Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a “Frontline Park” to promote and highlight inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country. The program also seeks to highlight examples of the challenges facing our cities’ parks as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures, and urban neighborhood decay.
R.V. Burgess Park is a small greenspace located in the middle of a dense high rise tower development called the Thorncliffe Park Community. Built in the 1970s, the community and its amenities were meant to serve a maximum population of 12,000 people. The area now has more than 30,000 people, mostly recent immigrants, and such a large number of children that the elementary school located next to the park is the largest in North America, with 900 enrolled in kindergarten alone. As the main recreation area for the community’s youth population, R.V. Burgess Park was woefully inadequate, made even more so when the only playground equipment was torn down in 2006 after being deemed unsafe.
The park’s downslide was halted when six women from the community – professionals and mothers who met in the park – formed the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee in 2008. Initially, the Committee focused on bringing playground equipment back into the park, but the organization now advocates for development and implementation of a variety of public space enhancement projects. Thanks to the work of the committee and a partnership with the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division, R.V. Burgess Park not only has a playground, it has a splash pad, a community garden, new turf and programming such as weekly bazaars and arts and cultural events. This small park has become a playground, a cultural center, an arts center, a market, and common meeting space for thousands of people.
The R.V. Burgess story is just beginning. There are plans to install a community tandoor oven in Spring 2013, and a playground with brand new equipment in 2015. The Committee hopes to establish recreation-focused programs, like walking clubs and swimming groups. And the appeal of the park is reaching beyond its neighborhood borders, bringing people from all over Toronto to its weekly bazaars and winter carnival.
For more on R.V. Burgess Park and the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee, please visit: