Referred to by some as the “City of Parks,” Toronto matches its density with some pretty immaculate urban escapes. There are some 1,500 of these spaces here, we’re told, but some of those spaces hog the love. Trinity Bellwoods? Glorified pet toilet you can kind of drink beers in. High Park? Tourists with iPads. Cast in their shadows, there’s a vast network of Toronto parks that don’t get the love they deserve. These are some of them:
A 52-hectare woodland in the Don River valley, Crothers Woods boasts a 10-kilometre network of surface trails winding through its century-old woodland of predominately maple, oak, and beech trees.
The 6.8-hectare public garden space in the fore of this museum’s striking architecture was inspired by traditional Persian and Mughal gardens, designed for a mindful experience to be felt by all of the senses. Plants were selected to attract birds and butterflies, gravel to be felt and heard crunching underfoot.
A natural environment park, the Don Valley Brick Works is considered internationally significant for its historical ecological transformation from a former quarry into a thriving nature sanctuary.
A physically mapped voiceprint of late Canadian journalist, author, and social activist June Callwood saying “I believe in kindness” in reply to an interview question regarding whether she believed in a god or an afterlife, it’s also an urban playground, and a walkable artistic tribute, including features like its vibrant pink rubberized surfacing, a maze, and an interactive sound installation based on Callwood’s experience flying.
The ghostly sculptures haunting the narrow lawn in this hidden park might be the spiritual antithesis to the colourful trails and bucolic open fields Toronto accesses for exercise and escape appeal, but what they offer in exchange is an engaging, evocative document of Toronto’s international history. Dedicated to the memory of Irish émigrés fleeing their country’s famine, they display the mixed emotions of migrants that arrived in Toronto in 1847.
There’s a good reason why Riverdale Park has lasted 135 years. At 42 hectares, it boasts numerous facilities for sports and leisure, making it a yearlong hub for public recreation. A bridge in the park also serves the functional purpose of joining the east and west sides of the Don River for foot traffic travelling between Danforth Avenue and Gerrard Street East.
Designed by Yo-Yo Ma and Jule Moir Messervy, this three-acre park is a landscaping interpretation of Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for unaccompanied cello, BWV 1007. Located on the shoulder of the Queens Quay, the Harbourfront Centre also brings free live music to the space most Thursdays and Sundays July through September.
Even if it is a tiny space, the Toronto Sculpture Garden makes compelling use of its 25 by 30 metre accommodations by showcasing new artworks over short periods of time, a temporal element that contributes a magical sense of charm. The lush vines covering the adjacent building and the leafy trees surrounding the nook also make it a particularly inviting cranny of city life.
(Photo by Rina Pitucci