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Toronto: Children's Community Gardening in Larger Parks Plan

  • Subject: [cg] Toronto: Children's Community Gardening in Larger Parks Plan
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Tue, 6 Jul 2004 10:07:30 EDT

Friends, '

While this Toronto Star story is largely about their park plan, the sweet thing about it is how  children's community gardening is part of the master plan - how the constituency has been built in that city for this kind of program ( or, in Canadian English, "programme.")

Adam Honigman
Clinton Community Garden

A plan for lively, leafy future

Where there are crumpled Styrofoam cups and dirty plastic bags littering the city's parks, envision local art.
Replace the dying trees with a thick, lush canopy.
Replaster the cracks in the recreation centres and outfit them with new roofs, new windows, new programs and no user fees for youths and children.
Now, expand the number of sports fields in Toronto, and you are beginning to get a taste of the parks and recreation department's vision for the next 15 years.
The city's beleaguered department unveiled its ambitious strategic plan before councillors on the economic development and parks committee yesterday. It's called "Our Common Grounds," and it is a clarion call for respect, recognition and, most of all, money.
"We want to stand up and be counted," Brenda Librecz, the department's general manager, told reporters yesterday. "We think parks are important to the city's quality of life. We haven't been heard from."
Among the 52 recommendations presented in the 15-year plan are:
Plant another 16,000 trees every year and increase maintenance of sidewalk trees, thereby extending their average lifespan to 20 years from five.
Redesign eight parks every year over five years with multicultural themes to reflect the city's diversity, and commission local artists to make works for their neighbourhood parks. Introduce park rangers to protect green spaces and their users.
Boost the capital maintenance budget by at least $40 million a year over a decade to renew the city's community centres, pools, parks, trails and ferries.

`We think parks are important to the city's quality of life.' Brenda Librecz, general manager,
parks and recreation department

Rent extra space for youth programs, ensure every centre has at least one after-school drop-in program, and reduce the hiring age from 16 to 14 for some of the city's programs.

- Expand a certificate gardening program for disadvantaged youth and launch year-round community gardening programs for children
. -

Increase the number of sports fields by 10 per cent.
The target is to boost the city's green canopy to 30 per cent from 17, jolt Torontonians' fitness by 20 per cent, and dramatically increase the number of kids, youths, seniors and people with disabilities participating in parks and recreation programs.
"It's ambitious. That's the key to challenging council on what sort of services we want within our community ... to stop the erosion that has taken place in the past six years," said Councillor Brian Ashton (Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest), the committee's chair, who shepherded the plan through with unanimous approval. "For some reason, we lost sight of how important the parks are to the communities, how important recreation is to the community."
This fall, the department will nail down its priorities and a three-year business plan, which it will bring back to council. But the renewed vision will likely cost around $80 million annually, Librecz said. The department's 2004 net budget is $161.7 million.
The burden will not just fall on the shoulders of the city, she said. The department is also turning to the provincial and federal governments for funding, and looking to the community to get more involved.
"We're talking about building partnerships and ownership," she said. "People have to own their parks. They won't litter if they have a real connection to them."
The strategic plan resulted from 12 public and 30 staff meetings, where parks and recreation workers spoke to more than 1,200 people. What resulted were three long-term themes: environmental stewardship, children and youth, and lifelong physical activity among Torontonians.
"It appears to be all things to all people and lacks focus," said Councillor Case Ootes (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth), adding staff should "be prepared to accept the fact that the money you're getting now is all you are going to get. We know all departments are asking for more money, all departments want to do bigger and better things."
Librecz pointed out her plan falls in line with two of Mayor David Miller's pet projects: the clean and beautiful city initiative and the community safety plan, which emphasizes crime prevention with beefed-up community resources in at-risk neighbourhoods.
"It costs approximately $100,000 to keep a youth in jail for a year. With the same amount of money, we could create training and skills programs, make an active commitment to health and fill in all the gaps," said Nigel Levy, a youth outreach worker at Scarborough's Morningside Mall.
Councillor Mike Feldman (Ward 10, York Centre) said he wants to ensure more resources are spread out from downtown Toronto into suburban low-income areas.

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