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No big Park in the city core: lost opportunity or future development?

13838 Views 156 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  Taller, Better
I have noticed that there is no big park in or near the downtown core.

There are the areas of trinity-bellwods and cabbagetown but they are not big enough.

Plenty of lands has been repurposed but none of that has gone to parks.

Is there hope for a big park in central Toronto or is gone?

Could Toronto have its own Central, Hyde, Regent Park?

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It's been one of the few things Toronto doesn't have. The Toronto Islands are great but you need to take a boat to get to it while High Park isn't downtown. It looked like there was no way Toronto would ever get its own Central Park, Mont Royal, Stanley Park, Hyde Park but a proposal last year changed everything. It's called the Rail Deck Park.

The Rail Deck Park would deck over the rail lines from Bathurst Street to the CN Tower/Skydome. The idea is to create a much needed large tract of green space in the core. It's really our last option available. Early estimates peg the cost at $1.7 billion but the cost would likely go much higher. It's my hope that not only will we get the Rail Deck Park but do the same thing on the east side of Union Station. Of note is that the CIBC Square development under construction will incorporate a mini rail deck park. It's directly east of Union Station.

Courtesy of the City of Toronto

CIBC Square park over the rail lines east of Union Station

Courtesy of ivanhoecambridge
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The Islands are already a park. No development is allowed there. East Bayfront has small parks here and there + Corktown Common (opened 2 years ago). The Don Valley represents the biggest potential park. It currently supports a road, highway, rail line, and power lines. There are proposals to re-align a lot of that infrastructure, increase pedestrian access, then protect the whole thing as a park.

The Portlands will have lots of parkland but that's not really downtown any more.
Rail Deck park is the closest we'll get to a big park downtown (21 acres) but overall Toronto easily beats both NY and London when it comes to parkland/nature. It's not a close call imo.
Leslie Spit is largely reclaimed land and protected green space. It's 600 acres and will become increasingly vital parkland as our population grows. Few people use it today. I've only been there once since I moved here in 2001.

Leslie Spit/Tommy Thompson Park

Courtesy of cargocollective

Courtesy of tripadvisor
We also can do some Land Reclamation at Lake Ontario to create a Park
Don Valley Super Park, 480 acres

There's also the 480 acre 'super park' the City is planing in the Don Valley. That's larger than either Hyde Park or Regents Park in London. The envisaged park will stretch from the Evergreen Brickworks south to Lake Ontario and mark the eastern boundary of downtown. Toronto still has the potential to realize a big park downtown but there are major obstacles in the way.

The City has built roads, a highway, 2 rail lines, and major power lines in the Don Valley while narrowing the river to a tiny creek. Reversing some of these and/or re-locating others will be a big challenge. There's a youtube video that sheds some light on the issue:

London certainly doesn't feel greener. Having lived many years in both cities I'd question what they're counting. Walking around London you have to head to a green or park to find greenery while in Toronto most streets will have greenery lining it.

If you look at aerial views of both cities Toronto looks much greener. It's not even close. I suspect that London study only counts areas designated as parks whereas Toronto has a ton of greenery everywhere but most of it wouldn't get counted. None of the trees on my street would get counted, for instance. I doubt any of Toronto's ravines were counted either as it's not designated as parkland.

Typical Toronto street but none of this would count in that study

Couresy of wrockitpromo

I doubt any of this tree canopy is counted as green space in Toronto

Courtesy of UT
According to Greenspace, 47% of London is green space. If some campaigners plans go through, London will be the first National Park City.

And it's not just the parks of Hyde, Regent, Richmond, Hampstead Heath, etc. There are leafy squares dotting the city, and the 14km Regent's Canal snaking across London (not to mention the Grand Union Canal to Birmingham). And also lots of walking trails, such as the Capital Ring Walk.
It's great that London is heading in that direction. More green space is much needed. The intent in calling London 'the first city in the world to be designated as a National Park' is very misleading imo. It suggests that it's the world's greenest city when it's not. What it will do is get London to a point that many cities around the world are already at; sans designation.
Sounds like what we have already although calling it 'The World's First National Park City' is brilliant PR. I hope Londoners aren't fooled into thinking London is leading the way on this front. :hmm:
I don't think there is a universal designation on national parks, as each national park is designated by their country's respective governments. So this National Park City designation is a UK-specific designation. The Canadian government can copy this and declare Toronto or Vancouver as a National Park City. As with any designation, there are benefits, such as enhanced protection on green spaces (which 47% of London is), increased accessibility on said parklands, probably a more stringent enforcement in tackling air pollution, etc. Of course, you don't need a designation for these things, but it does help.
The Don Valley is a diamond in the rough. I'm taken aback that we have such an amazing natural asset right downtown that we've wrecked, dismissed, and ignored. The Don Valley is not designated as a park but you can't build anything there.

It's there for the people of Toronto but so disjointed that it doesn't get used by very many people. The city will have to invest a lot of money to undo many of the decisions made decades ago, return it as closely as possible to its former natural state, and turn it into a seamless green swath. The re-naturalization of the Don River is already under way although the initial work focuses on the mouth of the Don.

The biggest problem, imo, is the presence of the Don Valley Parkway. It's a fabulously scenic drive into the city but having a highway right next to a park isn't ideal. I've been down there many times and there's a constant hum from the thousands of cars traveling on the DVP.

Here's a link to re-naturalizing the mouth of the Don:

What the Mouth of the Don Looks Like Now

Courtesy of wwf

One Proposal for the Mouth of the Don

Courtesy of waterfront toronto

Mouth of the Don, Flood Protection, and the Portlands

Courtesy of waterfront toronto
is the natural zone in Don Valley already a park for normal citizens?
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I suppose it's because High Park is quite far from the built up area. It doesn't feel downtown while Central Park does. I wouldn't use the CBD as a reference point.
This has always been my point, too. High Park is not far from downtown and as I said earlier it is no farther from the CBD than Central Park in NYC or Hyde Park in London. Big cities normally do not have massive parks in their Central Business core. High Park is big; only half as big as Central Park but bigger than Hyde Park.
What would you like to see done with the Don Valley super park? Do you think some of the transportation corridors need to be re-located for it to work?
It is hard to access unless you know where the entry points are. In lots of places you have to do a 30 minute detour to get an entrance. From what I've seen the plan is to keep the valley natural but stitch it all together, make entry easy, and to restore the Don River to its former state. It's much narrower than it used to be.
I have mixed feelings about the DVP. It's one of the most scenic drives in the city but it doesn't mesh well with having a park in the valley. Ideally they'd be no highway, rail line, and power lines but I doubt any of it will get moved. It bears mentioning that Toronto decided to repair the Gardiner rather than take it down.
The best thing is to shut down both the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway. The DVP should be demolished and given over to wildlife, while the Gardiner can be turned into Toronto's Highline park. [email protected]*k the motorists should be John Tory's motto.
I don't find Billy Bishop airport disrupts enjoyment of the waterfront one little bit. What's next, condo owners asking for Skydome to be closed down because they moved next to a stadium? Billy Bishop is an integral part of our transportation system and people are voting with their feet. The airport is very popular.
I bet the airport pumps as much money/jobs into the downtown economy as the stadium.... if not more. It has a lot of value. I'd much rather have the airport than a hotel/resort. I couldn't think of anything more boring.

I'm all in favour of the waterfront de-industrialization but not that it be completely white washed away. We still need to be a fully functioning diverse city. The airport and sugar refinery are all that's left along the waterfront but I want them to remain permanent fixtures. Beyond the obvious economic benefit they add a layer of vibrancy and intrigue to the downtown.

Mixed use is almost always more appealing and interesting. All residential, retail, and parks? No thank you. I want a little bit of everything. If I wanted a sanitized, plastic, quiet place I'd move to Mississauga or Humber Bay.
The area around Pearson is "worthless" compared to core, and Pearson is already connected via transit. A stadium, on the other hand, is an entertainment venue and adds value to downtown.

Instead of Billy Bishop, there could be an iconic hotel/resort there, or luxury condo's; their view would be amazing, looking at downtown.

The whole point of Toronto's waterfront project is to de-industrialize.
We're just going to have to disagree on this one then. I love having a downtown airport. It's convenient, quick to get to, and affords a fantastic view of the city for Torontonians and visitors.

We all like different things. I suppose I'm a little kid as I do enjoy watching planes arriving and departing. I also like watching tankers full of sugar unloading at Redpath. Both add a layer of interest/energy and contribute to the hustle and bustle of the city.

Well, if the traffic were moved to Pearson, it'd still pump money, there's no benefit of it being on the islands.

Also I fail to see the vibrancy of the airport. Unless one is a little kid, it's not really exciting to see planes landing and taking off.

It's just a waste of valuable space. Instead, there could be another marina, restaurants, hotels, several condo's etc, connected by a little bridge...
Torontonians are voting with their feet. Billy Bishop handled 3 million passengers last year and they're not all non-neutral business people aligned with Porter. They're regular Torontonians; many of them live downtown.

And regarding downtown airports in other world cities, we can figure out what works for Toronto by ourselves. The day when we looked for direction from some other place is thankfully long gone.
Well you're complicit then, and have not a leg to stand on.
I might add that London has 6 area airports.
I wouldn't mind living there myself. We don't have mosquitos in the city but if you go in the woods at dawn or dusk you'll find some.

Fantastic project, I would like to buy a flat there in the future.

Unfortunately it's not going to be a big park but a nice modern mixed urban/green area.

p.s. do you have mosquitos during the summer?
Any landforming projects from the land strips south of the Don Lands?
That weird shaped piece of land is called Leslie Spit. It's the result of landforming but there are no plans to do add more.
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