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cityscape

Growing Great Parks

Park People has 10 ideas it says will make our parks better—within the next council term.

20140516 High Park 068

Park People was founded in 2011 to “stand up for Toronto parks.” It’s hoping that voters and current and prospective councillors will also make the city’s parks a priority: although council approved a five-year parks plan in 2014, no new funding for parks plan initiatives was included the 2014 operating budget, and the repair backlog is expected to reach $359 million by 2018.

After conducting research and talking to park-loving and park-using Torontonians, the group has come up with a list of recommendations that will contribute to “a shift in thinking about our parks from just a capital asset to opening up the potential of Toronto’s parks for community building.” It invites councillors to steal and residents to debate the ten proposals contained in its “Growing Parks From the Grassroots: Parks Platform 2014.” Here are the basics:

Enable and Support Community Partnerships

  • embrace park friends groups as friends (there are over 100 such groups in 35 different wards)
  • explore formal park partnerships, such as park conservancies, with non-profits, foundations, and the business community

Bring Our Parks to Life Through Creativity

  • integrate park animation with all elements of park planning and community revitalization efforts
  • better integrate the growing, eating, and buying of fresh, affordable food into parks
  • bring the people skills of Recreation workers into Toronto’s parks

Plan Proactively for a Growing City

  • plan for the future of Toronto’s parks and facilities through a citywide, long-term master plan
  • considering the high cost of land for new parks, capitalize on existing open spaces to link and expand the park system

Keep Existing Parks in Good Repair

  • focus capital spending on addressing the repair backlog by looking to new funding opportunities
  • publicly release information on park quality to show how our parks are performing from year to year and in comparison to each other
  • employ park managers who are stationed in specific parks

“Toronto’s parks are at a critical moment,” the group comments. “We are experiencing a burst of creative energy from communities and organizations who want to get involved in our parks—now we must build the supports to truly harness that enormous potential.” And this platform, it says, produces a list of goals that could be achieved within the next council term.

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