Artificial Turf Coming to Dieppe Park?

IMG_0005 v2~ By Ed Horner.     May 5, 2015

Dieppe Park walks a fine line between being a community park  (used mainly by local residents) and being a sports park (used heavily by organized soccer and baseball teams from in and around the GTA, that pay to use the facility).  For the 26 years that I’ve lived within walking distance of Dieppe, the park has handled this tension fairly well.  Having lived on Greenwood with my backyard right on the park, I can say that with some confidence.*

Last night, I was at a public consultation meeting hosted by Councillor Mary Fragedakis in the Council Chambers of the East York Civic Centre at 850 Coxwell Ave.  The purpose of this meeting was to;

  • Present the draft design concept for the redevelopment of the soccer field at Dieppe Park
  • Receive comment/input from the public on the proposed design
  • Discuss next steps

In attendance were Parks and Rec people, including Ray Stukas (Parks Manager), Tony Nagy (Senior Project Co-ordinator) and Michelle Reid (Park Supervisor, Ward 29).  Also a couple of people from, PFR Capital (Parks Forestry and Recreation), including Peter Didiano, about 30 residents and a few representatives from various soccer clubs including the current president and founder of East York Soccer Club, Dragan Zagar.

Green area is the proposed new facility

Green area is the proposed new facility

As these public consultation meetings go, this was usual fare;  Toronto staff present the proposal, explain that the budget has already been approved by Toronto Council and now we are seeking the input of the locals, special interest groups and other stakeholders.  As expected, the presentation was well polished and fact-full.  Various pictures and artist renditions were presented and a few number laid out.  Also as expected, the party lines were drawn quite quickly and definitively … Soccer Clubs on the one hand and Local Residents on the other. Here’s a few facts to set the table

  • The project budget is $1.4M and is already approved by Toronto Council (the budget is not specific to this project and can just as easily be spent in other areas of East York or Toronto)
  • The existing field will be enlarged (see diagram below)
  • The proposed field will be classified as “premier” (which means that the City will charge a premium price)
  • The new field will be “irrigated” to allow for cleaning (dog dirt mostly it would seem)
  • East York currently has no “premier” field for soccer
  • Proposed artificial turf has no issues for Toronto Health, beyond change-of-use-patterns on the field or impacts on the community.  Note that these two concerns were beyond the scope of this particular HIA (Health Impact Assessment).
  • The new facility (as proposed) is to be fenced off from the public and padlocked
  • Two new night lights will be added to the existing 6
  • Permitted hours will “almost certainly” be increased (Ray Stukas – Parks Manager)
  • Existing field has a threshold of 700 permitted hours, but is well beyond that now and as such, cannot be maintained to a suitable level
  • Existing field is classified as “multi purpose” and is given an “A” rating.  The new field will not be “multipurpose.”
  • Parking issues will not be addressed with this proposal (night-game parking is a bit of a concern for locals).

This proposed facility will be a great advantage for the organized soccer, such as the non-profit, East York Soccer Club (which, it is reported, has some 2,000 youth [4-18] among it’s membership).  The facility will be pretty much state-of-the-art .  By most accounts, this type of facility is sorely needed by organized Toronto soccer clubs. IMG_0012 v2 Last night, the question that kept coming up was whether or not Dieppe Park (which already houses a top notch (“B”) baseball diamond (also padlocked) and two concrete artificial ice rinks (easily accessed) is a good spot to put in another facility that can only be used by organized sports and is off limits to the locals.

To put it in perspective, if the fenced off area of this proposed soccer facility is realized, it would take fully 42% of the usable space away from local park users.  The park area occupies about 32,725 square meters.  Of that, the parking area, padlocked baseball diamond and concrete artificial ice rink and related buildings occupy 13,608 square meters. (1)  That leaves just over 19,000 square meters of green space which is accessible to the public -at present-  when there are no soccer games scheduled.

Remember when Dieppe rinks looked like a prison yard?

Remember when Dieppe rinks looked like a prison yard?

The proposal that’s being floated (the non-public access model) will take away just over 8,000 square meters of that remaining space.

That leaves about 11,000 square meters of publicly accessible green space for kids to play, people to walk their dogs, have a picnic, throw a Frisbee, play catch, etc.  That 11,000 square meters will not be contiguous space, but little scraps of land trapped between 4m tall chain link fences in-between the locked sports facilities. The diagram below (originally made for FODP Adopt-a-Tree program) shows the current soccer field (multipurpose field, really) as the green area at the bottom, labeled “H”.  The red dotted line around that green area is the proposed new turf facility bounds.  It will be larger than the existing field as the “runout” areas need to be increased. (Note that the rinks labeled “B” have been reconfigured, and enlarged, since this diagram was drawn and now extend to the end of building labeled “C”).  

Slide1   At present, the green area “H” is fully accessible to all park users when soccer games are not scheduled.  The area residents use this park regularly, provide “eyes on” for security, have cared for trees under the adopt-a-tree program, take their children to the splash pad and play area (“G”), set off their Victoria Day fireworks (illegal without a permit, BTW, but you already knew that) and walk their dogs in the area north of “H” and west of “D”.  The main concern raised by residents last night was loss of access to valuable green space and turning it over to the exclusive use of the organized soccer clubs. The residents recognize that the soccer clubs are in need of a new facility, but again, the question arose of whether or not this was the right location. It was noted by both Ray and Tony that no other (non-covered) artificial turf facilities exist in Toronto that are fenced off and padlocked from the public.

Going Forward Tony handed out input forms for attendees to fill out and return either to him directly or to the coordinates on the form.

What you Can Do Whether you are for or against this proposed project you would be doing a great service to the community if you called, wrote or e-mailed councillor Mary Fragedakis to get more information and/or let her know your thoughts.

  • If you’re a local resident, think about how losing 42% of your parkland is going to effect you.
  • If you’re a member of the soccer community, let Mary know that you need more “premier” facilities – either at Dieppe or elsewhere.
  • If you have an idea that might address both sides of the issue with “wins” for both, let Mary know. (Maybe the artificial turf doesn’t need to be fenced off.  Maybe it doesn’t need to be locked.  Maybe improved maintenance schedule and better funding for existing field would be an option  Maybe it doesn’t need to be the size proposed [it could be smaller as no hard and fast rules seem to exist for non-Olympic pitches], is there a park/lot or unused land area that might work better?)

Wherever you stand on this issue, I urge you to get involved and make your thoughts, concerns or suggestions known. Councillor Mary Fragedakis East York Civic Centre, 850 Coxwell Av. Toronto, ON M4C 5R1 Phone: 416-466-MARY (6279) Fax: 416-392-4123     councillor_fragedakis <councillor_fragedakis@toronto.ca>

***For the Record***

While I, personally, recognize the pressing need for organized soccer in Toronto to have improved access to “premier” fields, I do not endorse the proposal, as presented last night.  I believe that some sort of compromise around community access MUST be found if the community is to fully support such a dramatic change-0f-of-use-pattern to their local park.  More to the point, I have come to the conclusion that Dieppe Park isn’t the place for such a facility as proposed, without some major concessions being granted and acted upon (maybe improved public facilities around the grounds of the S. Walter Stewart Library at Memorial Pk. and Durant Av. or a public walking garden [like Hillside Gardens in High Park] being put in at Cullen Bryant Park and a good place to have an off-leash area for dogs.)  The community will be losing 8,000 square meters of green space and that needs to be replaced within the community ~ Ed Horner

________________________________

* In fairness, you should know that I recently moved to just south of the Danforth near Logan, so I no longer live in East York proper.  Still, I do have an interest in what goes on in Toronto parks in geneeral and Dieppe in particular … and I hope you do too.

(1)  These are not 100% accurate numbers as I pulled them from Google Earth calculations, but they are accurate enough for the purpose of this discussion.

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