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NEWS: Rebuilding trust through a community garden (Spring 2022)

April 11th, 2022 · No Comments

TDSB extends olive branch to neighbours whose cherished garden was razed

By Danielle Popov

Palmerston Avenue Junior Public School has been educating neighbourhood children for 133 years. Over the past 20 years, a group of neighbourhood parents showed their love for the school by tending a community garden on the property; that is, until the school’s facilities team razed it—without consulting or warning parents, many of whom had spent hundreds of hours working in the garden. Now, as spring approaches, the Parent Council and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) have come to an agreement: they will work together on a complete overhaul of the school grounds. 

The garden rebuild process has been delayed because there were preexisting plans to redesign the larger site, in particular, the part that is shared with Palmerston Community Daycare. Originally, the parents were concerned that the redesign would not include a new  community garden or honour the legacy of the previous one. However, at a meeting on Sept. 6, a member of the TDSB sustainability board explained that, going forward, a garden on a TDSB property can no longer be altered without approval from senior facilities managers and the board’s team of landscape architects.

On April 5, the facilities team will present their plan to the Parent Council. It will include the location of the garden, new play structures, plantings and accessibility improvements.   

“It’s really nice to see the enthusiasm,” says parent and volunteer Jesse Zuker. “Everyone—the principal [Rory Sullivan], the facilities team, and Councillor Mike Layton—[has] agreed to start work and do something amazing for the school grounds. ”

Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 11, University-Rosedale) attended Palmerston School.  

“We hope to build a legacy for the community,” says Jesse. “This school hasn’t seen much invested in it, and it’s been wonderful to see all the outpouring of support. “ 

Michael Ormston-Holloway, a Palmerston parent and a landscape architect at firm the Planning Partnership, has offered to help prepare concept designs. He is planning on “restitching the neighbourhood by  improving drop-off points along Palmerston Avenue and Euclid Avenue” and creating a classroom biosphere, with an emphasis on native plants for pollinators and migratory songbirds. His focus is on using the landscape as a teaching tool for the students. 

Ormston-Holloway also plans on establishing gateways to the school, as well as revitalizing the trees on the property that will become the “forest and canopy of tomorrow.”

The next steps for the Parent Council would be to work with the TDSB and the city to explore funding opportunities and develop a shared user agreement, allowing both students and members of the public to use the grounds at different points in the day. 

Lifetime Developments’ Brian Brown is also supporting the project with a community benefits contribution. This is pending a formal agreement with the City, utilizing the developer’s Section 37 contributions. 

The Parent Council will launch a formal fundraising campaign in the next few months.

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