Friday , 23 March 2018
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Friends of Winchester Park

I’m a fan of outdoor space and a believer is community. I moved into Cabbagetown in 2010 and while I had done business here before, I never really understood what the neighborhood was all about.  My move here helped me realize the friendly, familiar faces on the streets and at the dog park as a constant reminder that I live in a lively, vibrant and connected neighborhood.  Having said that, there are areas in the neighborhood that need some love from all of us.  One of these area is our beloved Winchester Park which runs between Carlton to Prospect just west of Ontario Street.

Last year while leaving my place to walk my dog, Jiya, I found myself right in the middle of a construction zone as I cut across the back of the church that I did everyday.  I found it weird that there was construction taking place in a public space and I, as a resident, wasn’t notified about it.  I chalked it off to an approval that was before my move and didn’t think much about it.  The construction crew came with their heavy machinery and top soil and installed twelve, three feet high, wooden boxes in the park and left.  Here are some pictures of what the space looked like before the wooden boxes in the park.

Looking south toward Carlton

Looking west from Ontario

Looking west from Ontario closer to the northern boundary

Here is what the park looks like today with the boxes:

If you look closely, you can see a culprit urinating on the wall

One of the biggest problems we have had with the area is people using the public park as their living room and spending hours drinking and passing out in the park.  It was a problem last year when I had to keep telling people to move from the lane and since the installation of the boxes, they have decided to just move from the  lane and use the boxes as their benches.  The park, at one point in the past, used to have benches there that were taken down as the main purposes they were serving was couches for the public drinkers. Let’s chat a bit more about the boxes. The boxes were installed as part of a community garden with Central Neighborhood House (CNH) and consultations were completed sometime in 2010.  The idea behind the boxes is to create raised beds to help seniors, youth, women and children come together and plant vegetables, fruits and flowers.  CNH would also run educational and gardening programming for youth, families and women’s group. You can read an article hereabout it. I don’t have a problem with the program that CNH was implementing.  I do have a problem with is the lack of consultation from the community!  The article goes on to explain that they had several community consultations which I’m having a hard time with. A group of us (Friends of Winchester Park) got together on Saturday (March 17, 2012) and unhappy with the outcome so far in the park, mobilized our resources.  We setup a printed petition and spoke with local park users and asked if they knew about what was happening in the park and no one did.  We further asked if they are supportive of having the boxes removed and we ended up with over 70 signature by Sunday night! Here are some pictures of what we have seen as neighbors in the park over the past several months and expect that it will get much worst once the weather gets nicer.  We need to take action now!

The "Public Drinkers"

Enjoying the sun and a drink

Getting ready to start the day

Taking a breather

Three is a company

One of the first visitors to the boxes

He's known to spend hours in the park

Let’s be clear:

  • I want to see this park beautified.
  • I want to see more kids using the park
  • I want to see more residents walking through this green space

I don’t think it will happen with having these boxes around!  Here are my reasons:

  • The boxes encourage “public drinkers” to use them as benches
  • You can’t fence off the boxes as it will cut the amount of green space.  We already don’t have enough green space in the area
  • This deters locals from entering the park and create opportunities for altercations
  • The design doesn’t deter loitering

We need a smart design that deters people from hanging around and drinking in public places while opening the space for our children and residents to use it for it’s intended purposes, enjoy the outdoors!  Here are some examples from neighborhoods to the north and west that we could use as examples in our design

A small community garden

Another example

Another possibility

Inviting green spaces

Endless options

Here’s a view of Taddle Creek Park in the Annex that we could use as a blue print for what we would like to see happening in the area

Taddle Creek Park Layout

View of Taddle Creek

Here are a couple of items that our design would have to merge

  • Deter “public drinkers” from taking seat in the park
  • Deter leaning on fences – This can be done by planting shrubs and bushes along the fence to create distance
  • Deter anyone from urinating on the church walls by creating large flower beds
  • Create open green spaces with art or water feature to allow residents to congregate
  • Create child friendly play spaces encouraging children to visit
  • Historic preservation – Winchester park is a historically designated space and should be designed with preserving the past in mind.

I believe that this is possible in our neighborhood.  We just need to band together and through community consultation and a strong mandate, we can do this.

There is a meeting scheduled for March 20, 2012 at 6:30 PM taking place at Central Neighborhood House (349 Ontario Street, Toronto, Ontario) and I urge to you take part in the process and be heard!  I will be there along with many other neighbors.  If you don’t know anyone, this is a great way to get introduced!

I would love to hear what your thoughts are about the park?  Do you agree or disagree?  Comments are welcomed and you can use the like or dislike button to cast your vote. Looking forward to seeing you tonight!

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About Addy Saeed

Addy is a full time REALTOR® in Toronto, ON with RE/MAX ® and is involved in different real estate projects alongside community and charity events. An avid investor, auto enthusiast, music lover and long time adventurer. He can be contacted by calling 1-877-439-2339