The Parks44 Program provided Park People with the opportunity to work with Councillors, City Staff, residents, organizations and community associations to support a Park Friends group in every corner of Toronto. By facilitating neighbourhood engagement and building partnerships between communities, park groups have the ability to improve, animate and tell stories about their local park. We’re proud to say that as we enter 2015, there is a park friends group in every Toronto ward. That is definitely something to celebrate! Take a look at some of the groups that were created over the past two years >
There was a never dull moment when I worked with new park groups. One morning I’d be co-leading a school nature walk at Charles Sauriol Conservation Area and in the afternoon, I’d attend a garden meeting at Panorama Park in Rexdale. This is one of the many examples of the diverse work I was involved in to facilitate engagement in parks. Park groups took part in TIFF in Your Park pre-shows in Etobicoke and North York, hosted Harvest Festivals in the Rouge and led Pumpkin Parades. In addition, they hosted Toronto Field Naturalists walks in several Toronto watersheds, Clean Toronto Together spring clean-ups in over 150 parks in 2014, as well as flooded baseball diamonds and park spaces to build natural ice rinks.
This two-year program allowed volunteers and new park groups to get involved and envision their park spaces differently. These groups made a direct impact in their parks and wider community by taking part in Jane’s Walks, the Adopt-A-Park Tree program, movie nights, tree plantings, nature events and much more. These groups built their capacity by partnering with other organizations, but most importantly, they worked and trusted each other to achieve their park goals. Their commitment and time was instrumental despite setbacks and challenges they had potentially faced. There may have been disagreements or lack of funding and support to further their initiative, however they continued to meet and compromise to find solutions.
For me, the most unforgettable moment was hosting the first Scarborough Park Forum to facilitate park groups in Scarborough. Attendees created a park action plan, had one-on-one discussions with Park People and City Staff, spoke to local organizations and networked. It was an inspirational November afternoon where new park groups were formed and there were opportunities to learn about park event planning, fundraising, and social media strategies.
A park group in every Ward of the City is a big achievement. A success Toronto should be genuinely proud of. Park groups build better parks by highlighting the importance in regards to the social, health and economic well-being of all residents. As the park group network continues to grow and groups animate their local parks, the importance of good city parks continues to be promoted. Anyone can join and start a Park Friends group to be part of the Toronto Parks movement. A toast to all park groups and thank you for all your hard work!
by Tammy Yuen