Friday, April 09, 2010

...we have to think about this?

When the major users of parks in Toronto, the local communities, organize and put sweat equity into building innovative programs suited to their own needs, how long should we think before giving the process our enthusiastic support? A computer would take about a nanosecond to make a choice this obvious. The City of Toronto seems to need considerably more time than that.

I think the city should allow any neighbourhoods willing to manage their own parks to do so. To make this work, I propose the following principles:
  1. Inclusion: any community event or activity in a park must welcome anyone from anywhere in the city.
  2. Accountability: money raised at any activity must return to community activities. The central parks and rec authorities can help here by exercising some basic financial oversight.
  3. Environment: the Department of Parks and Recreation has the right and the responsibility to prevent any harm to the park environment. This applies in particular to the building of permanent facilities. The department should also oversee planting, to prevent the introduction of inappropriate non-native species.
  4. Governance: every local resident and group should have access to their local parks, and the opportunity to have an equal voice in facilities provided. The exact mechanism for this may vary; in some situations, it may suffice to allow different community groups to reserve time in a park for their own activities. In others, a formal governance structure in which every resident of the area served by the park has a right to attend meetings and vote, may prove appropriate.
However we accomplish it, the local management of parks in any city makes sense. It makes particular sense in Toronto, the world in one city. Trying to manage parks from Thorncliffe to Bloor West, from New Toronto to Malvern, from Kensington Market to Rosedale, using just one set of rules chosen at 100 Queen Street will produce nothing better than a bland parks system and an uninvolved public.

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