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GRADING OUR GREENSPACE: Open spaces in the heart of the Annex (Summer 2019)

July 16th, 2019 · No Comments

Lots of places for ambling with a dog, playing sports, or watching the world go by

This is our first set of park reviews for 2019. The Annex and its surroundings are blessed with a rich array of green space — much of it under the umbrella of city parks. We grade them here, every year using many parameters. Many a venue to run your dog, laze away a day, grab a seat in the sunshine, or shade, push a child on the swing set, the Annex has it all.

Compiled by Nabahat Hussain and Juan Romero

Queen’s Park improvements under way. NABAHAT HUSSAIN/GLEANER

Queen’s Park

47 Queen’s Park Cres.

Time: 2:00 p.m.

Grade: B (last year A)

Reason to go: There are many paths on which to stroll, run, or bike-ride. The park is like a huge maze this year as all of the grass areas are closed off as grass seeds take root. The park’s maintenance has gone down as the “Queen’s Park north improvements” are implemented. Though the park is not in its prime at the moment, the efforts to improve it are commendable and will surely benefit the community once they are completed in August 2019.

Overheard: Silence, not a lot of activity going on at the moment. Even the construction wasn’t loud.

Did you know: Established in 1860, this well-known park was named to honour Queen Victoria; her son, Edward VII, attended its opening. Today a statue depicting the king on a horse stands in the centre of the park.

Huron-Washington Parkette is being relocated while UTS is under construction.

Huron Washington Parkette

Huron Street and Washington Avenue

Time: 11:30 a.m.

Grade: No grade (last year B+)

Reason to go: The park is currently being relocated to 406 Huron St. as University of Toronto Schools (UTS) expands. All the park equipment has been removed and all that remains at 420 Huron St. are two benches and a few tree protection area fences. Until the park has been relocated, this park is a pass.

Overheard: The deafening sound of construction next door at UTS.

Fact: The space where the park used to be will be used to increase the UTS location by 33 per cent. The addition will include a new auditorium, a skylit atrium, and science and media labs. There is a Gleaner article from the Spring 2019 issue about the parkette’s relocation titled “Huron-Washington Parkette relocates while UTS expands”.

A dog rests in the shade at the Huron Street Playground.

Huron Street Playground

495 Huron St.

Time: 11:00 a.m.

Grade: B (last year B)

Reason to go: Not much has changed since last year at this park. It still appears to be well liked by children and features unique park equipment such as tire swings and a climbing web. The neighbouring apartment building is still under renovation; nonetheless the park attracts many passers-by from dog walkers to teachers and students from local schools. The variety of seating and abundance of shade created by the canopy make it perfect to take a break from the hustling and bustling main street.

Did you know: The park was renovated in 2016 bringing the new spider web, tire swings, and rock climbing area. 

Taddle Creek Park is recognized for “The Vessel”, a sculpture by Ilan Sandler, which sits right at the middle of the park surrounded by beautiful green space.

Taddle Creek Park

40 Bedford St.

Time: 12:30 p.m.

Grade: A+ (last year A)

Reason to go: Taddle Creek Park has something for everyone including a relaxing atmosphere with a variety of park equipment, which makes it an enjoyable destination for adults and children alike. There are pink tulips and yellow daffodils in full bloom attracting many photos from people walking by. Well maintained and clean without any litter, this park really is an urban oasis. The centrepiece, “The Vessel” by artist Ilan Sandler, gives the park an artistic touch among the luscious green space surrounding it.

Overheard: A lot of birds chirping, perched on the top of trees.

Did you know: The park is named after Toronto’s buried stream, Taddle Creek, which used to run from the park’s location to Lake Ontario through the U of T area.

Philosopher’s Walk runs across many iconic spots of the Annex area such as the University of Toronto and Royal Ontario Museum. The path itself is extremely rich in tree variety and green space. NABAHAT?HUSSAIN/GLEANER NEWS

Philosopher’s Walk

78 Queen’s Park Cres. W.

Time: 2:00 p.m.

Grade: A (last year A-)

Reason to go: A first stroll through Philosopher’s Walk is bound to leave one starstruck. Scenic in every sense of the word, this park is like a slice of heaven. The U of T buildings on both sides of the path are breathtaking in their architectural appeal. Who wouldn’t want to attend the Royal Conservatory of Music just to be able to enjoy this retreat on a daily basis? Well maintained, relaxing, clean and unique, this is a park popular among adults. The variety of plantings adds an extra layer of allure to the space, it’s a must-see.

Overheard: A professor conducts an outdoor lecture talking about trees to a group of students.

Did you know: Taddle Creek used to flow where the walk now resides; there is a plaque on the U of T premises with information about the vanished stream.

Yorkville Park is a very common spot for workers from the area to enjoy their lunch outdoors. You can spot this park easily due to the large rock in it that stands out.

Village of Yorkville Park

115 Cumberland St.

Time: 2:50 p.m.

Grade: A (last year A)

Reason to go: This park is immensely popular among working adults and is packed to the brim as people hunt for seats. There is close to no grass and the trees are all ornamental making it similar to a parkette. The park is gorgeous in its minimalistic and uniform design. The colossal rock next to Bay Station is the standout piece, attracting many people enjoying their lunch. There are a variety of high-end boutiques and shops facing the park. It is noisy, so not an escape from the city but more of a resting spot among the chaos. The cherry trees when in bloom are a spot where many people take photos this time of year.

Overheard: Harmonica, being played by a man seated on a nearby bench.

Did you know: In the 1950s a row of Victorian homes were demolished to start construction on the subway underneath the park. Local residents wanted a park to be built over the station, but a parking lot was built instead. In 1991 their requests were finally heard and the Village of Yorkville Park was built over the lot.

Bloor-Bedford Parkette is a great place to stop for a rest. NABAHAT HUSSAIN/GLEANER NEWS

Bloor-Bedford Parkette

245 Bloor St. W.

Time: 1:30 p.m.

Grade: B+ (last year B)

Reason to go: With seven benches and clean-cut grass to sit on, this is the ultimate resting station for those walking along Bloor Street West. One can expect a group of university students to be seated on the grass painting a perfect picture of youth. Traffic moves right in front of the park, making it less peaceful than other parks. 

Overheard: The sound of traffic on the main street and college students conversing in groups.

Did you know: The parkette is right in front of U of T’s Varsity stadium and sits above St. George station.

Matt Cohen Park

393 Bloor St. W.

Time: 11:30 a.m. 

Grade: C- (last year C)

Reason to go: Matt Cohen Park is popular among university students and local workers enjoying a lunch break. At almost any time during the day you will find people sitting on the park’s many benches and seating areas. However, it does not have a relaxing atmosphere. Since the park is located right at the intersection of Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue, it gets very noisy with all the cars, street cars, and honks you would expect from a busy intersection. The green spaces are minimal and they do not seem to be well maintained, as you will find litter all over the park and the grass has a lot of undergrowth. There is not much in terms of activities, so if you are looking for a place  to take your kids to play, Matt Cohen Park should not be your go-to. However, if you work or study in the area, or you are just simply walking by, this park offers a place to sit down, take a break, and enjoy the summer weather. 

Overheard: Honking, streetcars, and construction nearby. 

Did you know: Canadian writer Matt Cohen wrote children’s books under the nickname “Teddy Jam”.

Margaret Fairley Park

100 Brunswick Ave. 

Time: 12:00 p.m.

Grade: A+ (last year A)

Reason to go: Margaret Fairley Park is the perfect spot to take young children out to play. The park offers a big playground with swings, a tree house, and a sandbox, and it is a popular spot for students from nearby public schools to spend their recess. For adults, Margaret Fairley Park can also be an enjoyable spot. Overall the park is well maintained as it is very clean. The atmosphere is calm as the site is in a residential area and not many cars pass by. The park offers lots of seating surrounding the playground as well as picnic tables in the green spaces. Families can come and enjoy a nice outdoor lunch, as the picnic tables are in shaded areas. 

Overheard: “You’re it!” A child playing tag with his dad. 

Did you know: Margaret Fairley Park was originally opened in 1972, but it was renovated and re-inaugurated in 2017.

Sally Bird Park 

194 Brunswick Ave. 

Time: 2:15 p.m.

Grade: B (last year B)

Reason to go: Sally Bird Park is so small that you will miss it if you are not paying attention. It is located between two houses on Brunswick Avenue. It is a great spot for people who enjoy exercising outdoors as the park offers workout machines. It is a pretty common meeting place for students from the Central Technical School during their lunch and after school, but for the most part it remains empty. Since the park is so small the green space is minimal especially because there is a sidewalk across it that connects Brunswick Avenue and Alan Powell Lane. The park is pretty isolated from traffic and even people which makes the atmosphere extremely calm and silent if you are by yourself. Since the park is somewhat hidden it has been prone to vandalism, and you will find graffiti on the walls and the benches. Overall it is a great spot to exercise or to have a relaxing break without much interruption.

Overheard: Birds chirping.

Did you know: Working out in local parks to stay fit can be a great alternative to having to pay for a monthly gym membership. 

Doctor’s Parkette 

15 Brunswick Ave. 

Time: 5:00 p.m.

Grade: B (last year B

Reason to go: Right along the intersection of College Street and Brunswick Avenue, you will find the Doctor’s Parkette. It is a place where workers and passers-by can sit down and take a break from their day. Doctor’s Parkette has plenty of benches and it is well maintained and is very clean.  The few plants and trees in the park are also in good shape but it is, however, not a very relaxing spot. The intersection gets busy at times, and the background noise you will hear consists of honks, cars, and streetcars. It also lacks green space. Most of the park is concrete, so its purpose is basically to be a seating area. Doctor’s Parkette is a popular spot, with people in it at most times during the day. It is a good place to take a break if you live or work in the area.    

Overheard: “Just let me give her a call, and I will call you back,” a woman said while talking on the phone. 

Did you know: Doctor’s Parkette was formerly known as Brunswick College Parkette before it was renovated in 2017 and its name was changed to the current one. 

Robert Street Park

60 Sussex Ave.

Time: 4:30 p.m. and 10 a.m.

Grade: D- (last year F

Reason to go: Robert Street Park has been our lowest ranked park for years. This park needs regular maintenance which it is clearly not getting. There is a lot of green space, but it was not accessible. It also has a hockey rink that is closed off and seems to be used just for storage. There are two areas of black-top, one is empty and the other has hockey nets in it; this seems to be the only playground that is accessible in this park. The only good thing about Robert Street Park is a small area behind the hockey rink that is well shaded with a good variety of trees and some benches. The only reason for giving Robert Street Park an improving grade is its potential for restoration. The size, as well as the perfect mix of green space and playground, could make it a go-to park destination. 

Overheard: A truck passing by, that’s it! The place was totally empty. 

Did you know: Back in 2017 a local resident launched a petition to restore the park’s facilities, but so far it would seem that no work has been done.

Bickford Park

400 Grace St.

Time: 12:00 p.m.

Grade: A (last year A)

Reason to go: You’ve got a dog! There is an off-leash dog park and a huge green area that covers most of the land, and so this park is nowhere near short of space. Located close to Christie Station, Bickford Park is very accessible, with entrances from all the surrounding streets. There are plenty of benches, tables, and different varieties of trees for nature lovers. The park also offers a large baseball diamond and washrooms. There is some graffiti in the washroom area and on one of the water fountains, but overall Bickford’s spacious green area offers people the opportunity to take part in different summer activities or even a picnic on a nice day. 

Overheard: Dogs barking and enjoying themselves in the off-leash area. 

Did you know: Bickford Park was established in 1908, when the city of Toronto bought the land from a former Toronto businessman and politician named Edward O. Bickford. 

Healey Willan Park

504 Euclid Ave. 

Time: 12:30 p.m.

Grade: B- (last year B)

Reasons to go: For anyone looking to take young children outdoors, Healey Willan Park is a great solution. It is located in a calm and quiet neighbourhood that doesn’t see much traffic, the park has a good-sized playground, a sandbox, lots of toys and a functioning wading pool. There are plenty of benches for parents as well as picnic tables in the shaded area of the park. The only downside is the maintenance of the place. There is a lot of litter that should be regularly cleaned. During the summer, the wading pool will make Healey Willan Park a popular attraction. No dogs are allowed in the playground areas.

Overheard: “Vrooom!” A young child playing with a toy truck in the sandbox. 

Did you know: Healey Willan was a British-Canadian organist and composer with more than 850 compositions to his name. 


Tags: Annex · Life