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GRADING OUR GREENSPACE (Fall 2021)

November 11th, 2021 · No Comments

Albeit small and with no playground infrastructure Gwendolyn MacEwan park is a great spot to stop and have a rest.

As part of the Gleaner’s annual area park reviews, here is Part Two. We grade each park and compare the score with the prior year. We look for amenities, trees, gardens, and cleanliness. We also tell you something you may not know about how the space got its name. 

Compiled and photos by Madeline Smart

Gwendolyn MacEwan Park

33 Walmer Rd.

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Grade: B- (last year B-

Reasons to go: Gwendolyn MacEwan Park is right in the middle of a roundabout at Walmer Road and Lowther Avenue. Albeit small and with no playground infrastructure this is a really lovely park to have a rest in. With benches placed around the perimeter of the park facing inwards along with some big beautiful trees, this park feels like a little island. There’s lots of places to find in the shade and it’s not usually too busy. However, as a roundabout surrounded by multiple apartment buildings, it can be a little noisy, but is still a great place to take a break on your way home or to hang out and read a book.

Overheard: “That’s what you guys are wearing?” A woman says to her friends walking towards her. “You look so cute! You look like you’re in a summer Gap catalogue!”

Did you know: The park is named after Canadian poet and novelist Gwendolyn MacEwan who was a lifelong Toronto resident. She used to write her poetry in English but she also could write them in Egyptian hieroglyphics. MacEwan also co-owned a café on the Danforth with her husband in the early seventies called The Trojan Horse.

Jay Macpherson Park is well maintained, there are nice big trees, a couple benches line the pathway and is overall a nice place to stop and have a break outside.

Jay Macpherson Green

255 Avenue Rd.

Time: 7:20

Grade: B+ (last year B+)

Reasons to go: This park at face value is really nice; it’s well maintained, there are nice big trees, a couple benches line the pathway and is overall a nice place to stop and have a break outside. However, it’s located right beside one of the busiest roads in the city, Avenue Road. If you come during rush hour it’s pretty much guaranteed that you won’t be able to hear your friend talk or even your own thoughts. At other times, it can be a really nice place to relax or walk with your dog but the noise of the road is definitely a downfall. 

Overheard: Nothing but traffic on Avenue Road.

Did you know: The advocacy group called the Avenue Road Safety Coalition is lobbying to have the outer lanes of Avenue Road closed and transformed into wider sidewalks to create more safe areas for pedestrians. If approved, traffic noise could be reduced,  making the park more peaceful. 

The fenced-in playground structure of Ryan Russell Parkette is tucked into the north corner which is smart considering how close it still is to busy Avenue Road and Dupont Street.

Sergeant Ryan Russell Parkette

250 Avenue Rd.

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Grade: B+ (last year N/A)

Reasons to go: Located right across the street from Jay Macpherson Park, this parkette is the more child friendly option. Tucked into the north corner there’s a fenced-in playground structure which is smart considering how close it still is to busy Avenue Road and Dupont Street. It’s well maintained with nice trees, benches and some small gardens scattered around. As with Jay Macpherson Park, it’s noisy from traffic and the Playa Cabana Hacienda restaurant right next door.

Overheard: “C’mon we gotta get it!” A little girl yells to her mom while jumping up and down trying to grab a leaf from a low hanging tree branch.

Did you know: This park was renamed in 2011 in honour of Sgt. Ryan Russell, a Toronto police officer who died in line of duty after being struck by a stolen snow plow that year.

Boswell Parkette was created in 1973 as a part of the “traffic maze” phenomenon of the 1970s which hoped to shield neighbourhoods from the sound of traffic

Boswell Park 

4 Boswell Ave.

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Grade: B (last year B)

Reasons to go: A small parkette at the dead end of Boswell Avenue, connecting it to Avenue Road. Boswell Parkette is a great place to have a rest, take a shortcut or wait for the bus. Literally right behind a bus stop this parkette offers a much more scenic waiting area than most TTC stops. Sandwiched between two buildings, one of them being the popular restaurant, Blu Ristorante, this parkette usually gets a lot of shade but it can be a little noisy from the patio and Avenue Road. There’s lots of places to sit despite its small size, so if you need a place to recharge after a long day of shopping in Yorkville, this could be your spot. 

Overheard: Jazz music carrying over from the Blu Ristorante patio and cars driving down Avenue Road.

Did you know: The parkette was created in 1973 as a part of the “traffic maze” phenomenon of the 1970s which hoped to shield neighbourhoods from the sound of traffic. It started as just three planters which is still the basic layout of the park but has since been landscaped with bigger trees and bushes. 

The park and nearby school is named after Jesse Ketchum who was a tanner and philanthropist. After the war of 1812 he helped fund the rebuilding of the bridges over the Don Valley and contributed to the first common school at York.

Jesse Ketchum Park

1310 Bay St.

Time: 3:00 p.m.

Grade: A (last year A)

Reasons to go: Located on Bay Street and right beside a school of the same name, this park can get a little noisy but the beauty and size of the park makes it a worthwhile stop for sure. With tons of space, lovely trees and well maintained gardens, Jesse Ketchum Park is a great place to relax outdoors, just pick any of the many benches or grab a seat on one of the big stones lining the garden and take a deep breath. If you want to exercise instead there’s a full-size turf soccer field right behind the park that’s great to play a game with friends or do your own solo workout. There does seem to be an unhoused person living in a tent towards the south side of the park but it seems that they are coexisting nicely with park goers and have kept everything clean. 

Overheard: “I don’t think there’s a train that runs to Prince Edward Island, is there?” Two friends chat over coffee on one of the benches while their dog relaxes at their feet.

Did you know: The park and nearby school is named after Jesse Ketchum who was a tanner and philanthropist. After the war of 1812 he helped fund the rebuilding of the bridges over the Don Valley and contributed to the first common school at York. He was known for his interest in schools and education and was affectionately nicknamed “Father Ketchum.”

Hillcrest Park has received an A+ rating from the Gleaner for the last three years and we’re happy to report it has continued its excellence.

Hillcrest Park

950 Davenport Rd. 

Time: 3:30 p.m.

Grade: A+ (last year A+)

Reasons to go: Hillcrest Park has received an A+ rating from the Gleaner for the last three years and we’re happy to report it has continued its excellence. This park is truly a paradise for every type of person. Sports lovers, children, dog owners and everyone in between can find their place at Hillcrest Park. There’s a basketball court, tennis courts, a baseball field, a table tennis table made of stone, a playground, a wading pool and tons of open space for whatever else you want to do. The semi enclosed off leash dog area is also expansive, making it a popular place for owners to play fetch with their pups. The park earns its name by being located at the top of a hill at the corner of Davenport Road and Christie Street but the hillside is lined with trees which does a great job at neutralizing the noise of traffic from the streets. There’s lots of picnic benches, regular benches and beautiful trees to sit under which makes it a great place to picnic or to read a book. Literally anything you want to do outdoors can be done at Hillcrest Park.

Overheard: “Alright now try your hardest to touch your toes!” A woman instructed a small group of young children in a yoga class on the field. 

Did you know: The park covers 2.1 hectares of land making it one of the larger parks in the city. You can also see Lake Ontario from the park. 

Wychwood Barns Park features a beach volleyball court, a small dog park, a splash pad, playground and a still thriving community garden.

Wychwood Barns Park

76 Wychwood Ave.

Time: 4:00 p.m.

Grade: A (last year A)

Reasons to go: This is another gorgeous multi-use space for the community that’s spacious and very well maintained. Located around Wychwood Barns which hosts all types of events all year round, the park itself features a beach volleyball court, a small dog park, a splash pad, playground and a still thriving community garden. There are benches scattered all around the park and plenty of open green space available to sit and take a breather. So, whether you’re coming to Wychwood Barns for the weekend farmer’s market, taking your kids to cool off on a hot summer day, or even to play a game of volleyball, this park is the perfect place to spend whatever day you have planned. 

Overheard: “C’mon dad, I want to be sprayed again!” A young kid yells at her dad to spray her again with a water gun feature at the splash pad. 

Did you know: The barns were originally built and made to be streetcar repair facilities for the Toronto Civic Railway and later the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). Eventually in 1985 they were declared surplus and were boarded up until the redevelopment plan started in 2006. 

Unlike many other public parks during the pandemic, Paul Martel Park actually seems to have received the care and attention it’s been desperate for in previous years, which is most evident in the thriving community garden.

Paul Martel Park 

10 Madison Ave.

Time: 2:00 p.m.

Grade: D+ (last year F)

Reasons to go: In the past this park has been scored poorly due to an excess of litter, vandalism, and overall lack of maintenance. However, unlike other city parks that declined in quality over the pandemic, Paul Martel Park seems to have improved the maintenance it was previously receiving. There was almost no litter to be found and the community gardens seem to be thriving. The graffiti on the park’s entrance sign has unfortunately still remained and the sounds of traffic and construction can be heard, yet it maintains a calming atmosphere. There does seem to be a lot of pigeons, however, the gardens are looking quite luscious and this is overall, a nice place to sit and relax if you’re out and about in the Bloor and Spadina area.

Overheard:  Pigeons clacking around on the gravel pathway. 

Did you know: The park was formerly known as Ecology Park until it was renamed in 2014 after architect and community member Paul Martel who worked tirelessly volunteering his time towards revitalizing many Annex parks. Martel sadly passed away just last year at the age of 83. He was known for integrating social action and purpose into his architecture and urban planning. 

A huge park with enough space to entertain any one of any age, Vermont Square Park is an expansive oasis hidden from busy Bathurst Street.

Vermont Square Park

819 Palmerston Ave.

Time: 4:00 p.m

Grade: A (last year A)

Reasons to go: Vermont Square Park is located at Palmerston and Olive avenues, tucked away from busy Bathurst street. It’s expansive, filled with big trees, small grassy hills, and even a separate area for children where a large playground structure is enclosed by long wooden benches. This has made a natural separation for adults and children. On most afternoons you can find local seniors gathered under the trees in their own lawn chairs while also having children playing on the playground or running around in the grass. There’s a small wading pool which is an added bonus on hot summer days. This park is a nice and quiet place for pretty much any summer day activity for any age group. The large rock placed conveniently right next to the picnic bench seems to also be a popular place for kids to climb and sit on top of.

Overheard: “C’mon, you can do it! Just grab my hand!” A kid yells down from on top of the large rock structure to their friend as they’re standing on top of the picnic bench trying to climb on top of the rock.

Did you know: The park underwent a revitalization in 2012 by Toronto architect and landscape collective PLANT. 

Despite a project completion date of June, 2021, the Robert Street Park opened on Oct. 12. The delay was due to issues with groundwater management, according to construction workers executing emergency remedial measures at the site.

Robert St. Park 

60 Sussex Ave. 

Time: 4:00 p.m.

Grade: No Grade (last year n/a)

Reasons to go: After two years of construction, the Robert Street Park opened almost four months behind schedule, in late October. Delays were encountered due to issues with groundwater management according to construction workers executing emergency remedial measures at the site. The completed park features a winding path, grassy areas and seasonal plantings. U of T hopes it will bring enjoyment to residents of Harbord Village and surrounding neighbourhoods.

Overheard: People riding by on their bikes and taking walks.

Did you know: The park will also feature the country’s deepest and largest geothermal project underneath the adjacent field. The geothermal technology will aid in the University of Toronto lowering their greenhouse gas emissions for heating and cooling their new residence building. 

The Doctor’s Parkette may not be the greenest park but it is often a valuable meeting place for those visiting Kensington Gardens next door.

Doctor’s Parkette

15 Brunswick Ave.

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Grade: C- (last year C)

Reasons to go: A nice resting spot but very easily missed. This is partly due to its location at College Street and Brunswick Avenue right beside Kensington Health. The design of the stone tiling and lack of big trees doesn’t exactly scream ‘park’ to the average passerby. The tile work is artful to be fair, but it’s currently being ruined by the copious amount of cigarette butts on the ground falling in between the paving stones. Due to the lack of older trees there’s little shade in the parkette during the day. At night the lighting is really beautiful, but most people aren’t looking for a place to relax and enjoy the outdoors at night. It’s a good place to rest, take a phone call or have your lunch break, if you can withstand the traffic noise. 

Overheard: “See, that’s the same pigeon. He comes by every time you’re out here to see you I swear.” A man tells his elderly mother as they sit in the park chatting. 

Did you know: The parkette was formerly known as the Brunswick-College Parkette but was renamed to recognize the many prominent doctors who have lived and worked in the neighbourhood over the years as well as to acknowledge the rich history of hospitals in the area.

At a time when indoor seating at coffee shops was still restricted, Village of Yorkville Park offered a sanctuary for remote workers with its bistro tables and chairs.

Village of Yorkville Park 

115 Cumberland St.

Time:  3:00 p.m.

Grade: B (last year B

Reasons to go: As the pandemic has continued and certain restrictions have remained, this park has been consistently busy. In the heart of Yorkville close to Bay station, it is always teeming with people having coffee, taking meetings, working on their laptops or having their lunch break while working at any of nearby businesses. The architecture and landscape is unique and pleasing to look at and the abundant café tables and chairs are convenient. There’s no grass to sit on and every tree and flower bush is strategically placed and sectioned off within the park which doesn’t necessarily give you the break in nature that other parks in the city offer. It’s also not a great place for kids: there’s no playground structure but there is a giant rock in the middle on which you can usually spot one or two kids climbing. It still provides a little bit of an oasis in a busy and very commercial area of the city and is a great place to take a break from the surrounding chaos, if you can find a spot to sit.

Overheard: “Look at the camera!” A woman says to a teenager who is feeding and training multiple pigeons to climb up her and sit on her shoulders and hands.

Did you know: Victorian row houses used to occupy the space where the park sits but were demolished to help build the Bloor subway line. The eleven garden plots that are throughout the park actually trace the property lines of the demolished houses. 

Walmer Road Parkette kind of feels like it was meant to be a private courtyard type area for the people who live in the town houses so it can feel almost intrusive to hang out in.

Walmer Road Parkette

227 Walmer Rd. 

Time: 4:00 p.m.

Grade: B (last year C+

Reasons to go: This is a really beautiful and small parkette in the middle of a row of gorgeous townhouses. It’s very well maintained with beautiful flowers and large pine trees. Four wooden benches lining the pathway facing the gardens provide a nice place to sit and relax. Because it’s a small residential street it’s very quiet, but because of that as well it sort of feels like you’re sitting in people’s front yard. The parkette kind of feels like it was meant to be a private courtyard type area for the people who live in the town houses so it can feel almost intrusive to hang out in. It seems like a nice detour to take if you’re walking around the Casa Loma area where you can avoid the busy streets and maybe take a breather but it’s definitely not great for any big activities.

Overheard: “Do you like close ups or full body shots?” “Both.” A conversation between a photographer and the woman modelling for them while they took photos on a set of townhouse steps nearby. 

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Tags: Annex · Life