Absence of Creativity Only Obstacle to Better Parks for Toronto

ABSENCE OF CREATIVITY ONLY OBSTACLE TO BETTER PARKS

New Report Provides Budget Neutral Solutions to Toronto Park Challenges

November 21, 2011. Toronto, ON.  File from Parks People, thanks to Dave Harvey

Our parks would be better if they were staffed with a dedicated city worker in each park, had an active local “Friends Of” group and were supported by private donations. These are some of the recommendations in a new report issued today by Park People, the Toronto Alliance for Better Parks. Pathway for Parks: A New Way Forward for Toronto Parks is the result of research and consultations with park advocates across North America as well as the collective experience of park volunteers and experts in the growing Toronto parks movement.
“Parks are the lifeblood of our neighbourhoods,” says Park People Executive Director Dave Harvey. “Toronto residents love their parks and do not want to see their already stretched park resources cut further.” According to the report, 1.3 million Torontonians visit a park once a week; 365,000 on a daily basis. Just 4% of the City’s budget is spent on this heavily utilized public resource.

“Other North American cities have not only embraced the need to fund parks adequately but they have also discovered innovative approaches to managing public resources efficiently as well as opening the doors to new sources of funding.”

The top challenge facing city parks, states the report, is keeping them in a state of good repair. As city planning expert and Park People Steering Committee member Ken Greenberg states: “Our parks do not live up to our promise as a major world centre. We are squandering this fundamental and cherished city asset.”

The Pathway report is timed to coincide with City budget deliberations and consultations on a new five-year Parks Plan. It also comes at a time of intense development with new parks in the works and planned intensification that will put pressure on existing parks. “We have to act now and the only thing stopping us is our inability to be creative. We need to maintain City funding, but by putting some new ideas to work we can change the picture entirely without costing the City a penny more,” adds Greenberg.

Solutions Highlights:

  • Shift the City’s maintenance delivery away from “flying squads” to dedicated local park staff;
  • Re-allocate capital expenditures to address the $261 million backlog in repairs to park and recreation facilities;
  • Facilitate the development of new park conservancies to share park oversight and invite community and private sector investment;
  • Allow new healthy local food concessions in parks to attract and keep residents in parks all year while also generating revenue;
  • Expand inspections and establish benchmarks to ensure consistent quality control across all city parks.

Pathway for Parks is the first in a series of solutions papers designed to improve city parks. At the core of the paper is the principle of public space: parks are a shared public asset that is best enhanced and animated through collaborative approaches that bring municipal policy makers and staff together with residents and the private sector.

Park People is a registered charity that works in partnership with communities, park staff and private enterprises to make Toronto’s parks the best they can be. For more information go to: www.parkpeople.ca

Come find Friends of Dieppe Park on Facebook and help spread the word – Ed Horner, Founder, Friends of Dieppe Park.

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