Expanding Our Parks

by Markus O'Brien Fehr, Chief of Staff

Wednesday night, teachers at Cameron Public School arranged an outdoor movie.

Hundreds of parents and kids came in for the event. The success, however, had little to do with the film. It was because so many of us loved the opportunity to gather together in an outdoor space to reconnect. The drizzle falling from the sky didn't stifle what my son enthusiastically dubbed "the best night ever.

Over the past three years, every one of us has become more aware of the value of parks and public spaces. They provided some of the few available social opportunities while trying to stay COVID "safe."

For others, they have always been critical. Nearly two-thirds of Willowdale residents live in apartment-style homes, most without access to back yards. Accessing playgrounds, splash pads, picnic benches and sports fields are necessary part of an active life, and residents are rightly looking for more opportunities.

Through the pandemic, we've capitalized on a growing enthusiasm to develop a long term plan that will create new parks, expand others and add new facilities and features. John has created a resident-led parks advisory committee to help identify priorities for both local neighbourhoods, as well as for Willowdale as a whole.

In the southeast, work is progressing on Willowdale Park which will be the home of a new destination playground, picnic area and fitness circuit in 2023.

Parkview Neighbourhood Garden and Lee Lifeson Art Park will be expanded that same year. New features are also being considered by Parks staff for Glendora Park, with public consultation coming next year.

In the northeast, Aneta Circle Parkette will have a new playground and fitness area following consultation this spring. A full redevelopment of Silverview Park will get underway next year to include a new covered picnic area and play equipment. Holmes Avenue playground will be built within the next year with Caswell and Pemberton Parks getting new equipment in 2024.

Olympic Garden Park, a new 6,000 square metre site near Yonge and Cummer will also open in 2024.

In the northwest, Goulding Community Centre is undergoing a renovation, with a park expansion a part of that plan. Moore Park will see some minor work this year, with more planned over the next few years. The biggest opportunity in this area will come from a new 5-acre park site near 5800 Yonge created by two upcoming developments. This site will present a chance to add major new features such as an artificial rink.

In the southwest, Gwendolen Park will be home to new features in 2023, including a pickleball court, new play equipment and shaded seating areas. Franklin Park is expanding, creating an opportunity to connect it to Cameron Avenue, while a new park with playground will be coming to Linelle Street in 2024.

The next few years will be exciting for park development in the area. We hope many of the themes we've heard over the last few years will continue to advance: more play areas, features for residents of all ages, more picnic areas, and more spaces for our many Willowdale dogs.

If you have ideas on what you'd like to see you your local parks, we'd love to hear from you. We all want to have spaces to gather with friends and experience "the best night ever."

On beautiful Friday evenings in July, there's nowhere I'd rather be than with you in Mel Lastman Square. For more than 10 years, it's been my joy to be there on those nights, satisfying my creative ur