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NEWS: Park set for improvements (Nov. 2020)

December 4th, 2020 · No Comments

Joseph Burr Tyrrell Park named after dinosaur hunter

A plaque memorializes the long time Walmer Road resident. BRIAN BURCHELL/GLEANER NEWS

By Tanya Ielyseieva

A plan to redo Joseph Burr Tyrrell Park (Dalton Road and Bloor St. West) is set to be completed by the end of next year, with construction scheduled to begin next summer. 

The park is one of the smallest in the Annex and has been in need of renovation for some time. 

“I started living a few houses down from the park a decade ago. No children really played in it,” said Gillean Bernier, a community member, and volunteer. “It was a scary place filled with drinkers and homeless at night, and the sand was filled with broken glass. Some of the families I now know even habitually called it “Glass Park” and never let their kids play there. The park has a long history as a place of drugs and drinking. It is not a nice place.”

The community played a large part in the redesign process and worked with the councillor’s office, staff at the Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division, and The Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) to develop a plan for improvements.

Bernier, who is an architectural designer, adds that a lot of the park’s problems are design-related.

“The original planner intended good things,” she says, “but the dense bushes and gated paved areas are wasted space that do not invite people in.”

Bernier approached Councillor Joe Cressy’s office several years ago to start the redesign process, and says she was pleased at the way Councillor Mike Layton and his director of operations, Marco Bianchi picked up the project. 

“We discovered the park had gotten into the city’s list for improvement projects, so we didn’t have to start from scratch,” she says. “Last summer the city planted new trees, and a neighbour donated a bench. It was a great improvement, and everyone was excited for what it could really turn into when a true re-design happened.”

In a letter to the ARA, Bianchi stated that, “there may be disagreements to the proposed direction, but by maintaining as transparent a process as possible these conflicts should be mitigated by the fact that the park is being designed in a way that we hope the vast majority of residents and park users can get behind.”

According to the city, the park is being improved as a state of good repair project and to improve accessibility with new pathways, seating areas, site lines, and a playground.

A design team has developed three preliminary layout options for the park based on an online survey, where residents shared what they wanted to change in Joseph Burr Tyrrell Park.

“The goal was to open the park up visually to the street, reclaim the wasted spaces as part of the park, offer even more seating, shaded from the sun. Everyone agreed that while the play equipment didn’t look fancy, they really were still the best swings and slides in the whole neighbourhood,” said Bianchi of the residents’ offerings. “We would not object to having the playground equipment painted to look fresh. Some members of the community would prefer dogs to be excluded, while others love that the dogs come. I think this will be the strongest point of negotiation for the redesign, but I believe a holistic design for the community will emerge.” 

According to the city spokesperson, Forest and Field Landscape Architects have been retained for the design and contract administration of the project. The project budget, including construction, testing, 3rd party inspection, and soft costs (surveyor, consultant, arborist, etc.) is estimated at approximately $350,000.

Who was Joseph Burr Tyrell?

Joseph Burr Tyrrell was a geologist, mining consultant, mapmaker and explorer. He is best known for his discovery of dinosaur bones (Albertosaurus sarcophagus – flesh-eating Alberta lizard) in Alberta’s Badlands, and coal in the vicinity of  Drumheller. Tyrrell was born in Weston, Ontario, in 1858, and began working for the Geological Survey of Canada in 1881 after graduating from the University of Toronto. He worked there from 1882-98, and during that time, explored and surveyed the natural history and mineral resources of the country’s remote regions.

Before working on independent assignments, Tyrrell was an assistant to another great figure in Canadian geology, George Mercer Dawson. Working together, the two men made a few important surveys of the Rockies to secure accurate information about coal deposits, and to collect plants, fossils, and other natural history materials.

While he was mapping and studying the geology of the land north of Calgary and east of the Rockies, he discovered the remains of dinosaurs in the Red Deer valley. These remains started the collection of fossil vertebrates currently held by the National Museum in Ottawa.

Tyrrell was a recipient of honorary degrees and distinctions, including The Black Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, The Murchison Medal of the Geological Society of London, and The Flavelle Medal of the Royal Society of Canada.

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