Serving Toronto's most liveable community with the Annex Gleaner

Grading our greenspace (Feb. 2024)

April 6th, 2024 · No Comments

A plethora of parks in the Annex get judged

Compiled by Mia Keskinen

Each year the Annex Gleaner reviews the abundance of parks in our coverage area using a variety of criteria. 

While there is no decisive “winner” of the grading, letter grades are assigned to convey the quality of the parks considering aspects such as upkeep, design, and amenities. 

The reviews accompanying the grades also let the reader know what makes each space unique. 

This collection of park reviews is the third and final instalment of the 2023 series and contains ten park reviews, with more gradings to come this summer. 

Bickford Park is an expansive greenspace popular with dog owners due to its fenced-in dog park and spacious fields.

Bickford Park 

400 Grace St. 

Grade: A- (Last Year A-

Reason to go: This park has expansive green space and rolling hills. There’s an innate charm to this green space that is tucked into the city. Even in the fall, as the world goes quiet, life permeates the rolling hills of this park, as puppies run around behind the fences of the dog park. Overall, this park is a peaceful place of respite; however, sounds of the city can be heard over the rustling leaves of bright red and orange hues. There are several amenities that make this park enticing including a baseball diamond, a fenced-in dog park, as well as washrooms, which, as mentioned in the 2020 article reviewing the Annex’s greenspaces, could definitely be cleaner. However, this park is a hidden gem for those looking to escape the city life for a moment of quiet. 

Overheard: A group of high school boys laughing at the little puppies barking at each other. 

Did you know: Bickford Park is named after Colonel E. Oscar Bickford who was a businessman and politician in Toronto. 

Jean Sibelius Park, named after the Finnish composer, features several amenities, such as a rock climbing park, picnic benches and a bike share. TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Jean Sibelius Square

50 Kendal Ave.

Grade: A+ (last year A)

Reasons to go: Jean Sibelius can be found in the heart of a historical residential neighbourhood, providing an escape from the city. The sounds of cars dissipate into the white noise of the city. There are several amenities that create a sufficient park space including a unique playground for the little ones, a rock climbing space, a clean fountain, a bike share, several park benches and picnic tables, as well a spacious patch of grass where dogs and children can be seen running around. This park makes it easier to see life in technicolour, as there is an enticing mural with bright hues painted on one of the walls in the park, reminding pedestrians to see the beauty in life. This greenspace is perfect for families, couples, dog walkers, and all parkgoers alike.

Overheard: “Oh you have two sticks now! You’re such a lucky girl!” – a woman playing with her dog. 

Did you know: Jean Sibelius had an affinity for November and December, due to his Finnish heritage. His biographer wrote “. . . Even by Nordic standards, Sibelius responded with exceptional intensity to the moods of nature and the changes in the seasons: he scanned the skies with his binoculars for the geese flying over the lake ice, listened to the screech of the cranes, and heard the cries of the curlew echo over the marshy grounds just below Ainola [his home, named after his wife]. He savoured the spring blossoms every bit as much as he did autumnal scents and colours. . .” Sibelius inspires parkgoers to embrace change and to metamorphose with the seasons by continuing to enjoy nature throughout the year. 

Euclid Avenue Parkette 

711 Euclid Ave.

Grade: D- (last year D) 

Reason to go: This parkette is not so much of a greenspace as it is a glorified strip of dirt. The park benches face a street lined with apartments and each one is covered in graffiti. It is loud, and parkgoers will have a hard time forgetting that this greenspace resides in the heart of the city with the bustling sounds of Toronto streets ever-present. As one walks through the park, the ground, littered with trash, reverberates as the subway rumbles along the underground tracks. If you are looking for greenspace to escape the fast pace of the city, it is not suggested you visit this parkette.

Overheard: A man walking three golden retrievers, each contentedly huffing and puffing.

Did you know: Just steps away from this tired strip of park, there is an eclectic street bustling with diverse businesses. Parkgoers can venture over to explore the liveliness of this neighbourhood which contrasts with Euclid Avenue Parkette’s lifelessness. 

Queen’s Park with its statue of King Edward VII, remains a vibrant green space in the heart of the city. MIA KESKINEN/GLEANER NEWS

Queen’s Park

110 Wellesley Ave. W.  

Grade: A (Last year B

Reasons to go: This park sprawls across the heart of the city, close to the Ontario Legislature and the University of Toronto campus. Queen’s Park is a beautiful place to relax; however, it is likely that students and government employees will be seen walking through the park, as opposed to families, as this greenspace lacks a play structure. In the midst of the tall oak trees, lies a statue of King Edward VII and paths stretch below his stallion’s feet. Due to the lack of play structure, children can be seen climbing the statue, which in this moment, represents the connective tissue between the days of old and the youth of today. 

Did you know: In the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s passing, a statue of the late Queen was erected.

Overheard: An older man doing martial arts by the statue of King Edward VII, as children play on the statue, representing the circle of life, youth and senescence ever present in the park.

St. Alban’s Square 

90 Howland Ave.

Grade: A (Last Year B+)

Reason to go: This square allows parkgoers to get away from buildings that scrape the sky as it is nestled between old homes, as well as a church. St Alban’s Square is reminiscent of a park in the pages of a storybook, with its picturesque beauty. There is a lack of amenities, but it is nonetheless a lovely place to remind oneself of the importance of the little things and of stopping to smell the roses. 

Overheard: “Thank you!” a man kindly gives a sleeping bag to a homeless couple. 

Did you know: The church next to the square is no longer used for religious gatherings, but rather as a building for the students attending Royal St. George’s College. 

Vermont Square Park 

819 Palmerston Ave.


Reason to go: This park is a beautiful hidden gem in the quaint neighbourhood of Seaton Village. It has several amenities such as rolling green hills (made for children and dogs to run amok), park benches, as well as a playground built like a pirate ship. . A certain childlike glee permeates this greenspace, as each parkgoer looks at ease, walking through the trees with autumn leaves swaying in the breeze. 

Overheard: A dog jumping happily through the autumn leaves 

Did you know: This city park is home to the BGC St. Alban’s Club, an agency dedicated to helping families by offering various recreational programs. 

Hillcrest Park is a hidden gem with many amenities including three tennis courts, a stone tennis table, a basketball court, sand playground, and wading pool. TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

Hillcrest Park 

950 Davenport Rd.

Grade: A+ (last year A+

Reason to go: Hillcrest continues to uphold its reputation as an excellent greenspace. Sitting in this park will evoke similar feelings to that of being entranced in an Elysium. The walkway to this park is quite charming; a staircase shrouded by forestry evokes a feeling of mystery and wonder for what will be uncovered atop the staircase. This park is perfect for anybody, as it has an abundance of amenities including several park benches, a tennis court, a playground, a basketball court, an enclosed dog play area, a table tennis made of stone, as well as clean bathrooms. The noise of Christie Street and Davenport Road is blanketed by the line of trees atop the hill, making it a serene getaway from the streets of Toronto. 

Overheard: A woman and her dog chase each other through the autumn leaves, each giddy with childhood glee.  

Did you know: In the famous movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, a story based and filmed in Toronto, Hillcrest Park is featured in the scenes where Scott takes Ramona on their first date. There is also a song in the movie called Hillcrest Park by Nigel Godrich. Next time you visit this park, try listening to the song; it will make you feel like the main character in a movie. 

Wychwood Barns, once a TTC service depot, features a beach volleyball court and an enclosed dog park.

Wychwood Barns Park  

76 Wychwood Ave.

Grade: A+ (last year A)

Reason to go: This multi-use park is an excellent greenspace. It is well-maintained and makes efficient use of the space with amenities such as a beach volleyball court, a small, enclosed dog park, several park benches, as well as the Wychwood Barns, a gathering place that creates a sense of community. At the Wychwood Barns, many events are held, which is an enticing aspect of this greenspace for all members of the community.  

Overheard:  A mother and her little one chasing each other out of the Wychwood barns and into the neighbourhood. 

Did you know: The City of Toronto currently leases Wychwood Barns to Toronto Artscape Inc., a non-profit organization that provides art-based recreational activities. 

Healey Willan Park is a small enclosed park meant for little ones featuring a sandbox filled with toys and picnic benches; however, it fails to sustain a welcoming environment all year round. JUAN ROMERO/GLEANER NEWS

Healey Willan Park 

504 Euclid Ave.

Grade: C+ (Last year B

Reason to go: In the autumn this park is quite desolate, with yellow grass crunching underneath footfalls the only sound that can be heard. It is perhaps the time of year that creates a feeling of eerie desolation. The park is tucked behind a fence gate meant to keep little ones enclosed to run around to their hearts’ content. However, at the time of inspection the space is void of any children; in fact, void of anyone at all, and left behind are lonely toys, swings and several picnic tables. It evokes a sense of isolation, and there were many people within the neighbourhood who could be seen with their dogs, or children in tow, headed for Bickford Park, which is about 15 minutes down the road and has more to offer than Healey Willan Park. In theory, the park has the necessary amenities to create a sufficient park space; however, in practice, it lacks the warmth and human spirit that preserves the essence of life in the colder seasons.

Overheard: Lonely swings humming in the biting cold autumn breeze. 

Walmer Road Parkette 

227 Walmer Rd.

Grade: B+ (Last Year B

Reason to go: This parkette bears a quaintness that can be found in cinema; Walmer Road Parkette is nestled in between beautiful, European-inspired townhouses. Walking through this residential street makes one think of walking through a quiet neighbourhood in London. The park is well-maintained. Tall pine trees guarding three park benches allow for sun to warm the space, in lieu of the cold autumn air. Time slows to a halt in this greenspace, and it’s a beautiful place to find yourself lost in thought amongst the trees. Adding to the beauty, Casa Loma can be seen looming over the horizon in the distance. This park may not have many amenities to offer, but its fairytale view and peaceful ambience makes up for it. 

Overheard: Maintenance worker having a friendly interaction with the mail carrier.

Did you know: The homes on this residential street are inspired by the architecture of Pimlico and Bath, England, which explains the European feeling that permeates this neighbourhood. 


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