As the province reviews changes
to its growth plans for Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Area and the Niagara Escarpment, the advocacy group Park People
is making a case for the importance of creating and sustaining vital public spaces in increasingly densely populated environments.
Its new Thriving Spaces
report is something of a toolkit for planners, politicians and other decision makers to get them to think creatively about ensuring that our growing and densifying communities still have space to play and relax. “I also hope that the report places an emphasis on partnerships and people as well as design. We often focus very heavily on design when we talk about parks and public spaces, but the people who use those spaces, the types of activities they want to see there and how they can become more involved in these spaces, need to be considered,” says report author Jake Tobin Garrett, manager of policy and research at Park People.
The report examines 15 case studies, ranging from 11 Wellesley West
, used as an example of how to consolidate space while work with developers, to Simcoe Promenade in Markham, used as an example of how linear parks can link residents, retail, and other green spaces. Although ideas that have worked in one community can be borrowed and adapted for other places, rising real estate prices and the density of established communities can create particular challenges.
“It requires planning for new categories of parks such as linear parks and urban squares, but also expanding the scope of the open space network to include opportunities in our infrastructure corridors, schoolyards, streets, and other public spaces,” states the report. “It includes creative designs that leverage adjacent street space as flexible, shared space and all-year amenities that provide people with activities whether it’s hot or cold outside. It also includes new ways of funding and acquiring parkland, whether sharing maintenance costs with nearby property owners or tapping into private donations and sponsorships.”
Tobin Garrett says some municipalities have improved their processes for creating public space, for accommodating varying uses and for taking into account factors like weather. “We do have many months of the year where it’s cold and some of the newer parks and open spaces we’re seeing can be used all year round, and are have active programs in the winter as well as the summer months,” he says.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Jake Tobin Garrett