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Problematic Park Design - Why Some Parks Don't Work

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.
I didn't live here thirty years ago, but do bike through those parks and smell the BBQs (in fact, we biked to the Beaches Jazz Fest on the weekend and biked home through Woodbine). Those are amazing public amenities that we need more of, and of course we need washrooms and taps there too.
 
Two observations after combing through some of @Northern Light's older reviews:

1. The tricky balance between good design and community benefit. For instance, the outdoor Dufferin Grove kitchen is a huge hit in the park, but as Northern noted, is quite unsightly when not in use. Likewise, most skate parks, including the temporary summer set-ups on outdoor rinks, aren't aesthetically pleasing, but are highly valued by locals, especially teenagers.

2. Seasonality and time of day in the enjoyment of a park. Like Northern, I'm extremely disappointed by June Callwood Park. Still, I recall cycling by on a beautiful Saturday summer afternoon, and to my surprise, the park was full of kids. For at least a moment it made the park seem successful, and certainly much more pleasing than it looks on a mid-week afternoon in November.
 
Two observations after combing through some of @Northern Light's older reviews:

1. The tricky balance between good design and community benefit. For instance, the outdoor Dufferin Grove kitchen is a huge hit in the park, but as Northern noted, is quite unsightly when not in use. Likewise, most skate parks, including the temporary summer set-ups on outdoor rinks, aren't aesthetically pleasing, but are highly valued by locals, especially teenagers.

I don't think this needs to be a huge dichotomy.

I'm in favour of skateboard facilities, and outdoor/parks kitchens

Much like Community Gardens, they can look thoughtful, quaint, like they belong or like forlorn, abandoned, weed patches.

Seasonal Skake Board stunts set up in a dry, outdoor hockey rink don't look particularly bad. I mean the rink is there anyway, and not doing anything. Might be an argument for adding some seating and a couple of temporary planters for parents to sit while their kids scare them, LOL

Outdoor kitchens just need to be mindful of material palate and of ways to minimize adverse wear and tear.

2. Seasonality and time of day in the enjoyment of a park. Like Northern, I'm extremely disappointed by June Callwood Park. Still, I recall cycling by on a beautiful Saturday summer afternoon, and to my surprise, the park was full of kids. For at least a moment it made the park seem successful, and certainly much more pleasing than it looks on a mid-week afternoon in November.

Popularity is a top defining feature of success for a park for me; it wins out over most 'critical' analyses as long as a space is safe.

That said, one has to be careful to ask, is a space sometimes used because there are no other choices/no better choices; such that one doesn't excuse bad design simply because there are people present.

I have to say, I myself, while not a regular at Callwood (why would one be?); I am by there probably monthly at the nearby Loblaws or taking pictures for UT of 'The Well'; I have yet to see the space well patronized, so you must have had 4-leaf clover on the day of your visit.

Also, as you point out, a park can be popular only during certain periods, and that cuts both ways, one doesn't want to miss a park at its best; but neither does one want to let a few popular days, excuse 340 others when a park sits empty.
 
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I have really enjoyed the parks in St. Lawrence having a little one - St. James, Corktown, Sugar Beach, Sackville, etc. Even Regent Park and Riverdale, and places farther out in Leslieville. But I'm looking forward to learning about a new neighbourhood too.
 
Not 100% sure this fits in this thread but ..

From todays' Economist "Newsletter".
Economist.jpg

Part of a longer piece originally published in Economist on 27 August 2019 but I wonder how happy people are in some of our ('pseudo) POPS 'parks where the % of greenery is usually FAR less than 40%!!
 
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Since this was in the news, are there specific guidelines for so called "pollinator gardens?" What and who determines if a garden is deemed a pollinator garden or just weeds growing out of control?

https://globalnews.ca/news/9888237/burlington-naturalized-garden-razed-city-threatens-fines/

One thing that I do not like about so called "pollinator gardens" or designs espousing planting native species is the lack of maintenance after one season or two. Majority of the time it seems like native-species/pollinator garden eventually morph into the notion that these are natural gardens; what you see as a weedy mess is considered a natural state and a excuse for laziness. It's not everyone's cup of tea but I prefer a well maintained and managed garden.
 
Since this was in the news, are there specific guidelines for so called "pollinator gardens?"

Not really a parks design issue........but ok, LOL

So, to answer the above, this is from the City of Toronto's pollinator garden page:

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What and who determines if a garden is deemed a pollinator garden or just weeds growing out of control?

In the case of the story above, Burlington by-law enforcement, after prompting by the neighbours.

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However, they don't seem to be qualified to make some of the 'calls' required, including ability to recognize noxious weeds.

(which they cited when they initially cut the garden down, even though there were none present)

They did have the by-law to stand on, which set a height limit of 20cm for lawn or associated plants; however, as pointed out in the story, this rule is clearly not applied to a host of non-native annual and perennials in many people's gardens, and relatively few native plants would actually come in under 20cm at peak height.

In other words, the law is a bit of an ass on this point, as the 20cm is arbitrary and has no scientific, safety or other basis to it.

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Noxious weeds are defined provincially.

The list is here:

One thing that I do not like about so called "pollinator gardens" or designs espousing planting native species is the lack of maintenance after one season or two. Majority of the time it seems like native-species/pollinator garden eventually morph into the notion that these are natural gardens; what you see as a weedy mess is considered a natural state and a excuse for laziness. It's not everyone's cup of tea but I prefer a well maintained and managed garden.

I prefer a forest-floor look with mature trees, native ferns and wildflowers myself (if not growing vegetables or having maintained spaces for a reason. That said, I don't dislike well curated gardens, but I tend to find most people's yards to be hopelessly dull grass, with a tree, or 3 shrubs and maybe some petunias and really, why bother? LOL

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A naturalized garden, done properly, should require very little maintenance in the longer term; that really is a key feature, not a bug.

The point is to emulate nature and have a garden that doesn't require active weeding/fertilizing or mowing; and in so doing to provide food/habitat for insects, birds, rodents, small mammals etc.

I do think this can be done (I've seen it); in a way that most people can buy in to what's being done.

Its a long explanation in terms of 'design'; but simply to say, if doing a forest-like design, plant densely, lay down lots of mulch, and maintain some type of edge/border, be it with logs/rocks/stone etc.

If doing a sun-focused, pollinator type garden, plant lots of things that flower in a wide range of colours to make it cheerful, plant densely to avoid having a lot of overgrown grass/dandelions etc. and again, show others the space is cared for by having some type of edge/border treatment.

This site is from the U.S. but shows some good examples of a natural-design template, but with elements of soft/hardscape, and seating that still show its cared for:

 
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Soooo; on my walk yesterday, Sept 8th, 2023, I revisited Sherbourne Common Park North.

This is a park which I lambasted back on page 1 of this thread and I stand by every word.

But I do have some pics to share from yesterday's walk.

First, we need to look back to one particularly disheartening pic from that first evisceration...

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When I took the above pic, I expressed my clear disdain for all the crap built onto the north edge of this park. Three different utility cabinets, pus that Gardiner sign.

So lets see what has changed:

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Well, the Gardiner sign is still there............but two of the three Utility Boxes are gone! Hurrah! I don't know that my post had anything to do w/getting that done, but either way, a modest victory for good design.

Of course, there former placement is marked by asphalt, LOL

DSC02585.jpg


Also on the upside, the water feature that is the signature of this park was working full-out yesterday, and the plant community it sustains is very verdant indeed:

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I would love to leave it there, on a good note.......but I have to say, details matter, and this bugged me:

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The above is the drain that takes the water under Queen's Quay to Sherbourne Common South.

The level of scum build up is rather obnoxious, and may I add has an odour to go with that visual.

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Final thought.......I was the only person in the park, again. Tells you everything you need to know about problematic, park design.
 
To be fair, Sherbourne Common North - though already a decade old - is missing the adjacent buildings on the west side for which it was designed. It clearly has problems, but it was meant for passive use by a large population that doesn’t yet exist.

Probably waterfront should have commissioned a different design that would work for the long meanwhile.
 
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To be fair, Sherbourne Common North - though already a decade old - is missing the adjacent buildings on the west side for which it was designed. It clearly has problems, but it was meant for passive use by a large population that doesn’t yet exist.

Its certainly true that the population in the area isn't yet high; however, Sherbourne Common South, just across the road is quite popular.

Probably waterfront should have commissioned a different design that would work for the long meanwhile.

The park (north) has serious design flaws which I outlined. The park is an utterly unusable and unappealing design which achieves virtually nothing for any park user.

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Rather than repeat myself, for anyone interested, here is a link back to post #7 in this thread in which I make clear why this park is a complete and total failure:

 
@Northern Light I was wondering if you have taken a look at the latest for the downtown linear parks https://www.blogto.com/city/2023/10/toronto-public-spaces-connected-linear-park/

I did the survey and while the parks look ok I am not happy with the design. Some seats and pretty art don't make a well utilized park. I would prefer some active engagement.

What do you think about the proposals?

I only gave them the once over from the story above; when I get a minute I'll look through everything and post.
 
Ok, I've been asked to comment on Relic Park.

As it doesn't exist yet, of course, I have to work with the rendered images and site photos etc.

I will move these selectively into this post, and will then comment:

I will do this for each proposed space discretely.

So we're looking first at the tiny park proposed at Dundas/McCaul:

1698199797560.png

Lets start by saying this is a tiny space, framed by the Church to the north, McCaul to the west, Dundas to the south, and a rather unfortunate under construction building to the east.

261m2 is just over 2x the size of my apartment.........and I'm not living in a 30M penthouse. I point that out just say trying to fit much in here is brutal.

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So right off the bat, I want to note the use of the plural in reference to trees

If you planted an optimal specimen Silver Maple here; just one, how big would the crown (canopy/branch reach) be?

The answer is 25ft from the centre/trunk of the tree or 50ft across. Which would be.....2,500ft2; or just shy of the size of this entire park.

That doesn't mean you couldn't get more than 1 tree in, but just keep that in mind when your considering the space allocation here.

* To be clear I don't know what species are proposed, so crown area could vary quite a bit.

Renders:

1698200410519.png


So, based on what I'm seeing here, we appear to be looking north from Dundas. McCaul is out of frame to your left, the new building to your right.

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Here's the layout scheme:

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I'm going to start by noting there's no way I'm wrong that the render shows 5 trees, but the above shows 4; inconsistency is an issue.

Seating total in the schematic above is::

7 round seats
1 long bench seating 4-5 (my estimate)

4 'cafe' tables with 9 individual chairs.

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A picture of the site as is, current streetview: (Sept '23)

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I think we need look back at the renders of the adjacent project to get a better understanding of the space:

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So this park will be up against high ground floor glazing.

Immediate thoughts:

Why a water ball filling station w/no drinking fountain? They are available as an integrated single piece, the fountain part is not an expensive add-on. No cup/bottle, no water for you! Not sure how how inclusive that is.....

Second thought: Why are we not integrating the sidewalks seamlessly into the landscape? Given how small the landscape is that would seem a no-brainer. We have to retain a pedestrian clearly, but we can use augmented paving materials
and consider the space in relation to the design. Depending on sidewalk width it may be possible to 'borrow' some space at the edges.

Third thought, I assume the mirror wall is meant to make the space feel larger; but I'm not sold.

Fourth thought: Why are we generally obscuring the only attractive building adjacent to this space with the mirror wall and vegetation, instead of celebrating it?
Why wouldn't we hide the monstrosity to the east if we could?

Fifth Thought: The functional program isn't too busy, but the 'vision' is ........... you've got 3 real competing ideas here.

1) Lush/Green
2) Display of bits of older achitecture
3) Indigenous program.

All have a place, but that's so much to ask of so little room, I think your probably short shifting it all.

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Ok, I'm going to stop here for this post and look at the rest of the spaces tomorrow.

I'm also going to try to see if I can't figure out something better to do here. But man, a sliver of left over space next to this beast.........not the way to plan a park system.
 
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Ok, I'm still not ready to discuss what I would do, but I want to add a couple of things to yesterday's post.

First an aerial pic that shows the approximate area of the proposed park (I'm short 6m2)

1698236244705.png


Very roughly, the parks dimensions are 20m x 13m

I need to put that information out there so we can look what that space can squeeze; but also maybe how we could (have) got a bit more space.

I'll try to show what's possible in existing area; but let me ask, why couldn't we make it a bit bigger? (w/o revisiting that condo)

Poaching from the Dundas ROW is out of the question, but McCaul is comparatively light in traffic, what if we captured the curb lane up to the streetcar track?

1698236706520.png


While it doesn't make the space huge by any means, it adds about 60m2 or just over 600ft2; that's about 23% more area.

I omitted any take at the corner due to the turning radii of streetcars and the crosswalk.

As I look at it, I have a few thoughts as to why this space needs to be part of a larger vision.

This would surely be a people watching type space, there's a pub across the street that opens its windows in good weather bringing the inside out; what if we similarly removed the SB curb lane and created a permanent patio space for the restaurant? I think that would make entire area more engaging.

You've also got the heritage church to the north, which could use to be architecturally highlighted, and which has some pseudo-public space in front of it, that isn't great. I see an opportunity for an integrated approach to a new McCaul here.

I'll wager the church would want to retain a drop-off zone in front of its steps; fine, but how about we swap out the black top for interlock and the sidewalk for nice stone?

What about architectural lighting on the Church? Is there any now? When I search for night views of the church I can't find any.

When this is the northern boundary of your park, how can you not resist integrating it in some fashion?

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I'm just musing here, but what about framing the church, in part, but using the same brick from its parish hall to the north as the base for your planter, and display of 'relics'?

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I'll come back to this with an alternative scheme.
 

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