Grange Park Community Meeting

May 21st, 2008

Meeting Room – 168 John Street, Toronto

Minutes

Introductions:

Meeting Co-chair Phyllis Platt called the meeting to order at 7:15 p.m. and introduced herself, and Co-Chair Pearl Quong.   Approximately 75 persons were in attendance.

Translation into Cantonese, and Mandarin were available at the meeting.

Phyllis thanked the sponsors who made this meeting possible.

  • 168 John Street, for providing the room
  • University Settlement Recreation Centre (USRC) – for the translation of documents
  • Toronto Community Housing Corporation  (TCHC) – for the interpreters at the meeting
  • Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) for signage and refreshments
  • Beverly Carret & Adam Vaughan

Purpose of the Meeting:

The Co-chairs reviewed the purpose of the meeting.   This meeting was called to receive feedback from the residents to a proposal for managing Grange Park that was developed by a group of residents over a series of meetings.

The Co-Chairs reviewed the manner of advertising this meeting to the larger community.

  • Email to 300 addresses
  • Signage in the Park one month in advance
  • Translated signs at 168 John Street
  • An advertisement in The Grapevine, which has a publication run of 8,000 copies
  • Posting on Councilor Vaughan’s website

History

Following the AGO expansion, and Ontario Municipal Board appeal launched by the neighbours there was an agreement that the AGO should work with the residents on matters of local concern.

In the summer of 2007 local residents organized to water the park after it was discovered that City Parks employees would not be providing this service.  The reduction of service raised concerns among the local neighbours.

Tonight’s meeting is the culmination of one year of informal meetings regarding the maintenance of Grange Park.  It is also a preparation for a meeting to be held Thursday June 5th at USRC.

Welcome from Councilor Adam Vaughan

The Councilor thanked the residents of 168 John Street for providing this meeting place, and the residents and organizations for their support of this project.

Councilor Vaughan spoke of the opportunity to re-envision, and re-create a great park, through this process.  He stated that although we know the needs of the various users of the park, children, young adults, and seniors, we do not yet have a design that satisfies the needs of all groups. Councilor Vaughan expressed the hope that through this process of imagination and vision the participants will be able to deliver a design that the neighbourhood will be able to embrace and build.

Ralph Daley

A Draft Proposal for the creation of a “Grange Community Council” was available at the meeting.

Ralph Daley spoke to the need for a formal neighbourhood association to be known as the Grange Community Council.  The work of this committee would be related to the idea of redeveloping the park, but distinct from the Park management group.

The suggested geographical boundaries take in the area from College to Queen, and University to Spadina.

He reported that although there have been various working groups for particular issues in South East Spadina over the years there has been no umbrella group to seek a broad consensus on the issues that face this neighbourhood.  He identified these issues as ones of property development, and local business development.

This Community Council would seek to establish a coherent voice to respond to these issues, to interact with other residents groups, and to represent this neighbourhood in the new planning process for Ward 20.

The proposed timeline for creating this residents association is a planning meeting in June, meetings of smaller groups during the summer to work on drafting a constitution.  A general meeting would be called in the fall to adopt the constitution, and form the first council.

Those present at the meeting were invited to attend a planning meeting to be held

Thursday June 5th, 7:00 p.m. at USRC.

Proposal for the establishment of a Grange Park Advisory Committee

Ceta Ramkhalawansingh & Debbie McGuiness

A written proposal was available at the meeting.

Ceta Ramkhalawansingh reviewed some of the actions taken by local residents to maintain the Grange Park.  In 2007 the residents watered the grass, in previous winters the ice rink was created and maintained by residents. It was noted that the timing regarding the AGO redevelopment provides a unique opportunity for Park restoration.  Informal meetings have taken place over the past year to develop this proposal.

The overall goal is to establish a structure through which the residents, local agencies and the AGO can work together to restore and plan for the Park’s future.

Debbie McGuiness reviewed the structure of the Grange Park Advisory Committee (GPAC) as outlined in the written proposal.  This group would act as an Advisory Committee with the following goals

  • restore the natural beauty of Grange Park
  • create an endowment fund to support the work in the park
  • create a mechanism to oversee the maintenance and programming in the park

The membership of the GPAC would include stake holders from the many interest groups, such as

  • AGO – co-chair
  • Ward Councilor – co-chair
  • Residents
  • USRC
  • Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD)
  • St. George the Martyr Church
  • TCHC/social housing/co-ops
  • City Park
  • Special expertise to be considered for 3 remaining positions

It is anticipated that local schools would be represented by the residents on the committee.

The AGO would administer the committee and would assist with communications such as creating a website to post minutes of meetings and updates of events and activities in the park.

Resident Feedback

The floor was opened to the meeting, and a question and answer session.

Comment: One participant observed that they were encouraged by the direction of the meeting.  They observed that development issues have been treated as individual neighbourhood problems, when they are actually larger problems.

Question: What is the time commitment for serving on the GPAC?

Answer: ongoing Monthly meetings, in the evenings – 2 hours in duration

Q: Will children be represented on the Committee?

A: Working groups would be established to consider special interests such as, horticulture, programming, and children’s use of the park.  All persons – as parents, teachers, service providers, etc., have a responsibility to represent children’s interests.

Q: What is the procedure for volunteering?

A: There are sign up sheets at the front desk.  People interesting in joining a committee should sign before leaving the meeting.

Q: Will decisions made by the GPAC be arrived at by building consensus?

A: The goal is to take decisions by building consensus.

Adam Vaughan spoke of the hope that committees will harness the ideas and concerns of the community for the redesign and ongoing maintenance of the park.  This is an opportunity to create a new parks management model.  This model should remove uncertainty about the maintenance and finance for the park.

Comment: Accessibility should be added to Diversity in the Mission Statement.

Q: Is this establishing a two tier system for what should be a responsibility of City Parks?

A: The AGO owns the park, but the City “maintains” it.  This arrangement has not provided a consistent level of service.

Q: How is it that the residents have become responsible for maintaining and watering the park?

A: Residents volunteer to assist the Parks staff. However it is expected that Parks workers and the existing budget allocation will continue to be part of the maintenance strategy.  This initiative is similar to that taking place at other parks across Ward 20 such as  the Music Garden, Wellington Square and Ecology Park.  The intention is to provide a new approach in which neighbourhoods  and residents can set priorities.  In most areas the partnership is between Parks and the neighbours.  In Grange Park the owner of the Park is the AGO.

Q: Will City finances continue to support the park?

A: In the long term the City is exploring allowing neighbourhoods to use their tax money locally.  The Committee will assign priorities for what services are to be provided and the timing.  For example the timing of grass cutting could be coordinated with programming in the park.  Tree trimming money could be allocated to trees when they are sick.  The goal is to respond to the needs of the people who use the park and rather than bureaucratic procedures.

Q: How will this Endowment fund be created, and by whom?

A: The AGO has been asked to establish an Endowment fund.  The GPAC will guide the program to be supported through this fund

Comment: A member of the audience stated that she had been living in the neighbourhood for 6 months and was impressed with the level and diversity of use of the Park.  She commented on how the park is a symbol of what the whole neighbourhood is; a safe place where neighbours can meet and talk.

Reply: Adam Vaughan replied that it is hoped the GPAC will gather momentum and create a mechanism for building community cohesion.

Q: Will the AGO make decisions about the amount of money necessary for this project?

A: The idea, the new vision, and the new governance structure should be on the table first.  Putting the money on the table first just creates conflict.  We won’t build a great park from a budget sheet.

Q: Has this been tried elsewhere?  Are we going to use the work done before to create a park revitalization plan?

A: The research and visioning already completed will be reviewed to develop the workplan of GPAC.  Other models that have been considered include parks in New York City – Central Park and Bryant park, and in Toronto – the Music Garden, the Friends of High Park, and Dufferin Grove Park.

Comment: Programming in the park should balance the park users and the residents

Reply: The proposal for  rock concert sponsored by Luminato was cited as an example of the type of activity that would damage the Park – as the proposal was for a concert targeted for between 5 and 10 thousand people.  Residents and the local councilor worked to relocate the event onto McCaul Street to reduce the negative effect on park ecology.

Programming in the park needs to consider people living around, walking through, visiting the AGO, or working on Queen Street and eating their lunch in the park as well as the various programs run by the USRC and the AGO.

Note: The interpreters were requested to see if there were any questions from the Cantonese and Mandarin speaking residents in attendance.  No additional questions were raised.

AGO Representative:

Matthew Teitelbaum Director of the AGO spoke on behalf of the Gallery.  Matthew expressed his excitement and optimism about the future of this project.  He observed that the AGO is a 100 year old institution that wants to plan the park to serve another 100 years with style.  This plan is coalescing around a great vision.  The community involvement with the AGO expansion improved the development.

The germ of this idea was emerged from informal discussions with local residents on Canada Day 2007, and a discussion about the need to make the park greener, and the trees healthier.  He expressed the opinion that we can work together to create a great park.

Concluding Remarks:

Adam Vaughan named and thanked the organizers of the meeting.

He observed that he has lived and worked on all four sides of Grange Park.  The most beautiful expression of the park is the early morning vision across the park – of the Tai Chi classes in with the mist rising, and the elders pushing clouds of mist.

He told the story of telling his 10 year old that this is where wind comes from.  Wind is a metaphor for change, and there is a change to come. Just as mist rises from the ground this change will come from the ground up.

The meeting concluded with a final thank you to the interpreters.

Adjournment 8:40 p.m.

Minute taker: Marguerite Newell

June 1, 2008