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Problematic Park Design - Why Some Parks Don't Work

Sky High Arch

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Ok, on to our next North York Park review, this one of Godstone Park for @Undead. This park is located ~ 3 blocks north of Fairview Mall. This will require 2-3 posts.



Now on to some fitness equipment that was mentioned above:

View attachment 425614

On a nice day, at ~4pm, the fitness park was empty but for someone using an adjacent bench.

Looks fine, as far as it goes, though I'm not sure how many would recognize it as fitness equipment as opposed to an extension of the adjacent playground. Perhaps its busy at other times, but on this day, it seems to have been a poor investment of space and $

****

With that, we break to the next post in this this thread as I'm out of room for the next series of pics!

To be con't.

This looks like an extension of a playground. This is more quantity then quality.

Fitness equipment this is what I was mostly envisioning for Albert Standing Park , 2-4 Equipment Fitness park.
Image 2.jpg
Image 1.jpg
 

Undead

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Haven't read the review, but thanks so much for doing it. Good ole Godstone, spent too many years in that area.

On this day, in fine weather, at ~4pm, it had only a single parent and child making use of it though.

I'm not all that familiar with this area, but it does have a high proportion of apartments and some TCHC, which may have me wondering if parents of young children simply weren't home from work when I was here, but I might have expected to see it a bit busier.
The park was always busy in the evenings from the many years I lived here.
This would offer the adjacent apartment neighbhourhood and TCHC site, better access to the playground. But it would make it further away for the SFH community to the north and east.
Not really a material consideration in my experience. Kids from all over the neighborhood would walk a long distance to access the playgrounds. I don't remember an extra 300-500 metres dissuading anyone.

On another note, much of the equipment is new: the playground, concrete tennis table, fitness equipment and water fountain were added in the last few years. The park was exceedingly plain before then.

I think much more tree cover is needed along all the paths and around the edges of the soccer field. The paths also need to be widened and repaved. Better/more lighting, more seating and some sort of arrangement with the school's field would be great.

Some traffic calming/streetscaping around the entrances would be welcome.
 
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Northern Light

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For @mjl08 this is my review of Gibson Park in North York City Centre. Photos taken back on Sept 1st, 2022:

The City does not have a features list for this park, but it does have a description:

1663169250990.png


This is an aerial view of the park, which measures 0.7ha to 1ha depending on whether you include the grounds of the heritage Gibson House itself and a pathway/easement to the north thereof.

1663169381054.png


Yonge Street is just out of the picture on the right hand (east) side.

With that out of the way, what are we looking for in this park? We'll look to see that is indeed pretty, whether it conveys a sense of historicity consistent with Gibson House, and examine the usual considerations of how popular the space seems to be; the upkeep of the space, and any material design errors or problems that stand out.

Ok, so, we'll start our tour at the south-west side of the park (lower left of the image above).

DSC09372.JPG



Overall, its an attractive landscape at the principle entrance..............need I mention my forever bugaboo ......"Where is the Park name?" ..........but otherwise it appears nice..........but right off the bat.......

A couple of notes, one, the planter containing the attractive display of bright red flowers is both ugly as sin, and entirely antithetical to any heritage motif.

I actually rather like the seating, but it too is ahistorical, black metal seating, in this style does not scream Victorian, but ok...........lets move on..........

DSC09373.JPG


Its pretty, and in decent condition; though does not comport with any sort of Victorian Garden. Really, if you didn't tell me that was what you were aiming for, I'd be entirely fine w/this.

DSC09374.JPG


Attractive interlock, seats are comfy and in good condition and also offer the opportunity to play chess. Good. The low spot where water pools and weeds are growing, less good, but a pretty minor fix.

Ok, lets head in to the park:

DSC09377.JPG


I'll be honest, I don't get the arbor/shade structure here, there's no seating here, its not a prominent spot to view, there's nothing really wrong with it..........I'm just asking 'why?'. The path here is a nice design if a bit narrow, it also has some minor condition issues, but not bad.

DSC09378.JPG


The above is the view looking south-east from the arbor structure. Not a lot going on here, I don't know that there needs to be, its fine.

DSC09379.JPG


Here, I really like the landscape work, I wish they had continued the interlock paving, but the concrete is fine and in good condition, we're also able to see that there are people out sitting on benches and lying on the grass, enjoying the space
which is always a good sign.

I should add, in fairness to the designers, that a path here does continue in interlock, and basically they have 2 trails running E-W in parallel in the park, from this point, one in interlock, the other in concrete. I'm still not sure what the justification is for using two different treatments here.

***

Below is the standard light fixture on this side of the park, which does convey a sense of heritage. I'm not sure I'd view it as Victorian mind you........but its nice enough.

DSC09381.JPG


DSC09383.JPG


In the image below, we see a really well thought out landscape choice that frames a view of NYCC looking north:

DSC09385.JPG


We'll break here before going to a second post, as I want to address the central section of this space together.
 

Northern Light

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Ok, so now we're moving on to the central section of the park, on the E-W axis. Here the park meets a parking garage for the adjacent condo, and the park becomes strata.

DSC09388.JPG


There's some use of native'ish plants here ( a mix of true natives, near-natives and some misc. perennials. and some Roses)

Obviously an area to appreciate floral beauty and engage pollinators.

Great, but what's with the short, shiny metal bollard-style lights if we're trying to go for a heritage theme here? I get the idea you want shorter lighting to leave the space more visually open, and also to light the gardens at night; but in saying that
if we're going to go away from heritage, a less conspicuous way to to do so would be to uplight portions of the garden strategically; then frame the space with the taller heritage style fixtures.

But ok.....it works, even if it is a bit off-theme.

DSC09387.JPG


DSC09390.JPG


DSC09391.JPG


Because we rarely see it as an intentional plant in a manicured park, lets look up close at the native Milkweed that is a host plant for Monarch Butterflies:

DSC09392.JPG


Those large pods will spread oodles and oodles of seed. This plant, in the right setting can be quite invasive (even though native) and this is why it was classified as a noxious weed for decades, as it can takeover a farmer's field in a hurry.

DSC09393.JPG


Now we move east to the final section that is not directly associated with the grounds of Gibson House. This section is a apparently supposed to be a working apple orchard...........uh huh:

DSC09396.JPG


DSC09398.JPG


Ok, so these are apple trees................though their numbers and placement do not convey 'orchard' to me...............but maybe there's something more important about an orchard........scratches head........

Oh right...........where are the apples? Its early fall, these trees should be laden w/apples. I'm not expert w/apple trees, but I can hypothesize some possibilities here, assuming there wasn't a spring frost that killed off the flowers on every tree this year.........they could be biennial cultivars (fruit every second year).........but most orchard crop trees are annual. Hmmmm

Assuming they didn't manage to plant some cultivar that doesn't fruit, there are some other possibilities ranging from too much nitrogen in the soil...........to.......

I bet they used entirely the same cultivar of apple tree for the entire thing........... You need two different varieties of apple to create pollination:


Any which way, this section of the park does not achieve its stated objective.

This part of the park had only a single person sitting on a bench, much less well used that the rest of the space. I think that's understandable as the landscaping here is much more spare, non-fruiting apple trees and grass and not much else.

So we'll move now to exit the park at its south-eastern terminus, before looking at the Gibson House grounds just to the north.

First from across the street, then up close:

DSC09364.JPG


DSC09399.JPG


Three notes here, one, a completely different light fixture that is certainly not historical looking. Two, hey there's an entry sign......that also looks completely ahistorical............if this spot is meant to be an orchard
I either want to see an old farm-style picket fence, or a post-and paddle fence.......and maybe some natural armour stone for seats.............not this.........

Also 2 dead trees, completely and utterly dead, right at the entrance............not a good look.

We'll wrap this up with one more, brief post, looking at the Gibson house section.
 

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Northern Light

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Ok, so let's finish our look at Gibson Park by looking at its relationship to the adjacent Gibson House, its grounds, the residual park space to the north.

We start with a path from within Gibson Park that leads you to the house and its grounds:

DSC09397.JPG


Hey, we found pseudo-historical benches! But along a plain concrete path, leading to a highly contemporary sign, and with a landscape design that doesn't convey much of anything. This path runs through the supposed orchard space which we discussed just above. I'd be fine if they brought that idea to life here, with some post and paddle fences set back 1.5M from a red brick path, or faux cobblestone or something......with the orchard trees making almost a (short) allee on each side of the path.......; or alternatively just a period appropriate garden design. Not sold on the as-is here.

***

We'll now step out to walk along the adjacent sidewalk towards Gibson House:

DSC09401.JPG


The sidewalk here and the adjacent landscape both give off a shoulder-shrug to me. 'Nothing Special Here' they say loudly, conveying no sense of history or visual interest. Note again the contemporary light fixtures which
do not match the heritage fixtures we saw earlier and are not appropriate to Gibson House at all.

***

Below, we're looking back into the park, across the would-be orchard, from the east:

DSC09402.JPG


That does not say orchard; also, I'm going to rag on the City here for not using landscape features to conceal the parking garage vent, to at least some degree, it stands out like a sore thumb.

Moving on to Gibson House:

DSC09404.JPG


The house seems fine, there are some obvious condition issues w/the grass, but I don't feel like this is a very thoughtful treatment of the 'front yard' space.


DSC09406.JPG


Again w/the concrete walkway to the front door, not period appropriate.

Now shifting north of the house, to the residual park space, which mainly serves as a cut-through path to the apartments fronting Beecroft:

DSC09407.JPG


Again the concrete as signage, and the actual signage both seem non-sequitur to the park.

DSC09403.JPG


Finally, we see a narrow, concrete path, that actually isn't properly lit, and offers no seating, next to a dull landscape. This bit gets a D- from me.

*****

Overall, the principle park is well styled through the western 2/3 of the site and in pretty good shape; it falls off considerably in its eastern third with an improperly executed orchard concept and design choices
which are both incorrect, in my judgement, but also simply don't match the balance of the park.

Two, very prominent dead trees also detract from an otherwise decently maintained space.

The adjacent sidewalk, grounds of Gibson House and residual parkland to the north all leave something to be desired and feel like throw-away spaces given too little care.

This is really 2 different experiences, one is an A - while the rest is somewhere between a C- and an F.

With that, our tour of Gibson Park is now complete.
 

old boy

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Ok, so let's finish our look at Gibson Park by looking at its relationship to the adjacent Gibson House, its grounds, the residual park space to the north.

We start with a path from within Gibson Park that leads you to the house and its grounds:

View attachment 426931

Hey, we found pseudo-historical benches! But along a plain concrete path, leading to a highly contemporary sign, and with a landscape design that doesn't convey much of anything. This path runs through the supposed orchard space which we discussed just above. I'd be fine if they brought that idea to life here, with some post and paddle fences set back 1.5M from a red brick path, or faux cobblestone or something......with the orchard trees making almost a (short) allee on each side of the path.......; or alternatively just a period appropriate garden design. Not sold on the as-is here.

***

We'll now step out to walk along the adjacent sidewalk towards Gibson House:

View attachment 426937

The sidewalk here and the adjacent landscape both give off a shoulder-shrug to me. 'Nothing Special Here' they say loudly, conveying no sense of history or visual interest. Note again the contemporary light fixtures which
do not match the heritage fixtures we saw earlier and are not appropriate to Gibson House at all.

***

Below, we're looking back into the park, across the would-be orchard, from the east:

View attachment 426936

That does not say orchard; also, I'm going to rag on the City here for not using landscape features to conceal the parking garage vent, to at least some degree, it stands out like a sore thumb.

Moving on to Gibson House:

View attachment 426934

The house seems fine, there are some obvious condition issues w/the grass, but I don't feel like this is a very thoughtful treatment of the 'front yard' space.


View attachment 426933

Again w/the concrete walkway to the front door, not period appropriate.

Now shifting north of the house, to the residual park space, which mainly serves as a cut-through path to the apartments fronting Beecroft:

View attachment 426932

Again the concrete as signage, and the actual signage both seem non-sequitur to the park.

View attachment 426935

Finally, we see a narrow, concrete path, that actually isn't properly lit, and offers no seating, next to a dull landscape. This bit gets a D- from me.

*****

Overall, the principle park is well styled through the western 2/3 of the site and in pretty good shape; it falls off considerably in its eastern third with an improperly executed orchard concept and design choices
which are both incorrect, in my judgement, but also simply don't match the balance of the park.

Two, very prominent dead trees also detract from an otherwise decently maintained space.

The adjacent sidewalk, grounds of Gibson House and residual parkland to the north all leave something to be desired and feel like throw-away spaces given too little care.

This is really 2 different experiences, one is an A - while the rest is somewhere between a C- and an F.

With that, our tour of Gibson Park is now complete.
Thank you, for illustrating the general lack of refinement in this Gibson Park. The city has a problem with it's park design philosophy, or lack thereof. It as if we don't really know what these public places are to be. What are the governing principles for public space design ? What is the civic theme this city wishes to put forward in it's public realm ? This city has an abundance of condos recently built , many with scant street presence - alone and unloved. Has the bottom line simply been allowed to creep into the built form of the public realms without most of the population even noticing ? In a rapidly developing urban city like Toronto, it may be very hard to find an overall theme for it's public spaces. They certainly don't have to be same, but some imagination and quality of materials is a good start.
 

mjl08

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Great review @Northern Light. Thanks for making the trip up north.

I worked at the intersection while the Gibson Square condos were being built. I was quite concerned the condos would diminish the quaint heritage home, but it seems like the park, as much as the condo, treats the house like an afterthought. I wish the small POPs (North York Rose Garden) in front of the condos was connected to the park. I'm not sure if the average office worker on their lunch would know the park was there unless they saw a map.

1663264516146.png
 

Northern Light

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Great review @Northern Light. Thanks for making the trip up north.

You're welcome.

I worked at the intersection while the Gibson Square condos were being built. I was quite concerned the condos would diminish the quaint heritage home, but it seems like the park, as much as the condo, treats the house like an afterthought.

I agree.

I wish the small POPs (North York Rose Garden) in front of the condos was connected to the park. I'm not sure if the average office worker on their lunch would know the park was there unless they saw a map.

View attachment 427081

I concur, the park has very low visibility from Yonge, and Park Home is not a strolling street in this area.

Looking from beside the Rose Garden, down Park Home towards Gibson Park, on Streetview:

1663265085533.png


There's not much to be done about the condo and its placement at this point; but there are a couple of plausible tweaks here.

1) Make Park Home more desirable to walk along, eliminate the on-street parking and remove two lanes; widen the sidewalks, particularly on the south side, and add continuous street trees where currently missing.

2) Choose a special paving treatment for the Rose Garden, and then use that same treatment on the adjacent Park Home sidewalk from Yonge to Beecroft, creating a visual and intuitive connection between the two spaces.

* As an aside, just looking on streetview, I don't actually see any roses, in the rose garden; what's that about?

3) Use some landscape themes, other than the paving, to tie the two spaces together. Roses in both make sense, some adjustments would have to me made to a couple of trees to sustain roses in the boulevard here, but it should be feasible, and thorn-less varieties could be used. Consider using similar, short, ornate fencing treatments, and then use shorter versions still to edge the boulevard planting beds.

4) Narrow the small road between the condo and park, giving it a 'shared street vibe if possible'. If needs be, poach a small amount of the under-used lawn (1-2M) of the park to allow for widened pedestrian spaces and street trees.

1663265646727.png


In so doing, it would then be plausible to have a patio face the new shared street and park.
 

syn

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Great review @Northern Light. Thanks for making the trip up north.

I worked at the intersection while the Gibson Square condos were being built. I was quite concerned the condos would diminish the quaint heritage home, but it seems like the park, as much as the condo, treats the house like an afterthought. I wish the small POPs (North York Rose Garden) in front of the condos was connected to the park. I'm not sure if the average office worker on their lunch would know the park was there unless they saw a map.

View attachment 427081

No kidding. I've been in and around the area countless times and I had no idea there was a historical landmark/park there.
 

Johnny Au

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One spring arrives, it would be great for @Northern Light to do reviews on June Rowlands Park (northwest corner of Davisville and Mount Pleasant), Eglinton Park (Eglinton between Avenue and Yonge), and Walter Saunders Memorial Park (south of Roselawn Avenue between Dufferin and Marlee).

These three are fascinating parks in Midtown Toronto.
 

Northern Light

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One spring arrives, it would be great for @Northern Light to do reviews on June Rowlands Park (northwest corner of Davisville and Mount Pleasant), Eglinton Park (Eglinton between Avenue and Yonge), and Walter Saunders Memorial Park (south of Roselawn Avenue between Dufferin and Marlee).

These three are fascinating parks in Midtown Toronto.

Did Eglinton get its re-do yet? Would make sense to look at it after its finished.
 

TRONto

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We took the kid up to June Rowlands once because we’ve read about how great it was, but the toddler review was not great. He didn’t take to it at all.
For the hype around it, I'd say it's a 'good' park, not a great park. We do occasionally visit it but I think the kids have a better time at the park west of Davisville station.
 

Northern Light

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For the hype around it, I'd say it's a 'good' park, not a great park. We do occasionally visit it but I think the kids have a better time at the park west of Davisville station.

Oriole Park?
 

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