In recent months UrbanToronto has reported on the temporary closure of Ontario Place and the plans to revitalize the iconic but underperforming waterfront attraction into a mixed use destination designed to appeal to both tourists and locals. The revitalization is to be undertaken in phases beginning with the replacement of the staff parking lot on the East Island with a new 7.5 acre urban park and waterfront trail to be designed by LANDinc and West 8. Following public consultations held in December, the initial design concept for the proposed park and trail was unveiled earlier this week at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in the hopes of eliciting further input from the public.

Ontario Place, new park, new trailOntario Place, with new park area indicated

The park is intended to act as an anchor for the future redevelopment of Ontario Place by providing an easily accessible, year-round connection between Ontario Place and its neighbouring communities. Additionally it will connect directly with the waterfront park system to the northeast comprised of Battery Park and Coronation Park.

Ontario Place park in context of waterfrontThe new park in the context of the greater waterfront

The design of the park envisions two themes. The ‘Upper Park’ will be a wooded area, slightly elevated and set back from the water. It will provide shady areas for visitors to walk or relax, while some parts will be inaccessible to the public for ecological purposes. Interestingly, the park is to be populated predominantly by plant species such as cottonwoods, dogwoods and birch which are native to the Carolinian forest that used to cover virtually all of southwestern Ontario.

The ‘Lower Park’ will be those lower lying areas bordering the lake, and will feature open, pastoral settings suitable for picnics, play and larger gatherings. It will also offer opportunities for direct access to the water. Given the lack of places along Toronto’s central waterfront in which one can actually dip their toes into Lake Ontario, connectivity with the water itself is also an objective of the proposed design. This will be achieved by means of a rocky beach stretching the length of the park’s shoreline.

Ontario place upper park and lower parkThe upper and lower park areas

Winding through the park will be a trail that will allow visitors to circulate through a variety of landscapes. On the north side, the trail will connect to the Martin Goodman Trail, a 56 kilometre cycling and inline skating path along Toronto’s waterfront, which itself forms part of Ontario’s 780 kilometre Waterfront Trail system stretching from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Cornwall. On the south side, the trail will continue west along the lakeshore of Ontario Place as subsequent portions of the islands are redeveloped.

Diagram of trail circuit through Ontario Place parkDiagram of trail circuit through the park

The design envisions the park as comprising of three different zones. The ‘North Park’ will feature a ‘romantic garden’, described as an “undulating lawn with smooth granite for relaxing, punctuated by windswept trees, referencing landscapes found throughout Ontario.”

Sketch of North Park plan Ontario PlaceSketch of the North Park plan

Cross-section of North Park plan Ontario PlaceCross-section of the North Park plan

The North Park will also feature a protected area overlooking the romantic garden referred to as ‘the esplanade’ which will allow visitors to stop and relax. The esplanade will have the potential to be a programmable space.

Ontario Place romantic gardenArtist's rendering of the romantic garden, looking southeast

The ‘Middle Park’ will be an area devoted primarily to activity. It will include a ‘granite scramble’ for climbing and sitting, and granite alcoves featuring rock sculptures inspired by the nature and environment of Ontario.

Sketch of Middle Park plan Ontario PlaceSketch of the Middle Park plan

Middle Park plan Ontario PlaceCross-section of the Middle Park plan

rock scramble Ontario PlaceArtist's rendering the rock scramble

Ontario Place granite alcove rock sculpturesArtist's rendering of a granite alcove featuring rock sculptures

The signature feature of the ‘South Park’ will be a 6 to 7 metre tall hill dubbed ‘the summit’. As the highest point in the park, the summit will offer visitors excellent views of not only Lake Ontario and the Toronto skyline, but also Ontario Place itself.

South Park plan Ontario PlaceSketch of the South Park plan

South Park plan Ontario PlaceCross-section of the South Park plan

Construction of the park and trail is set to begin this summer with completion scheduled for the start of the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.

The deadline for the public to submit feedback on this proposal is February 21, 2014. If you would like to submit your comments online, visit the project website at Of course, you are always welcome to leave your comments here too.