An important part of the livability of our city and the quality of life is being able to access parks and greenspaces in our communities. Toronto is lucky to have been blessed with an extensive natural ravine system and a series of large and small parks which many of us use regularly, whether we're playing with our children, gathering with friends for picnics, or taking some time to relax.
However, there are also parks deficient areas in our city with Ward 18 being considered one of those areas. I am conscious of this and have worked where appropriate to expand and create new parks in our community such as Lisgar Park, the future Peel Park, and have initiated improvements to many of our other Ward 18 parks since being elected.
The proposal would deck over the Union Station Rail Corridor between Blue Jays Way and Bathurst Street adding 21-acres of new park space to our rapidly growing downtown core. This park has the potential to be both a community asset and a destination park for residents and tourists and as such, it is critical that Council has all the information before making any decisions to move forward with this park.
At City Council last week, we directed City staff to start work to protect the space above the park for future parkland use but also to undertake further study of this proposal, to determine the feasibility, provide further refined cost estimates and phasing options, and funding options with an emphasis on growth-related revenue sources that minimize debt-financing for this proposed park among other items. The preliminary cost estimates from our City staff indicate that this park would cost over one billion dollars. As we assess and move forward, it is crucial that we have a better understanding of the funding requirements and sources.
In order to ensure that the proposed park is studied as an integrated space in our city and community, I successfully moved two motions when this item was at the Executive Committee:
- To ensure the Rail Deck Park Implementation Strategy is developed consistent with the principles and directions of the Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan and that this be addressed as part of the report to Council in 2017; and
- That City staff assess opportunities to create an implementation strategy to create new connections to Rail Deck Park, including the Green Line along the hydro lands and the northern and southern extensions of the West Toronto Railpath, for the purpose of creating an inter-connected network of parks.
The proposed Rail Deck Park provides an important opportunity to consider the future of the rail corridor and the ways we can connect a citywide parks network. I will continue to advocate for the interests of our community as the study moves forward and I look forward to reviewing the results when staff report back in 2017 with their findings.