A meeting to discuss the possibilities in Woodbine Park attracted an impressive 50 local residents on Feb. 9. Hosted by the Greening Ward 32 group at a nearby condo building, residents heard from several guest speakers before committing their own ideas to paper for consideration by the city’s Parks Department.
Martina Rowley, the Greening Ward 32 member who organized the meeting, has already worked with a couple other local residents to get hundreds of shrubs, plants and flowers planted for next spring; however, the group at the meeting was asked to let their imaginations run wild when considering the possibilities for the park, which runs between Queen Street East and Lakeshore Boulevard. The section in question is the open field-like section between Northern Dancer Boulevard to the east and the bandshell and parking lot for the teletheatre to the west.
Before brainstorming, the crowd heard from David Harvey, Executive Director of Park People Toronto. He spoke about his group, which is working for better parks across the city. He said community involvement is the key to a successful park.
“There’s a great opportunity for the community to get involved,” he said.
The number of people that showed up for the Woodbine Park meeting was a strong indicator for the future of the park.
“This is really inspiring,” said Harvey. “It’s limitless, what you can do.”
Also speaking to the group was the Friends of Trinity Bellwoods Park’s Michelle MacLean, who runs that group’s adopt-a-tree program. The program matches volunteers with particular trees, which they take responsibility for watering.
“Parks are, frankly, a brutal environment. They’re not like a forest,” she said.
Her program was born out of necessity, since the city just didn’t have the staffing capacity to ensure the health of all the trees in the park. She said she didn’t have any interest in getting involved in the politics of city staffing, “but I do care if our lovely trees die.”
Ward 32 Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon mentioned her goal of having a ‘friends-of’ group for every park in the ward. Although Woodbine Park isn’t quite at that stage yet, she and Rowley are hoping some in the crowd will be willing to, quite literally, dig in and get their hands dirty.
Rowley said after the meeting the turnout was better than she had hoped for.
“I was very excited about that,” she said. “I like the energy that was there.”
Taking stock of suggestions from the crowd, many realistic items made the list. Benches and seating areas, fixing drainage issues and more garbage cans were popular requests. Other ideas were a bit more lofty, but not entirely unrealistic.
“There’s quite a few people that would like to be able to skate on the pond, which is not currently permitted,” she said.
There were also suggestions for a community garden or orchard, and many, many requests for “trees and more trees, especially evergreens.” There were mentions of local art events or installations, and maybe some sort of lantern festival.
Specific requests were also made for what isn’t wanted at the park. Commercial vendors, more big festivals and off-leash dog areas topped that list.
Rowley has met with Parks staff to discuss the wish list put together from input at the meeting, and another meeting will be set up in late March. She believes there will be a solid group of people ready to volunteer their time and effort to make the dream of a better Woodbine Park a reality.
“I think there’s enough interest. I’m positive there will be enough people,” she said.