New Park Features can Define Local Neighbourhoods

by Markus O’Brien Fehr, Chief of Staff

“I want to go to the park with the cool slide,” says one of my kids on a warm spring afternoon.  “No, let’s go to the one with the treehouse,” says the other.

Though what follows is a diplomatic negotiation more challenging than some of the toughest Council battles, what’s clear is that unique features in local parks is something residents of all ages pick up on.  They can quickly come to define our neighbourhoods.

In December, John announced a major breakthrough with a development application.  A new community centre, roughly the same size as Edithvale, will be built within the new M2M Condo development on the southwest corner of Yonge and Cummer.  What might have cost a decade’s worth of section 37 (development) money will now cost significantly less. In this case, no additional land is required, and the developer will be putting up the exterior walls of the project.

This big win for our community has turned attention towards other recreational facilities in Willowdale.  Which of our local parks are in most need of attention?  What new and interesting features can we add to better define these neighbourhoods?

In September, John launched an online survey to start collecting ideas.  In November, we hosted a series of neighbourhood conversations to keep the thoughts coming.  Next week, we’re starting to hold discussions on specific park spaces that are headed into design for the first phase of implementation.  You can find out more information on these meetings, which I will be hosting, on John’s website.

Some of the ideas we’re currently working on include:

  1. A new platform tennis court in Gwendolen Park.

  2. A new fountain and update to the surrounding space in Albert Standing Park.

  3. A new themed play area and picnic area at Willowdale Park

  4. An outdoor meeting area with shade in Silverview Park.

  5. New accessible playgrounds at multiple locations.

We hope neighbours in the area of these parks will join the conversation and offer their own ideas on new features that will help define their neighbourhood space.

Over the late spring and summer, we will start working on a new series of projects to keep the momentum going. So keep those ideas coming!

As our population continues to grow, we must make sure that the growth is matched with places to play, relax or spend time with friends, family and neighbours. New park pathways can also support safer cycling or walking through the community.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve also collectively become more aware of the importance of our shared outdoor spaces.  New research is telling us that especially in high-rise communities without access to driveways or back yards, public parks make communities dramatically more resilient to a crisis.

We have some important and exciting work to do.  We invite you to be part of it.