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Problematic Park Design - Why Some Parks Don't Work

Since we'll live next door, we'll find ways to worm ourselves into all of the parts of it, which I'm sure will be great for us, but not exactly a public amenity for people farther away.
 
I walked through last week on the way to see the laneway house construction, and the trees and grass are great, but the walkways and other amenities are a bit decrepit. I'm no expert, and I will like lounging in the shade, but will probably not make use of the rest of it.

Based on the popularity w/area kids, I expect your toddler will quite like the sand area, the playground and the wading pool. The rest is a bit less interesting to a child of that age.

But skateboarding is taking off w/young lawyers, I hear.....
 
I still call him the toddler, but he’s not really any more. He’ll be five soon! But I do think he’ll like the sand.

There were a few teenagers skateboarding when I passed through last week. I’ve never gotten into skateboarding, but maybe the kid will.
 
Great overview, @Northern Light!

Dufferin Park Ave from Gladstone to Havelock is a very popular spot for skateboarders. It would be nice to see that formalized somehow.

I pass through Dufferin Grove several times a week by bike, and the bike infrastructure (or lack thereof) is frustrating.

The path through the centre of the park is officially designated as a multi-use trail:
Screenshot 2023-07-26 at 08.59.23.png


Unfortunately, it's not a very good one. One, it's bumpy and the pavement is in poor condition. Two, I don't think it functions very well as a shared path. It's too narrow to pass groups of pedestrians without biking through the grass or mud, and there is a lot of mud on either side of it. Worst of all, it doesn't have a curb cut at the south end! Seriously, how is this an acceptable entrance for a multi-use path?
Screenshot 2023-07-26 at 09.05.15.png

(Since that image was captured, concrete curbs have been placed to right of the gate.)

There are many other things I could complain about, but overall it is a well-loved and well-used park, if a bit neglected. I appreciate the quirky features like the reflexology footpath and the cob kitchen (we'll have to agree to disagree, @Northern Light, cause I think it's very cool and weird and we should have more cool and weird stuff in parks!).
 

Thanks.

There are many other things I could complain about, but overall it is a well-loved and well-used park, if a bit neglected.

Agree.

I appreciate the quirky features like the reflexology footpath and the cob kitchen (we'll have to agree to disagree, @Northern Light, cause I think it's very cool and weird and we should have more cool and weird stuff in parks!).

LOL, I like the idea of the kitchen and have no issue w/quirky, I'm more on about all the mud; just how rough the thing looks (condition). From a practicality stand point, it isn't the way I would choose to design a kitchen for a park. That's true irrespective of what 'motif' one gives it.

Certainly, it would be a bit more practical if the kitchen were integrated with a washroom/staff building ( a well designed one, themed if so desired).

If, the desire were to have it be stand-alone, outdoors, I'd still like to see more hardscaping around it, and some sort of roof structure to help preserve it.
 
This sand feature has got to be one of the coolest free things for kids in the city. I only discovered it recently, and my kid is a tad bit too old to fully enjoy it. I only wish we knew about it before. A true hidden gem. Building rivers and dams and bridges...child me would've been in heaven.
My youngest (5) is obsessed with it. He'll literally spend hours digging around in it and not get bored or tired.
 
I love the idea of kitchens in parks as a concept, but it seems really hard to deliver as a really useful amenity.
I'm very grateful that it's there, despite its shabby appearance in classic Toronto style. There have been many occasions where the kids were having a blast in the wading pool/mud pit/playground and I was able to enjoy a freshly baked pizza or homemade chocolate chip cookies from that community kitchen. I'd love to see more of that in our parks. Access to food and snacks (made by locals) is very underrated.
 
As we continue on from the playground, moving north through the park......'

We encounter the park's soccer pitch, which is the defining element of the north-east section of the park:

View attachment 494999

The field seems like a good asset and is in reasonable condition, though I wonder at the lack of lighting for night-use. In a city very short of soccer facilities that might be a sensible choice here.

***

Just to the south of the field is the principle entrance path to the park coming in from the east:

View attachment 494998

Its not really paved........... and lacks seating along its edge for the most part, it also lacks dedicated lighting.

***

As we head back to the west, so we can follow the main N-S pathway in the park, we encounter a fire pit:

View attachment 495000

As I passed by, there was still a residual fire in the pit, and no one attending to it. That's bad practice! However, the area around it has a low risk for catching, there is an adjacent water source (points for putting that in) and it was not a windy day, so not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Still. I like fire pits, and I would like people to use them responsibly, so we could have more, rather than fewer.

**

Just north of the fire pit, one finds a quaint, winding path that will lead you down to Dufferin Street:

View attachment 495001

****

A bit to the north, beside the soccer pitch is one of the park's permanent washrooms:

View attachment 495002

Its a quaint little building, but its overall condition and interior lighting visible in the shot above probably seem more apt for a horror film shoot than family-friendly park.

There's a small 'community garden nearby, which looks ok, but was blocked off, as entry was reserved to 'volunteers'. I'm a little mixed in my view of how appropriate that is........

View attachment 495003

One other observation about the above. Anyone else see a problem? Hint, you're looking south here, which is the direction from which this garden gets its sun......

Yes, that's right, someone thought it was a great spot to plant a shade tree! LOL. Newsflash, the vegetable growers will not be impressed in 10 years time...

*****

As we wander into the construction zone in the north-west of the park, we encounter its outdoor rink, which is now completely re-done and re-opened, though fences surround it due to ongoing work. The rink is set-up for skate-boarding for the summer season:

View attachment 495007

As we pass the above, exit the park as its northern reach; and turn back to look at its entrance here:

View attachment 495009

The landscape around the entrance is an obvious issue, but I'll try to be hopeful that that might be addressed by the ongoing construction. A quick glance to the left/east shows a further problem:

View attachment 495010

Here we see people trampling the grass to make a beeline for their preferred destination, which is either the soccer pitch or the washroom; either way, this should probably be a formal path. If the City would prefer otherwise, they will have to do a better job of obstructing that pedestrian movement.

****

We're not quite done, we'll take a look now at the ongoing construction in the north-west of the park, which, cough, was supposed to be finished in June '23, according to our 'revised' sign.

View attachment 495017

View attachment 495015

View attachment 495019

Finally, the park's main entrance from the north-west corner, the one where the Farmer's market used to historically be located:

View attachment 495018

Needless to say, they'll be very luck to get this done by Labour Day weekend.

***

That wraps our visit to Dufferin Grove Park.

Overall, a popular space with some great features; but one clearly suffering some neglect, facing some accessibility challenges, and maybe not using all of its spaces quite as fully as it might.

A very solid park, but one in need of additional investments.

I will discuss my ideas for the park in a future post, but must now run some errands!

Great review, Northern. As a born and raised east-ender, I didn't first explore Dufferin Grove until much later in life, and it has since become one of my favourite parks in the city.

I think its strongest qualities are its unique topography, lush tree canopy and kid friendliness. Still, you point to some areas of improvement like better upkeep and clearer park paths.
 
I still call him the toddler, but he’s not really any more. He’ll be five soon! But I do think he’ll like the sand.

There were a few teenagers skateboarding when I passed through last week. I’ve never gotten into skateboarding, but maybe the kid will.
That outdoor skating rink in Dufferin Grove is very heavily used in the winter after school - I'm sure that you will have your share of going over and hauling kid home for dinner :)

Skate swaps, skating lessons, and fairly chilled rec league hockey available at McCormick Arena...
 
That outdoor skating rink in Dufferin Grove is very heavily used in the winter after school - I'm sure that you will have your share of going over and hauling kid home for dinner :)

Skate swaps, skating lessons, and fairly chilled rec league hockey available at McCormick Arena...
I love the McCormick CC, and the lovely adjoining park, which is thankfully under the radar.
 
I love the idea of kitchens in parks as a concept, but it seems really hard to deliver as a really useful amenity.
I've heard Brisbane is a place that does 'food prep facilities in parks' well. They have hundreds of such facilities and its apparently a part of the local culture to have bbq in the park.

900x350-hidden-world-park-barbecue-family.jpg
 
Toronto, of course, has many places to BBQ in a park, the likely best being Sunnybrook and the Island. But not many kitchens.
 
I've heard Brisbane is a place that does 'food prep facilities in parks' well. They have hundreds of such facilities and its apparently a part of the local culture to have bbq in the park.

900x350-hidden-world-park-barbecue-family.jpg
Toronto, of course, has many places to BBQ in a park, the likely best being Sunnybrook and the Island. But not many kitchens.

Toronto has far fewer parks with built-in bbqs than it did 30 years ago.

Virtually every 'Metro Park', pre-amalgamation (mostly valley parks, plus lake front parks and the Islands) had BBQs.

From the 90s, they let most of them rust away, and then just cut them off a the base.

We probably have 400 fewer BBQ than we did 30 years ago (a guess); I would argue for adding 1,000 spread over 20-30 locations. Though each location should have a year-round washroom, a drinking fountain and water-bottle filling station, and a bucket-fill as well for putting out the BBQ properly.
 

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