Finding new park space cheaply

Some older city neighbourhoods like the west side of Ottawa have fairly scarce park space. The complaint is somewhat tainted by selective counting, since activists often mean City park space, and exclude NCC or other Federal space owned by PWGSC or AgriCan. Or they mean park space for organized games playing, like soccer fields, and don’t count passive park space.

And the City compounds the grief by restricting park space designation only to parcels of land owned by the city and designated for that use. They haven’t shown much interest to date in found space, which requires some creative opportunity seizing that doesn’t fit the rule book.

For example, there is a small infill park on Elm that the city was content to rebuild as is. It took a ton of pressure from the community association and persistence on the part of Councillor Holmes to expand the park into the space currently used by cars parking on the street (we wanted to go right to the centre line of the street, forcing carts to share the remaining lane, but that was a step too far). . I hear thru the grape vine that the traffic folks went ballistic at the thought of losing four or five on-street parking spaces. But the plan got approved, and now we wait to see how the additional park space will appear.

The first draft site plan from the city treated the extra space as just a boulevard, grassed, maybe treed, with benches aligned with the sidewalk. We sent back comments asking for a more imaginative use of the found space, that tied it in better to the rest of the park, so it looks as if the city walkway is cutting through a larger park. We shall see what appears…

When Preston was intensively landscaped a few years ago, the inner and outer boulevards were stuffed full of trees, benches, ped lights, and people space. In essence, some blocks of the sidewalk became long linear parks.

When we have . neighbourhoods without much parkspace, it surely makes sense to repurpose some of the existing public space (the over-supplied roads in particular) into parks. Why can’t more and more streets actually look and feel to residents like pleasant places to linger rather than utilitarian surfaces for the movement and storage of vehicles?

And this could be much cheaper than buying lots already purchased by developers for $5million, as is the hue and cry every time a new condo is proposed and neighbours suddenly discover a new-found need for lawns.

Two more innovative bits of opportunistic park planning are underway on the west side. In the new |Bayview CDP, another section of Elm, immediately west of the traffic barricade, is identified as potential conversion of road space to park space when the elderly industrial buildings are redeveloped. By keeping driveways onto the redevelopments a hundred feet or so from the barricade, the street plus the generous side boulevards can all be greened. An almost free park.

The new planters going on Somerset near the OTrain are a step in greening our streets so that everyday walking and cycling becomes a park-like experience. But getting the city to agree was tough. The parks people wouldn’t pay for it or maintain it, because its not a formal park, its a road allowance. The roads people don’t (normally) maintain park space. But a solution was found.

Tomorrow, a nice “found park” example from Toronto.


2 thoughts on “Finding new park space cheaply

  1. Which brings to mind, when the heck will the re-build of the Primrose Ave. park be done. It looks like nothing is being done at all. Nada. Any ideas?

  2. Why do neighbourhoods need so much park space? I do not take it as self-evident (a) that they do, or (b) that Centretown is lacking in park space.

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