Amidst many struggles in Toronto, maintaining parks often falls by the wayside. Unfortunately, the neglect of public parks leaves grassy open areas scorched and littered in garbage.

Despite budget cuts, a struggling transit portfolio, and an affordable housing crisis, the city parks are drying up. Canoe Landing in downtown Toronto is a prime example of neglected public park space. The park consists of weeds that have taken over the fields, broken benches, and fountains without water. Though taking care of parks in a large city is a hefty task, there are solutions to creating beautiful parks and it begins with an adequate budget. If Mayor John Tory sincerely wants to build the new Downtown Rail Park that was revealed last month, then a concrete budget is needed for all of Toronto’s parks first.

Parks and recreation have a budget that includes an annual grant into the Toronto Parks and Tree Foundation (TPTF). The grant subsists from public donations and the city will match the donation. For every $2 donated, the city will contribute $1 and raise funds for parks, but this relies on public interest. Along with this budget, Section 37 contributes limited income to the parks. This provincial regulation allows developers who want to exceed zoning laws in their building to donate a certain amount of funding to public projects in exchange for permission. If a councillor so desires, the funds can be allocated to parks, but it isn’t mandatory and a lot of public projects are in need of funding. With limited budget from the foundation and Section 37, the parks don’t have enough funding to be properly maintained, instead becoming an eye sore in the hot summer months.

Instead of fixing Toronto’s current parks, city council announced an expensive and vast 21-acre downtown Rail Park that will cover the tracks in downtown Toronto. This is an amazing concept, but until the money suddenly appears, it seems it may merely be a pipe dream. The downtown park has been met with a lot of criticism because of the lack of money available, and appears to be yet another way of trying to distract people in Toronto from the lack of current care to parks in the city.

Christie Pitts Park. By Danielle Scott.
Christie Pitts Park. By Danielle Scott.

There are a few solutions. One is to use water runoff from condo buildings in the city to hydrate the parks. Reallocating spare water resources would keep the parks healthy and provide free carbon sinks around Toronto. Another resolution is to appoint park managers to help care for individual parks across the city. This would simultaneously maintain the parks and provide ‘green’ employment in the city. In Central Park in New York, a private conservancy runs the park and it is well maintained as a result. Providing an incentive for private companies to invest in parks within their ward or region would help invigorate communities to help protect those green spaces. To an extent, Dundas Square is supported by private investors. It has a board of management with business entrepreneurs and city officials that work together to make sure the area is clean and sustained.

Parks are integral to a healthy city landscape. They provide a place to frolic for children and adults alike, and give clean air to residents. Parks also promote a sense of community and they are beautiful. Imagine a world without trees — it seems like a pretty empty and disgusting place. It is our duty to care for our parks and pressure the city to care as well.

Have you seen any parks that aren’t properly maintained? If so, please let us know at Women’s Post in the comments below.


Kaeleigh Phillips is Women's Post sustainability coordinator. She specializes in writing about issues relating to the environment, including renewable energy, cycling, and vegan recipes!

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