at Victoria College from 1957-1996. 

Walmer Road Parkette

227 Walmer Rd.

MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

Time: 4:15 p.m.

Grade: B+ (last year C+)

Reason to go: Nestled in the middle of a beautiful townhouse residence, this park is surrounded by beautiful flowers and greens. Though there is no grass available for young adults or children, there is a beautifully sculpted pathway that is aligned with benches and gardens. It’s in a quiet neighborhood, and is very clean, but is quite small. This park is best suited for adults who want to relax on a bench and is not suited for those who need space to conduct an activity or walk their dog. 

Overheard: A man was laughing to himself as he read his novel on the bench. Did you know: Landowner Robert Baldwin named the street Walmer after the town in County Kent in which his son was born. 

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Tags: Annex · Life