Serving Toronto's most liveable community with the Annex Gleaner

FOCUS: Grading our greenspace (Fall 2023)

December 5th, 2023 · No Comments

A report card on our cherished parks

The Village of Yorkville Park pictured here has stood the test of time and remains a “must see” in the Annex.

Compiled and photos by Megan Bocchinfuso

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 contains the first eight parks reviewed this year, with more gradings to come in future editions of the Annex Gleaner.

Bloor-Bedford Parkette 

245 Bloor St. W. 

Grade: B+ (Last grade B in 2021)

Time: 12:30 p.m.

Reasons To Go: When you sit in this park, in front of the Royal Conservatory of Music and down the street from the Royal Ontario Museum, you feel involved in Toronto’s art scene, and that is a lovely thing to feel a part of. You are enveloped by the old red bricks of the conservatory, allowing you to sink into the calming presence the park offers. 

What this park lacks in size and structure it makes up for in tree cover and serenity, with 10 mature trees and a wrap-around bench that faces both the street and the conservatory. 

Nearby, people were lying down on the bench looking up at the trees and some were listening to music and sipping iced coffee; all were in a state of meditation. 

It is important to note no one was on their cell phones, which is something of a success for a park. The space is clean and well kept, but it’s missing greenery and flower beds in the space below the trees, which is currently dirt. 

Overheard: Passersby whistling in the streets.

Did you know: The Royal Conservatory is one of the largest music schools in the world, and the Toronto location is their headquarters. 

Christie Pits Park

747 Bloor St. W.

Grade: A+ (Last year A+)

Time: 1:00 p.m.

Reasons To Go: Beloved Christie Pits Park is a staple in the west end community. 

This massive park has flower beds, tons of seating areas (whether it’s benches or, a popular choice, towels on the grassy hill!) and playground equipment, making it suitable for all ages.

Christie Pits has multiple sports amenities such as a baseball diamond and basketball courts, making it a very useful spot for friendly and competitive games. 

Or perhaps you’d like to enjoy a meal on the picnic tables or a long walk on the tree-covered foot path. 

This park is one of the biggest in Toronto, and it is very well kept due to its central location and popularity. 

When you are in Christie Pits, you feel like a true Torontonian, and the park allows you to be part of something that is loved by everyone. 

Overheard: Buzzing cicadas and mature trees swaying in the wind. 

Did you know: There are bike racks along the edge of the park. 

Matt Cohen Park

393 Bloor St. W.

Grade: B+ (Last year D)

Time: 11:00 a.m.

Reasons To Go: Matt Cohen Park is an opportunity to sit and soak in the energy that is the busy heart of Spadina and Bloor. This park very much has a downtown feel; it’s not as much of a getaway as it is a green addition to downtown life, matching the energy of its urban surroundings. 

After receiving a D grade last year for its heavy pollution, this park has improved significantly, and is now a clean and pleasant greenspace. 

It’s a great outdoor option for coffee or lunch for commuters in the area. The space is adequately big and well-kept, with black stone sculptures for visual appeal. There is both full sun and shade-covered seating and a sectioned off area for privacy. The only thing missing from this park is an it factor, which would have separated it from other basic parks in the area.

Overheard: Noisy downtown construction and the gentle hum of busy commuters. 

Did you know: This is just steps from Spadina Station for a quick and easy getaway. 

Paul Martel Park 

10 Madison Ave. 

Grade: B- (Last year A)

Time: 2:00 p.m.

Reasons To Go: Paul Martel Park is a quaint little area on Madison Avenue, north of Bloor. The best part about this park is how colourful it is. The picnic-style chairs and benches are all painted in rainbow hues which gives the space a burst of life.

Although there are many flower beds and native plants, the vegetation was in decay and the overall grade of the park would be higher if it were better maintained. 

Also, privacy is an issue with this park because it is so close to the sidewalk and street. It is not advised to come here for some alone time; however, the park was still very busy. 

Chattering people could be heard from all directions and someone nearby was slung back in a yellow, red, and purple chair, listening to music and soaking up the sun. There is a section where the chairs are arranged in a circle which would be great for a picnic or a group gathering.  

Overheard: Music playing in the distance and the chatter of people. 

Did you know: This park used to be called Ecology Park but was renamed in honour of Toronto architect Paul Martel who volunteered much of his time to creating this park and others in the city.

One of the best maintained parks in the Annex, Jesse Ketchum Park oozes whimsy. MEGAN BOCCHINFUSO/GLEANER NEWS

Jesse Ketchum Park 

1310 Bay St. 

Grade: A+ (Last year A-)

Time: 10:30 a.m.

Reasons To Go: Jess Ketchum is a beautiful, upscale park at the corner of Bay and Davenport. The maintenance and of this park is among the best we have seen. The sweet smell of the well-groomed flowers and plants really elevates the space and the experience. 

There is a lovely metal gazebo structure which connects one section of the park with benches to the other section with a garden and sitting stones. This park oozes whimsy and delight for a fairy-tale escape. 

Overheard: The sweet sound of children playing in the school behind the park. 

Did you know: There are two water bottle refill stations in this park. 

Village of Yorkville Park 

115 Cumberland St.

Grade: A+ (Last year A-)

Time: 2:00 p.m.

Reasons To Go: Dreamed up in the ’70s by the “Grandfather of Yorkville,” art historian Budd Sugarman, this park receives a high grade because of its genius location and accessibility. 

Delicately placed between busy Cumberland Street and Bay subway station, this park has visitors coming and going. The many tables and chairs under the massive tree canopy allow for easy lunch dates and enable professionals to work outdoors. 

The park is long and thin, following Cumberland horizontally which allows more pedestrians to access it with ease.

The park is meant to evoke the Canadian landscape. There are multiple water features and a massive Muskoka granite rock feature weighing 700 tonnes. The vegetation is stunning with a variety of planted and potted flowers and plants. 

The layout is well thought out in its intricacy and design, making for a very comfortable environment. This park is truly the best combination of art and cityscape. 

Overheard: The soft sound of cars and someone singing in the apartment building above. 

Did you know: This park won an American Society of Landscape Architects Landmark Award in 2012. This award recognizes projects made over 15 years ago that have stayed true to their original design and continue to serve the public. 

Sally Bird Park 

194 Brunswick Ave.

Grade: C+ (Last year B)

Time: 2:30 p.m.

Reasons To Go: This park is a charming little hideout connecting Brunswick Avenue and Alan Powell Lane; however, you would never find this park if you weren’t from the area. It is very difficult to find as it is tucked between two houses. 

In the park there are wild and cultivated flowers on the path and a lovely mural of a child astronaut gazing into space which sets a nostalgic tone. 

There are two sets of miniscule exercise equipment. Given the location and small size of the park, they are unusual amenities for the area. 

However, we applaud Sally Bird Park for trying to promote an active lifestyle and exercise.

In terms of seating, there isn’t much aside from one bench, leaving us to think this park is mainly meant for strolling and admiration.

Overheard: Teenage boys laughing and sitting on the bench. 

Did you know: This park is very quaint—only 37.5 feet wide!

Gwendolyn MacEwen Parkette is an oasis. MEGAN BOCCHINFUSO/GLEANER NEWS

Gwendolyn MacEwen Parkette 

33 Walmer Road

Grade: A- (Last year B-)

Time: 1:00 p.m.

Reasons To Go: The amount of traffic through this park is remarkable. All three pathways lead to connecting sidewalks on Walmer Road and Lowther Avenue, making it almost impossible to not pass through the park. In the centre, where all the crosswalks meet, there is a flowerbed with a bust of Gwendolyn MacEwen. 

Mature trees above the benches provide protection from the sun and humidity. This park provides a lovely little break in scenery for commuters and pedestrians in the Annex. The only thing the park lacks is amenities to keep park-goers in the park, rather than just passing through. 

Overheard: A woman laughing on the phone with a loved one about a bug landing on her arm from an overhead tree, then saying, “Okay, bye, I love you.”

Did you know: Gwedolyn MacEwen was one of Canada’s most influential writers. The poet, storyteller, translator and dramatist, who died in 1987, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry in 1969 for The Shadow Maker and won the same award posthumously in 1987 for Afterworlds.


Tags: Annex · Life