While some Toronto residents will be staying indoors this Saturday evening, flicking the switches off and lighting candles for WWF's Earth Hour, and others will just ignore it all, a number of Roncesvalles residents will be participating in the annual Roncy Earth Hour Walk. This community activity, now in its fourth year, unites members of this west end community for a candlelit stroll down Roncesvalles Avenue to Grafton Parkette. 

Armed with a candle in a recyclable glass jar, walkers will start at a big triangle of sidewalk where Dundas and Roncesvalles split. This is the site of the Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden, greenery replacing concrete, which will be completed by this September. The park is being created with Section 37 public benefits monies, provided in this instance by Howard Park Residences, a project that is currently under construction a couple blocks south of the Peace Garden.

Section 37 monies come from development projects whenever the City grants density bonuses. Often, we do not know where or how those funds are allocated, so it's good to see an example of this in practice. The garden, designed by Plant Architects, will bring more green space to the area while also serving as part of 1812 Bi-National Peace Garden Trail. The garden is meant to commemorate the peace following the War of 1812 and celebrate the significance of this winding road. 

Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Park, Toronto, by Mary Tremain of Plant Architectrendering of Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Park, design by Mary Tremain of Plant Architects

The garden is also part of a more local project The Peace Path project, in which youth from the Roncesvalles and Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation communities come together to create artworks that will be transferred into a granite path in the Peace Park. The part of Dundas which borders Roncesvalles originated as an aboriginal trail which, during the war of 1812, was upgraded to a fully functional road in the summer of 1813 by the York Militia. Both the local aboriginal warriors and the York militia used the road during the Battle of York on April 27, 1813.

The young people involved in the project met with community historians from each locality, and were mentored by the artists Kristen Fahrig and Cathie Jamieson. The project, which developed from conception to realization over a two year period, has a good deal of community support. The Peace Paths community partners the Roncesvalles Macdonnell Residents Association (RMRA), the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto, Romero House Centre, Bishop Marracco/Thomas Merton Secondary school and the Roncesvalles Village Historical Society (RVHS). By celebrating history, this project also makes some of its own, becoming the first permanent installation between a Toronto community group and the ancestral owners of the city's land. 

Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Park, Howard Park Condos, Roncesvalles Village Draft landscape plan of Peace Park, image courtesy of Plant Architects

The park, which will take up 72 square metres, hopes to have a big impact on the neighbourhood both environmentally and aesthetically. The park has capped the amount of hard surface at 30% in its attempt to "green a barren concrete intersection." The park will also include hardwood seating for community gathering as well as a historical plaque. The park will feature three medium sized trees, including a red oak, a flowering tree and a smaller tree. There will also be a combination of flowering perennials and low lying evergreens and native grasses of varying heights to shift the garden's energy and provide a naturalistic look as the neighbourhood passes through the seasons. The perennials and evergreens will be placed in two raised garden beds to provide a vertical dimension to the park, and to make space for a winding path of two adjoining circles. The Peace Path granite pavers will be incorporated into this path which will be illuminated at night by smaller solar-glow pavers. 

Howard Park Condos, Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden, Roncesvalles Village

Site of the Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden, image courtesy of Google Streetview

The Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Park is shaping up to be a central part of the Roncesvalles neighbourhood despite its in-progress status. The park, which marks the entrance to Roncesvalles, also signals a new era of environmentalism and modern design that seems to be defining the new face of Toronto's West End. 

Want to talk about this project? Leave a comment in the space provided on this page. Want to know more about the development that the money is coming from? Check out our dataBase file, linked below!