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FOCUS: Park set for eco-restoration (Nov. 2020)

December 4th, 2020 · 1 Comment

A team of Indigenous workers are bringing Paul Martel Park back to life

Paul Richard (left) and Joseph Sagaj, part of a team of Indigenous gardeners, have been working tirelessly to bring Paul Martel Park (located on Madison Avenue, north of Bloor Street) back to its original vision. BRIAN BURCHELL/GLEANER NEWS

By Tanya Ielyseieva

After a period of long neglect, Paul Martel Park is undergoing a revitalization.

The small green space, just north of Bloor Street West and right behind the Spadina TTC station, has been forgotten for some time. However, with the help of the community, it is set to be restored.

Ecology Park was designed and built by Paul Martel, an architect who volunteered and helped to design many community green spaces in the Annex and the rest of the city. 

It was designed to celebrate the ecosystems of Southern Ontario. Ecology Park was named in his honour in 2014.

“Paul Martel was the driving force many years ago to revitalize the park and it was called Ecology Park as a result of his vision. It has now been renamed in his honour. There were many volunteers that took care of the park, but when Paul became ill, not as much attention was given to the park,” said Rita Bilerman, Chair of the Annex Residents’ Association (ARA).

Currently, the park is being revitalized by Paul Richard, retired City of Toronto gardener. 

The goal of the restoration is to bring together the Aboriginal community and the Annex neighbourhood to restore the ecological plantings and clean up the neglected park.

“The park was pleasant, but clearly neglected and when I saw the sign from the Annex Residents Association asking for volunteers I called them up to talk about it,” says Richard. “I asked and they delivered a letter of support to receive a Targeted Wage Subsidy to fix it up.” 

According to Richard, the first stage of the project is the removal of invasive species from the native plant exhibits. 

Next is the preparation of the planting beds with new soil, replantation of the habitats with native plants and applying mulch around the plants. 

The park restoration work has been made possible by a Government of Canada Targeted Wage Subsidy. 

As of now, the team has ten weeks of funding. The funding covers only the labour cost. Other aspects of the park’s renewal remain unfunded.

“Due to our late start, we are re-applying for another ten weeks of funding to finish our work and do more planting in the Spring. We are working through the ARA and the BIA to supply job materials, the Madison Pub has donated Triple Mix Top Soil, and Brian Burchell, Chair of the BIA (and publisher of this newspaper), has donated native plants for the Tall Grass Exhibit. As our budget is for the cost of labour only, these donations are greatly appreciated. The ARA gave us a Letter of Support early on and will be helping with the purchase of plants,” said Richard.

Joseph Sagaj, an Anishinaabe designer and muralist, will work on the art installations and mural mosaic for the park. The idea is to collaborate on a concept suitable for the theme of the park.

“The mural would reflect the area, but also the First Nations students and children who are in Toronto,” says Sagaj. “The idea is to engage people and reflect on the issues, especially the rise in suicide.”

Besides the mural, Sagaj transformed the crescent-shaped placement of a seven rocks garden.

“When people do walk in a crescent-shaped garden, they are engaging in the symbology of First Nations people and their teachings and principles of life,” says Sagaj.


Tags: Annex · Life

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