Small turnout for park planning

City looks two decades ahead in forecast for parks and recreation

Public looks at visuals for Parks and Rec facilities plan
The city previews its parks and recreation facilities plan. (Kirk Budden)

Only a dozen people attended the first look into a 20-year plan by the city to restructure parks and recreation facilities across Toronto.

The city invited residents from downtown Toronto and East York specifically to this first public meeting for the plan, held at Wallace-Emerson Community Centre on Dufferin Street this week. This is the first of four meetings with the public across the city to discuss the direction of the plan.

The plan covers all public sports fields, sports courts, parks, ice rinks, indoor and outdoor pools and all other outdoor amenities.

The city says the meetings are an opportunity for the public to voice an opinion on the plan. But rather than talking about the future, much of the first meeting seemed to revolve around residents’ concerns about the current state of parks and recreational facilities.

“It’s impossible to get registered in aquatic programs,” said one woman who asked not to be identified. “People are waking up at seven in the morning to register and we can’t get our kids signed up.”

“Money only seems to go to things sports-related,” said another person, who also requested anonymity. “It would be good to have something simply for nature — pathways with benches.”

An older man — who similarly would not provide a name — said he’s “worried about how you go about getting information from senior citizens, and do you have any groups representing us?”

Michael Schreiner Director of Parks Development and Capital projects addresses the group.
Michael Schreiner, the director of city parks development and capital projects, addresses the group. (Kirk Budden)

The director of city parks development and capital projects, Michael Schreiner, explained that this will be a plan to update the last report, which was done in 2004. It is a 20-year-plan with five-year progress reports to ensure its effectiveness.

Schreiner concluded the meeting with listing some of the challenges that the city wants to overcome, and with an insight into what they want to achieve.

“The greatest challenge is acquiring land, especially in the highly dense areas where we need it the most,” he said. “We want to provide access for everyone. Inclusion, access and equity are what this plan is based on.”

The hope is that the plan will be carried to city council for approval by March 2017, when funding will be announced and five-year benchmarks will be scheduled.