News   Jun 14, 2024
 342     0 
News   Jun 14, 2024
 499     1 
News   Jun 14, 2024
 569     0 

Problematic Park Design - Why Some Parks Don't Work

Now that it's finally fully open, wouldn't mind seeing your thoughts on Dr Lillian McGregor Park, if possible! So far I find it a nice space to walk through, but not anywhere I'd go to spend any actual amount of time, but not sure if that's just me.

I didn't do a Design review of the park, but did post photos, here: (with some comments)


Has much changed since then?
 
I didn't do a Design review of the park, but did post photos, here: (with some comments)


Has much changed since then?
I think maybe just the dog park inside the driveway loop opened, since I remember that being delayed for ages from the park itself opening. Otherwise not much has changed, they tried painting the City-standard garbage cans, but half the paint has flaked off sadly. It was a cute idea but just didn't work.
 
I think maybe just the dog park inside the driveway loop opened, since I remember that being delayed for ages from the park itself opening. Otherwise not much has changed, they tried painting the City-standard garbage cans, but half the paint has flaked off sadly. It was a cute idea but just didn't work.

Aside from totally replacing the awful waste receptacles (City-wide); they could just encase them, its not that difficult. The way the City does things, the most expensive bit would be pouring a concrete pad for the base, if one wasn't already there.

If we weren't insisting on using a design that can be picked up by a robotic arm, we could buy these for under 2k each:

1710793611525.png



I kind of link this bin design used by Royal Oak, Michigan in the U.S.

1710793760915.png


I can't find a version w/the individual bins on wheels just at the moment, but the design below could easily be adapted to our program:

1710793891057.png
 
Last edited:
Aside from totally replacing the awful waste receptacles (City-wide); they could just encase them, its not that difficult. The way the City does things, the most expensive bit would be pouring a concrete pad for the base, if one wasn't already there.

If we weren't insisting on using a design that can be picked up by a robotic arm, we could buy these for under 2k each:

View attachment 549317


I kind of link this bin design used by Royal Oak, Michigan in the U.S.

View attachment 549318

I can't find a version w/the individual bins on wheels just at the moment, but the design below could easily be adapted to our program:

View attachment 549335

If only! The current clunky PFR bins are abhorrent. It's one thing to see them next to sports fields or baseball diamonds, but another to have them in Toronto's crown jewels like Corktown Common or the Music Garden.
 
This is a review of the design of Walter Saunders Memorial Park for @Johnny Au

First, the straight forward background. This park is sited on Hopewell Avenue.

Its just east off Dufferin and a few blocks north of Eglinton, and runs parallel to the Beltline trail system for a distance of ~340M

Its ~1.5ha or 3.75 acres in size.

Lets have a look at what the City claims the park should be:

1714949706448.png

1714949732040.png



That said, lets take a look at an Aerial View overhead before we start our tour:

1714950207262.png


With that lets start our tour; I'm coming in from Dufferin so this is roughly west to east.

We'll begin with the western entrance to the park, as viewed from across the street:

DSC03598a.jpg


Lets have a closer look:

DSC03601a.jpg



Nothing wrong w/the stairs per se, not an accessible entrance, but there are some further to the east.............

But both the landscaping and the skyscraping (very high) lighting leave something to be desired here.

Lets have a quick glance to the left before moving on:

DSC03600a.jpg


The above is to the left/west of the staircase and at the western extreme of he park.

Can't say I like this. It doesn't read as useful space, and yet its not pretty or natural either.

I would like to see a bit of privacy for the abutting building, a nice view, maybe some picnic tables tucked in to that setting.

But lets move on, and head up the stairs.........as we do., lets take a moment to look at lighting choices in this park..... I'm not being fussy, I swear.........but can we possibly make up our minds?

You've already see the light above next to the stairs, here's what the lights next to the path/sidewalk along the southern boundary of the park (the road) look like:

DSC03603a.jpg


Now the basketball court:

DSC03608a.jpg


Yeah, yeah, I get that the basketball court likely merits its own lighting style for the facility...........but still, this is the third type of fixture in the park.

****

Right, we were climbing the western stairs....

The park begins as one walks the park trail from the mid-point of the stairs, by introducing us to two garden elements.

To the north is some sort of Community Garden where plants can be planted each year, maybe food? maybe flowers?

DSC03606a.jpg


Seems fine for what it is...........though I didn't see any signage explaining what it was, and its entirely fenced off.

To the south of the path we see this:

DSC03605a.jpg


This seems to be a demonstration garden of some sort, there was signage for some plants.

I can't say the maintenance level encourages me....but perhaps I'm being unfair, we are early in the growing season.

As we walk along we encounter what I would take to be the principle entrance of the park from the south, which has a larger pathway leading from the road to the Beltline Trail:

DSC03610a.jpg


For what by scale seems to be the main entrance, I'm a bit underwhelmed, there isn't much landscaping; the top of the armourstone is seating, of a sort, but none with a backrest........... its ok.

But little sense of ceremony or importance or 'welcome to the park'.

The sole park sign is located just a bit east of the this entrance/path:

DSC03611a.jpg


Its ok, nothing wrong w/it exactly.........but its not really the way I would prefer to see signage handled, I want to see the name, easily at all entrance points. Here we have one sign, and its off to the side.

****

Now I've climbed the berm (hill) to the east of 'main' entrance pathway, and we're looking back west at where we've been:

DSC03612a.jpg


That path we came up is just below, the Beltline is off to the right. the Basketball court is just beyond the path, and the gardens beyond that.

I know its early in the season and a lot of trees haven't leafed out yet............but I'm kinda underwhelmed so far.

I'll stop there for the moment, as the next series of pics are best seen together.
 
Ok, now, from the same berm as above, we're looking to the east, first the south-east (road), then then straight-line-of-sight to the eastern portion of the park, then to the north-east. (Beltline and beyond)

DSC03614a.jpg


DSC03616a.jpg


DSC03615a.jpg


So we see in the above that some trees are definitely in poor health. In fact, in surveying the park, I would assess the majority of trees to be under performing. I didn't have a shovel w/me to dig in the ground, but I instinctively wonder about compaction as an issue here. The odd 'form' of the park with what appear to be artificial hills makes me think of compacted soil.

The bare ground in the open space in the low area could just be wear and tear.........but I don't think so, I expect its a mix of compacted soil and pooling water.

****

Next we see the fitness equipment, where a nice man is demonstrating how to ignore that equipment and instead work out the thumb muscles by using his phone.

DSC03618a.jpg


Looking back at the open space to the left/south of the fitness facility, that we saw earlier, but now from the east, looking west:

DSC03619a.jpg


You know...its not quite large enough for a soccer pitch..........so its probably listed as 'informal play space' in some design somewhere.

I would have been tempted to try to fit a soccer pitch, but assuming that was either not feasible or not desired.............I would ask........whoever decided kids wanted 'boring' places for informal play? I mean where here are you hiding when you play Hide and Seek?

***

At the extreme east end of the park, we find the playground and splash pad:

DSC03624a.jpg


DSC03630a.jpg


Ok, there's really nothing wrong w/this bit, which was the single busiest part of the park I encountered. (the basketball court was also in use by some kids, but any photo would have been invasive)

Before we begin to wrap up, I want to note a couple of conspicuous features of the east end of the park, at its southern extent:

DSC03622a.jpg


Yes, I'm snobbily noting the chain link fence which I find singularly unattrative.................but there's something else..........what's not here....?

That's right, there's no sidewalk beside the road.....the path on the southern flank of the park, abutting the north side of Hopewell doubles as the sidewalk..........here it diverts into the playground, never to be seen again.....and there is no further sidewalk.
Not happy w/that choice.

I want to finish the tour up by the beltline...........but I have to begin w/a photo of a singular tree.

This is an Austrian Pine:

DSC03627a.jpg


Notice the tree has no crown or top? I find that goofy. To be clear, for a variety of reasons, this species of tree seems to be prone to having its top die-off or get misshaped in such a way that humans feel the need to cut it off.

I get that...............except.........the result looks goofy, and Austrian Pine as opposed to some other varieties rarely seems to regain its crown with a new leader. (tallest branch)

Ok....on to the Beltline breifly to finish: This is the Beltline, adjacent to the eastern end of the park, looking east:

DSC03629a.jpg


Now, looking west:

DSC03628a.jpg



Thiis sloped area on the north side of the Beltline trail would make a great 'swale' or wet area w/appropriate plants to which excess storm water in the area could be diverted.

****

That concluces our tour of the park.

Overall, the park meets its facilities claims w/basketball, playground and splash pad.

The park condition isn't excellent, but its not poor either, lets call it 'fair' overall with some serious issues w/tree health.

There do seem to be some real opportuntiies for aesthetic improvement, for better 'invitation' into the park space, and lots of room to improve the adjacent Beltline (unlit here, and also lacking amenities from seating to trailheads)

I'll offer a wrap-up post tomorrow looking at how one might improve the space in a cost-efficient way.
 
Last edited:
Never been to this park, but it looks utterly boring. Still, I'm elated to see fitness equipment here, which ought to be standard in all the "significant" parks in the city.
 
So, as promised a look at some options to change/alter this park for the better:

Lets look at a fairly basic level first, w/o major structural changes:

Walter Saunders Re-imainged 1.png


The obvious choices I've noted on the map above would serve:

1) creating a border space for privacy between the building at the westernmost portion of the park, and the park users, while also creating a modest habitat for birds and squirrels and such. Not large area, currently not used for anything, saves the cost of mowing.

2) Taking the low area, north of the Beltline trail, which is naturally a depression in the land, where water will accumulate, and naturalizing it w/plants that love moist soil, maybe even directing additional water flows into it, such that a small 'pond' might exist at its centre.

3) The Children's waterplay here is very small, shifting it across from the playground would allow it to at least double in size, and make use of some under-utilized space.

4) Not noted above in the image, but I certainly want to activate, the patch of bare grass at the bottom - centre of the park, as well as the area on top of the berm.

I'm open minded on this, but think the most cost-effective choice would be to make one of the two a picnic space, with 3-4 tables, and one or two high quality new shade trees. The other space could be a pollinator meadow with a stepping stone path and native wildflowers. This is both good ecologically and lower cost to maintain.

5) The park path system, excluding the belt line should be re-done in interlock. The narrow asphalt path is in fair condition at best, and does not match the lighting aesthetic in style.

6) The park's principle entrance should get some show; some high quality seating, and some flowers, perennial or seasonal.

Cost: (high level estimate)

$900,000

*****

I considered a soccer pitch, even a junior one, and when measuring it out, its borderline impossible, at the very least it would require re-aligning the Beltline trail, terraforming the park differently, retaining walls and more. The cost would be prohibitive.

No matter what choices are made, some effort should occur to decompact the soil and to enrich it. No point in planting trees to see them die, or have stunted growth.

Expansion to the east is feasible, if homes are purchased. This is worthy of consideration, but should only be done if there is demand for an additional, useful facility (ie. tennis courts)

Finally, I would really like to alter the adjacent road to make it feel safer for little kids using the park. Eliminate parking next to the park, reduce the curb-to-curb distance accordingly; add zebra stripes/interlock at the main park entrance, and vegetate any space between the sidewalk/path and the curb with ground covers, and perennials to discourage running into the street and add beauty.

****

I would be remiss not to comment on the Belt line here, which lacks lighting, wayfinding, seating, trail heads or drinking fountains. Corrections are self-explanatory.
 
Last edited:
Ok, on my walk the other day, I passed by the tiny little parkette on Pape, immediately south of the Millwood Bridge.

Now, this is a tiny space, really a landscaping patch with maybe enough room for a bench........not a lot more. It would not normally merit mention in this thread.

But sometimes, the little things.....

DSC03712.jpg


What's the name of the park again?

Seriously though........ The sign is behind a bed of shrubs?
 
Aside from totally replacing the awful waste receptacles (City-wide); they could just encase them, its not that difficult. The way the City does things, the most expensive bit would be pouring a concrete pad for the base, if one wasn't already there.

If we weren't insisting on using a design that can be picked up by a robotic arm, we could buy these for under 2k each:

View attachment 549317


I kind of link this bin design used by Royal Oak, Michigan in the U.S.

View attachment 549318

I can't find a version w/the individual bins on wheels just at the moment, but the design below could easily be adapted to our program:

View attachment 549335
Absolutely! Toronto's park garbage bins are disgraceful
 
I took some time to get my thoughts together on the Walter Saunders Memorial Park.

I think Northern Light's comments on the park (briefly: landscaping needs work and trees in poor shape, "main" entrance underwhelming, and no pedestrian infrastructure on south side of the park) to be largely on point. His suggestions (add stormwater swale, expended waterpark, naturalize west side of the park, and improve bike/pedestrian infrastructure) make sense. But I think they're missing part of the local picture.

I will note that the City is proposing to build a contraflow bike lane down Jimmy Wisdom Way from Eglinton as part of eglintonTOday, which will hopefully improve the direct connection at the park (and will also create a safe and useful connection from the Beltline to the Maria A. Shchuka Library).

The park is very heavily used most of the time. The playground and basketball court are probably the busiest features, but even the awkward open space tends to have families picnicking, playing with dogs, or having informal games. Lots of people relax on the berms and watch people travelling by on the Beltline. But most of the park's users aren't the people living in the single family neighbourhoods to the south and north of the park.

Below is a 2021 population density map of the area, with the rough location of the park circled in green, and the Beltline in red. Most people using the park are coming from the apartment buildings along Marlee to the east, or from smaller apartment buildings scattered to the north. More than 5000 people live in the dense apartment neighbourhood east of Marlee, while just 2800 live in the four dissemination areas immediately around the park. The biggest group of park users are visiting through the Beltline.

1717805704143.png


And as such, the park can't really be considered separately from the Beltline. If I was to budget roughly a million to improve the park, I think I would put probably most of it to the section of the Beltline between Dufferin and Marlee, and not the park proper. The York Beltline Trail is quite noticeably scrubbier and rougher than the Kay Gardner Beltline Park to the east and some intentional naturalization (maybe a meadow) could make it a lot more inviting to its biggest userbase, and with the coming Beltline Gap project, even make it a nice destination to people out for a walk or bike ride on the Kay Gardner section.
 
I took some time to get my thoughts together on the Walter Saunders Memorial Park.

I think Northern Light's comments on the park (briefly: landscaping needs work and trees in poor shape, "main" entrance underwhelming, and no pedestrian infrastructure on south side of the park) to be largely on point. His suggestions (add stormwater swale, expended waterpark, naturalize west side of the park, and improve bike/pedestrian infrastructure) make sense. But I think they're missing part of the local picture.

I will note that the City is proposing to build a contraflow bike lane down Jimmy Wisdom Way from Eglinton as part of eglintonTOday, which will hopefully improve the direct connection at the park (and will also create a safe and useful connection from the Beltline to the Maria A. Shchuka Library).

The park is very heavily used most of the time. The playground and basketball court are probably the busiest features, but even the awkward open space tends to have families picnicking, playing with dogs, or having informal games. Lots of people relax on the berms and watch people travelling by on the Beltline. But most of the park's users aren't the people living in the single family neighbourhoods to the south and north of the park.

Below is a 2021 population density map of the area, with the rough location of the park circled in green, and the Beltline in red. Most people using the park are coming from the apartment buildings along Marlee to the east, or from smaller apartment buildings scattered to the north. More than 5000 people live in the dense apartment neighbourhood east of Marlee, while just 2800 live in the four dissemination areas immediately around the park. The biggest group of park users are visiting through the Beltline.

View attachment 570707

And as such, the park can't really be considered separately from the Beltline. If I was to budget roughly a million to improve the park, I think I would put probably most of it to the section of the Beltline between Dufferin and Marlee, and not the park proper. The York Beltline Trail is quite noticeably scrubbier and rougher than the Kay Gardner Beltline Park to the east and some intentional naturalization (maybe a meadow) could make it a lot more inviting to its biggest userbase, and with the coming Beltline Gap project, even make it a nice destination to people out for a walk or bike ride on the Kay Gardner section.

Constructive and informative post.

I can easily formulate the plan to deliver a meadow treatment for $100,000, - TRCA can subsoil in a linear movement, some good over-soil/fertilizer as needed, mostly seed mix, but maybe 5,000 plugs as well.

That's easy.

Lighting, benches, drinking fountains may be considerable more, depending on what underground infra is closely present.

I agree w/upgrading the trail section it just wasn't what I was asked to review, so I didn't focus there.

A rough cost for adding the above is incredibly variable depending on what utilities are or are not in the corridor........but $300,000 at the low end.......to more than $2,000,000 at the high end (for basics).

****

This reminded me of a discussion posted to the Beltline Yards website, which is a development proposal that many here are award of...........where there is a discussion of the Beltline Trail as it pertains to that development:

 
Last edited:
Nothing wrong with what you wrote, I thought you have a good fresh perspective on the park. It surprised me reading your post when you came in through that southern entrance, because for me that is the one I use least out of all the ways into and out of the park and I didn't think of that as the main entrance at all!

I think the Beltline as a whole is probably worth a series of posts in this thread. I think it could be fairly called one of the best parks in the city, but it's also maddeningly inconsistent and very unsafe at major intersections. There's some work being done but certainly not enough. I'm pretty busy for the rest of the month but I'd be interested in taking a deep dive in July/August on it because I think it's a real opportunity for Toronto.

The Beltline Yards development is right to focus on the Beltline Trail as an underdeveloped major transit asset and I think it could be one of the developments to watch in the city over the next decade, hopefully it spurs the city to make the Beltline an active transportation version of the Crosstown. If you have the Yards on one end and the Brickworks on the other, that's a real attraction and pull for the city.
 

Back
Top