TORONTO’s Belt Line Railway encircled a much smaller city when it opened to passenger traffic in 1892. Its purpose: to transport people and freight between the new suburbs – Forest Hill, Rosedale, Moore Park and Chaplin Estates – and the city’s downtown core.
Unfortunately, the suburban real estate boom ended after only two years, and some of the railways’s inclines were too steep for freight trains. Thus, the rails were torn up and shipped to France during the Great War of 1914-18.
The City of TORONTO bought the roadbed from CN Rail in 1990, and Councillor Kay Gardner became a driving force to convert the land into a 4.5 kilometre long park and hiking trail from Mount Pleasant Cemetery and the Davisville subway train yards, westward through some of the city’s poshest neighbourhoods.
Subway stop: DAVISVILLE and a short walk south; PHOTOS – winter http://www.ronforeman.com – summer http://www.yongeandrichstreet.com
One of TORONTO’s most innovative urban parks, UNDERPASS PARK, is a two and a half acre mixed-use space tucked beneath the Eastern Avenue ramps to the Gardiner Expressway. It’s the largest park built under an overpass in Canada, and was designed by VANCOUVER-based landscape architects Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg. Created under the auspices of WATERFRONT TORONTO, this park transforms the emerging West Donlands neighborhood into a fun space with its avant-garde public art, recreational areas, and contemporary green space.
<PHOTOS BELOW – Cassandra Hryniw (day) and Nicola Betts (night) Public art sculpture/Paul Raff Studio>
The W. Garfield Weston Foundation was created in the 1950′s by Willard Garfield Weston and his wife, Reta. Over the next three years, a $5million grant from the Foundation will finance a range of new, as-yet-to-be-determined enhancements for TORONTO’s parklands. The project is being organized by Toronto Park People, a group of volunteers, city workers and others. Suggestions for the first round of proposals are welcome until April 5, at email@example.com.
Toronto Park People, http://www.parkpeople.ca
Written up in the New York Times as “a tremendous draw in a rough neighbourhood that has vastly improved”, DUFFERIN GROVE is all that a city park should be. It has a year ‘round Farmer’s Market, two giant outdoor wood-fire ovens, a free skating rink, campfires, numerous neighbourhood celebrations, and one of TORONTO’s finest, in-depth websites – http://www.dufferinpark.ca.
<PHOTO – Laura Berman, Travel Section, New York Times, December/2012>
The Friday Night Suppers are renowned. There’s soup, a vegetarian entrée, a meat entrée, side dish, a salad and dessert. Most of the groceries come from Thursday’s Organic Farmer’s Market, and cooking is done in the outdoor wood-fired bake-ovens. Donations pay for the groceries, but nobody goes away hungry.
This park serves its neighbourhood in style.
<Saturday morning hockey at Dufferin Grove, photo – Michael Monastyrsky>
Looks can be deceiving. The sun is shining, but the air is crystalline.
Ice skating at Sherbourne Common, one of 50 outdoor rinks in the City of Toronto.
<Willowvale Park at Christie Pits, 5 rinks, 1923, City of Toronto Archives>
TORONTO has the most outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks of any city in the world. There are 4 rinks in the city centre, and 46 in neighbourhoods. Twelve are double pads – one for playing hockey, the other for pleasure-skating. The rest are single pads where hockey and pleasure-skating take turns.
TORONTO has discovered ‘pocket parks’. Traffic islands and unused vacant wedges are being planted and – best of all – maintained. PHOTOS - maple trees on a traffic island, Richmond Street East & Jarvis; Glenn Gould Place, a park-within-a-park, King Street West at John; an autumn garden, University Avenue & Front; Dundee Place, Richmond at Yonge Street; under the roundabout Gardiner Expressway exit at Y-B-Y (Yonge/Bay/York). There are countless others.