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Problematic Park Design - Why Some Parks Don't Work

Northern Light

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We continue south now before sweeping across the park to look at its southern 1/3........

Just south of the Community Centre is this 'green house'......

DSC08320.JPG


Do I have to tell you what I think? No.....I don't.............

You know....the Green House was actually built by a TV show, at no cost to the City, to show what could be done w/public space.......it was then donated to the City..........and this is how it was cared for.........

***

If its any consolation, the City is now planning to re-do the greenhouse and establish a proper community garden here..................on the downside...........I have no great faith that its been properly thought through or sited.........

***

Looking east along the trail that enters from Crawford, along the south side of the Community Centre, and the north side of the green house:


DSC08323.JPG



What's not wrong here? Is it the absence of any way-finding signage?, any map?, any seating?, or is the large pile of dirt, next to an already very wide trail that suggests a complete lack of design sense?

***

So now we're going to follow the circular path that encompasses the original Trinity College site, and is today, mostly open area for picnics........while sometimes glancing south towards Queen:


DSC08324.JPG


Well, there are 2 people out there...........better than none, I suppose.........does anyone else feel like a picnic area should have...............I dunno..............some tables or something?

***

Here, we're looking north from the intersection of 3 trails; 2 coming in from Queen Street and the circular path mentioned above..............anyone else wondering about the placement of a light fixture here, right in the middle of the path:

DSC08326.JPG


***

Ok, so let's look at the signature entrance to the park, from the gates at the top of Strachan, at Queen:

Below we are looking south towards the gates..........and see an attempt at an allee landscape feature............you know.....its not terrible................but....

DSC08327.JPG


The pathway for the signature entrance rather underwhelms in asphalt............. also............no seating..................

If one goes south to the gates, this is the first thing you see, coming into the park:

DSC08355.JPG


'nuff said............ but then as you move forward (north) into the park.............there's supposed to be a flower bed to your right.......

This is what it looks like on July 2nd, 2022:

DSC08345.JPG


Oh, wait, there's one to the left too!

Uhh..............oh............


DSC08350.JPG


Also........what's with all the dead trees at the south end of the park:

DSC08346.JPG


DSC08347.JPG


DSC08348.JPG


While we're on the subject of the main entrance from Queen, as you enter the park, there's that main path, the Allee feature.......but then there's this one to the left:

DSC08353.JPG


What in the @#$# is with light fixtures in the middle of paths.............seriously?

***

Oh, and this is to the right:

DSC08354.JPG


An un-paved desire line..................

Finally (for this post).............what does the end of the Allee look like, at the north end............the grand welcome to Trinity Bellwoods?

DSC08330.JPG


No Seats, No Map, No wayfinding, No drinking fountain, no landscape feature.....................

This just screams 'incomplete thought'..........we're designing to budget, w/o asking whether we're accomplishing what we set out to do........

****

In the next post, the second-to-last, I swear.........we'll get back to the circle, before we look at the park perimeter and some broader issues.....
 
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Northern Light

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Ok, lets head east along the circle path:

DSC08335.JPG


Yah, that's fine.............

Now, to the right, we see the single busiest space in the entire park...........the Tennis Courts:

DSC08336.JPG


DSC08337.JPG


As we get past the courts........we see people in disagreement w/the circle path:

DSC08338.JPG


As we head north we see the 2 remaining baseball diamonds...........neither in used, mid-day on a Saturday.........

DSC08339.JPG
DSC08340.JPG


Though here I did check to see and indeed there is an active baseball program in the park..........some of the teams have .........uh.....interesting names too.......:

1656821933261.png


Most of the rest of the nominal picnic space wasn't highly used..............

DSC08342.JPG


So we'll finish off this post by looking at the south-eastern entrance to the park from Queen and Gore Vale:

If the entrance itself looks promising..........more or less symmetrically-framed stairs with light fixtures to each side............

DSC08361.JPG



One immediately notices the dead tree straight on ahead.......

DSC08364.JPG


Then one notices the condition of the path..........so carefully highlighted by the City's favourite orange cones.........

DSC08365.JPG


What can one say.............

One final post on the perimeter of the park, and some word on its potential........next.
 

Northern Light

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As with Christie Pits, the size and prominence of the is park, fronting as it does on 2 major and 3 lesser streets demands some examination of that frontage and how the park relates to the broader community:

Here, I'm largely using Streetview images as opposed to my own:

Lets start by heading up Crawford from Queen:

Screenshot 2022-07-02 at 17-13-12 Toronto · Ontario.png


Below is our first, underwhelming entrance to the park from the west:


Screenshot 2022-07-02 at 17-13-32 Toronto · Ontario.png


We move north to see that the Community Centre, which is part of the park, meets the road with a surface parking lot:

Screenshot 2022-07-02 at 17-14-06 Toronto · Ontario.png


Further north still is the space which leads into the playground/waterplay area...............nice enough.......if under-utilized on this day:

Screenshot 2022-07-02 at 17-14-36 Toronto · Ontario.png


A quick look up Crawford at the homes which abut, but are not included in the park:

Screenshot 2022-07-02 at 17-15-42 Toronto · Ontario.png


Now a quick sideways move to the west to look at Shaw, since the north-western extent of the park abuts it:

Screenshot 2022-07-02 at 17-17-46 Toronto · Ontario.png


This is perhaps the most thoughtful street of those that abut the park...........yet, the island/boulevard fails to achieve its potential. We can do far better, and it need not involve any fancy stone or lights.........simply thoughtful ground covers, trees and perennials.

***

Here we see, in succession the properties that abut the park along Dundas and then Gore Vale:

Screenshot 2022-07-02 at 17-19-42 Toronto · Ontario.png


Screenshot 2022-07-02 at 17-20-49 Toronto · Ontario.png


Screenshot 2022-07-02 at 17-21-42 Toronto · Ontario.png


Where the properties abutting the park along Crawford and Queen include heritage properties and also provide little value in terms of potentially adding to the park, this section is worth having a look at for its potential to improve Trinity Bellwoods.

***

Moving south along Gore Vale:

Screenshot 2022-07-02 at 17-22-05 Toronto · Ontario.png


Above, an unremarkable, signage and way-finding free park entrance...........

To the south, no sidewalk or formal trail, but an unending desire line for same along the entire length of the street:

Screenshot 2022-07-02 at 17-22-19 Toronto · Ontario.png


Screenshot 2022-07-02 at 17-22-34 Toronto · Ontario.png


One last park entrance............off Gore Vale:

Screenshot 2022-07-02 at 17-22-55 Toronto · Ontario.png



You know the drill by now.................

LOL

Beyond the entrance work, Gore Vale clearly calls for a sidewalk/trail along the western side of the road/eastern fringe of the park..............beyond the functional lies an opportunity for a truly beautiful trail taking advantage of many mature trees.

*****

Tomorrow, I'll give a summation...........right now............I need to go do a faceplant! LOL ...........
 

Northern Light

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Ok......time for a look back at Trinity-Bellwoods now, a summation of all we saw in the review above and a discussion of what types of investments the park may benefit from in the future.

This enormous park, with a wide range of amenities has much to recommend it.

That said, on a beautiful weekend at lunch time, it seemed under utilized; and there are clearly maintenance short-comings throughout the space.

If I were to look at smaller-scale investments that might be useful in the park (under 1M each, under 10M total) .......I would suggest:

1) Pathways throughout the park require reconstruction, few are in good condition.

2) The Parks main pathway from the south, through to the north end of the park should be a 'signature path' with upgrading paving (likely interlock of some description).

3) The Dog Bowl area should be formalized as as a DOLA with well maintained fences or ditched; the washrooms should be restored and re-opened, or demolished, and the natural slopes should be
the subject of invasive removals, phased over time so as not to strip the slopes bare, with replanting of native trees and under-story species.

4) Dilapidated benches should be replaced and put on bench pads, if that is currently not the case.

5) Park signage should be installed at all entrances/exits to/from the park, and way-finding signage introduced, with maps, at key entrances and path intersections.

6) The neglected horticulture beds near the main park entrance are poorly situated and should be relocated to the intersection of the allee and the circle path, creating a clear sense of being the park 'foyer' and meeting spot, with additional seating and a drinking fountain added.

7) The baseball diamond should have its rusting chain-link replaced.

8) Picnic areas require additional tables, some additional sunlight through tree-trimming/removal, and either a dedicated set of washrooms or improved links to the existing facilities, which should be renovated and made to feel welcoming and safe.

****

Now.......if money were no object..............there are some bigger thoughts one might have............

1) Excavate (unbury) the Crawford Street bridge and restore the valley form all the way to Dundas Street. Restore the original balustrades and lighting along the bridge.

2) Invest in the perimeter streets to create a high quality walking route that encircles the park and elevates the park's prominence and attractiveness along the Dundas and Queen frontages.

3) Consider a number of options in relation to the existing Community Recreation Centre, including total reconstruction and possible relocation within the park to the site of the original Trinity College.

4) Make the swimming pool in the new facility similar to Regent Park with an indoor/outdoor, all-season design that allows it to be open to the air in summer and sealed off as an indoor pool in the winter; this would help animate a large area of the park.

5) Replace the children's playground with a 'destination' playground. There is ample space at the current site for more, larger and more creative equipment choices that would draw children and families in to the park in larger numbers.

6) Consider Permissive zoning for restaurant use for the homes that abut the park along Crawford; the back yards could become patios that would seamlessly blend into the park space and help animate it.

7) Create new activity zones in the north where the park is under-utilized, consider small space activities such as Pickleball, Ping Pong Tables and Chess/Checkers tables.

8) Provide sufficient, permanent washroom capacity to remove all porta-potties.

9) Finally, consider expansion of the park in the north-east quadrant, these are the least historic, least appealing buildings next to the park and together comprise about 1.2ha/ or 3 acres of potential add-on to the park.

Subject to some reconfiguration of existing activities, opportunities would exist for a:

- Leisure Skating Trail in the winter
- Community Kitchen/Bake Oven/Fire Pit
- A Junior Soccer field
- Elaborate landscaping/horiticulture and/or a wildflower meadow area intermixed with seats

- A grand Water feature (could be integrated w/Ice Skate Trail)

Back-of-Envelope, high-level costing:

Park Improvements - 25M
Park Expansion: - 120M (land acquisition, plus demolition/backfill and base park improvements)
New Recreation Centre - 80M (City Standard cost for a large new facility)

Total: 225M

***

Below - possible expansion area for park:

1656878092348.png
 
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smably

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Thank you, @Northern Light! Incredible, detailed, thorough, thoughtful review.

One thought: I wonder whether the fact that it's a long weekend may have contributed to the appearance of underuse. I know most summer weekends, it's a busy place. The grassy areas are often full of (mostly) young people drinking and hanging out. I used to bike through the park daily as part of my commute and even during the week, the playground was usually full of kids and their parents. That was clearly not the case when you visited, but I wonder whether a different picture would appear with more data points.

In any case, I was struck by how neglected the park looked in your photos. This is one of the largest and most important parks in the core, basically the backyard for thousands of condo residents... and it looks like crap! Even aside from all the capital investment it clearly needs, it's crying out for some regular maintenance.
 

evandyk

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Yeah, I was surprised to see comments about it being underused. Whenever I go, if it's nice out, the lawns are pretty packed. The playground is not busy like St. James or the Grange, but we go every couple of months, and there are usually a bunch of kids playing.

But all of the comments about disrepair of various elements are spot on. It's extremely shabby, especially considering its size and location (and the number of people who use it any time other than when you are visiting :)).
 

Northern Light

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Thank you, @Northern Light! Incredible, detailed, thorough, thoughtful review.

You're quite welcome!

One thought: I wonder whether the fact that it's a long weekend may have contributed to the appearance of underuse. I know most summer weekends, it's a busy place. The grassy areas are often full of (mostly) young people drinking and hanging out. I used to bike through the park daily as part of my commute and even during the week, the playground was usually full of kids and their parents. That was clearly not the case when you visited, but I wonder whether a different picture would appear with more data points.

I wonder the same; I expected higher usage than what I saw. We saw that in the Christie Pits review from a few weeks earlier. I was surprised it was a low as what I saw. It certainly could be an anomaly. But an odd one given the nice weather.

In any case, I was struck by how neglected the park looked in your photos. This is one of the largest and most important parks in the core, basically the backyard for thousands of condo residents... and it looks like crap! Even aside from all the capital investment it clearly needs, it's crying out for some regular maintenance.

Absolutely. The flowers beds were actually turned over at some point this spring, you can see that; but no one came back to plant them. The washroom building that's closed appears to be neglected overall; the rusted baseball diamond etc etc. Its all a bit much. One has to expect, in a big park, in a big city, there's always something needing attention. Here there are simply too many things that seem neglected.
 
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Northern Light

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Trinity Bellwoods was the most behemoth park I've ever attempted to review.........well........to switch gears completely, lets look at what is likely the smallest park I've reviewed......for @Tunafish13 this is
Jesse Ketchum Park.

Jesse Ketchum is a very small park, immediately adjacent to the school yard of the school of the same name, located on Bay St just north of Scollard.

Aerial pic:

1657371594888.png


The area highilghted in yellow is the overt City Park, the balance is the school yard, the two are separated by a fence. The City park is only ~1500m2 or 16,000ft2 in size

* The property ownership of the entire space is either City or TDSB as their is no lot line division on TO Maps.

Worth adding the City lists this park at 1.2 hectares (3 acres) which would seem to include the sports field, however, on the ground there are no visual cues that this is part of the City Park.

All that said, we'll look at the entire space, with a focus on the overt City Park.

The (overt) City park contains no 'amenities' as such. There is no playground, nor sports facilities. Its clearly intended to be a pretty spot to take a seat; featuring
some trees, grass, flowers/shrubs, a pergola and some benches.

The school yard features a sports field, playground, basketball nets and additional seating/greenspace.

Ok, let's start:

DSC08507.JPG


Above, we enter the park from Bay Street, I like the path surface, which appears to be concrete with a brick pattern formed in it. There is no sign directly at the park entrance, though, this is a very small space, and there is a sign just down the street.

While I don't mind the absence of a landscape feature here, I think the bare concrete retaining wall is unfortunate. There are no seats at this park entrance; but what if we turn just to the right to at a streetscape/art feature along Bay Street:

DSC08508.JPG


Above we see a solid granite seat wall, attractive and functional. I think a variation of this would have gone well at the park entrance space.

Before we continue on into the park, let's look left............

DSC08482.JPG


Well, that tree is unfortunate shape, oddly, not marked for removal yet, it should be......

**

Lets continue on into the park:

Here we're approaching what appears to be the focal point of the park, a seating area off to one side, and a pergola-like structure over the main path.


DSC08486.JPG


DSC08492.JPG


I think this is basically nice, the central landscape feature is rather dull, to me, but still, it seems nice enough, a pleasant spot to sit.

Just to the north of this seating area (where I'm taking the above picture from) is a little garden-like landscape feature:

DSC08488.JPG


DSC08491.JPG


This is a nice enough; though, from a design perspective I do have a couple of minor quibbles.

1) Its off the main path, but it doesn't actually go anywhere (its essentially a dead-end diversion); that's not ideal if you want people to enjoy the space, there is sufficient room to have extended this back to the main entrance area.

2) This path is too narrow for those using mobility aids to safely navigate. I'm the first to say you can't make everything in every park accessible, but for a new design, over flat terrain in this space, I'm not sure why you wouldn't make this particular feature accessible.

3) In the upper photo, you'll notice that as you enter the garden-like area, the soil to your right is bare, its under deep-shade and it may well be impractical to grow grass or much else, but I would prefer to see it covered in some mulch then and given a tidy edge.

***

Below is the north-west corner of this space, nothing wrong w/just trees and grass but this is the space I'm thinking the garden feature might have been logically extended into:

DSC08500.JPG


Above, you can see the fence that delineates what I've called the 'overt' City park from the school yard.

There's a light fixture in the back corner of this space that is from another era.........perhaps due for replacement:

DSC08506.JPG



We'll finish up the front end below; before taking a look at the school yard in one additional post:

Here we're looking along the Bay St frontage of the park.

DSC08517.JPG


I would remove the non-parks bench located in the sidewalk and really prefer to see the retaining wall done as a seat wall, ideally w/granite matching the feature just to the north.

**

The other park entrance is below, a set of stairs from further south on Bay St.

DSC08518.JPG


There's nothing wrong w/this really........though...........I'm not sold that there is a compelling reason for this entrance to be in this exact spot, and I wonder why they did this............because they left this 'blank' park space just to the south.....

DSC08520.JPG


We're the path routed through here, I think it could have been gently lowered to grade at Bay St, instead of having stairs, which would have enhanced the accessibility of the space to those w/mobility aids or pushing strollers.

That's our tour of this part of the park, in the post below we'll take a look at the school yard, and its relationship to the 'overt' park.
 
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Northern Light

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So now let's look at the school yard, which also doubles as City park space in off-hours........used by the broader community.

We'll start with a streetview pic for context right at the entrance:

1657374472067.png


The overt City park is to your left, the school yard entrance to your right. There is no clear signage indicating that the school yard is sorta/part of the park or otherwise available to the community, though I get that could be read as implicit.

Again from Streetview, just a clear look at the fence dividing the 'yard' from the 'park'........

1657374603976.png


Now let's go into the yard, my pics from here forward:

This is the initial space in the school yard that directly abuts the 'park'............it appears to be intended as both informal play space and a possible outdoor classroom.

DSC08510.JPG


This rock seat-wall, at least that's what I'm calling it, is the central feature to this space, and appears large enough to seat 2, perhaps 3 full classes of students.

DSC08512.JPG


The relationship to the 'overt' park is pretty much non-existent:

DSC08515.JPG


The fence, lined w/shrubs denotes the boundary between the school yard and the overt public park. I'm not hating on that. I get a desire to keep the 2 spaces somewhat separate, though its certainly not particularly inspired from either side of the fence; and does leave the feeling of two completely unrelated spaces to me.

The majority of the remaining yard is this sports field, which is in good condition:

DSC08511.JPG


There is, however, also play equipment and some basketball nets.

****

Returning to our aerial pic:

1657375342622.png


I do see something unfortunate here which is a lack of any overt access from either Scollard or Hazelton. That creates a much longer walk for area residents/school kids than would be otherwise necessary.

While there are many nice heritage buildings on both frontages, there are some more contemporary/less appealing buildings that could make way for an access point. Ideally, to me, a path could skirt the edge of the yard providing an all-day mid-block connection across the site.

***

Taken together, the school yard and overt park function to provide a range of recreational amenities and some nice looking landscape and seating. The overt park would probably benefit from some design refinement, but is in sufficiently good condition I would not deem it a high, near-term priority.

While not strictly necessary, it might be nice to see a bit more of a visual tie between the two spaces clearly illustrating that they function as one community park.
 
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TRONto

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So now let's look at the school yard, which also doubles as City park space in off-hours........used by the broader community.

We'll start with a streetview pic for context right at the entrance:

View attachment 412548

The overt City park is to your left, the school yard entrance to your right. There is no clear signage indicating that the school yard is sorta/park of the park or otherwise available to the community, though I get that could be read as implicit.

Again from Streetview, just a clear look at the fence dividing the 'yard' from the 'park'........

View attachment 412549

Now let's go into the yard, my pics from here forward:

This is the initial space in the school yard that directly abuts the 'park'............it appears to be intended as both informal play space and a possible outdoor classroom.

View attachment 412550

This rock seat-wall, at least that's what I'm calling it, is the central feature to this space, and appears large enough to seat 2, perhaps 3 full classes of students.

View attachment 412551

The relationship to the 'overt' park is pretty much non-existent:

View attachment 412552

The fence, lined w/shrubs denotes the boundary between the school yard and the overt public park. I'm not hating on that. I get a desire to keep the 2 spaces somewhat separate, though its certainly not particularly inspired from either side of the fence; and does leave the feeling of two completely unrelated spaces to me.

The majority of the remaining yard is this sports field, which is in good condition:

View attachment 412553

There is, however, also play equipment and some basketball nets.

****

Returning to our aerial pic:

View attachment 412554

I do see something unfortunate here which is a lack of any overt access from either Scollard or Hazelton. That creates a much longer walk for area residents/school kids that would be otherwise necessary.

While there are many nice heritage buildings on both frontages, there are some more contemporary/less appealing buildings that could make way for an access point. Ideally, to me, a path could skirt the edge of the yard providing an all-day mid-block connection across the site.

***

Taken together, the school yard and overt park function to provide a range of recreational amenities and some nice looking landscape and seating. The overt park would probably benefit from some design refinement, but is in sufficiently good condition I would not deem it a high, near-term priority.

While not strictly necessary, it might be nice to see a bit more of a visual tie between the two spaces clearly illustrating that they function as one community park.
Looking at this 'small park' review makes me think what if we were to focus on making our small parks great (low hanging fruit, costs less) then move on to getting our big parks right.
 

TRONto

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Bellevue Park in Kensington Market seems to be a real success story. It's usually brimming with people when I walk past it.
We discussed this park earlier in the thread, it may be a success for certain demographics, but not for children /parents. A fence around the entire playground might help. We tried a few times and now we don't bother with this park anymore.
 

Towered

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We discussed this park earlier in the thread, it may be a success for certain demographics, but not for children /parents. A fence around the entire playground might help. We tried a few times and now we don't bother with this park anymore.
I still occasionally go there with the kids. It's fine, and in a very lively setting. You just have to be a tad more alert because of the "characters" that are around, but there are enough tourists and hipsters to act as a buffer.
 

evandyk

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I don't live very close to Kensington any more, so don't go there very often, but it's a good playground for little kids, and is generally pretty safe. There are characters, but they generally don't want anything to do with your kids or the playground.
 

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