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Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan

HOME FORUM RIDING FEELS GOOD FORUM TALKING ABOUT BIKES Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan

This topic contains 16 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  fietser 3 years, 3 months ago.

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  • #808398

    fietser
    Participant

    I had heard rumour that this survey was coming down the pipe and was encouraged by several people (City staff included) to ensure that it was completed.

    Now, before we all get our knickers in a bunch about the format, font, number of clicks required to complete, lets focus on the objective – getting wicked trails built and maintaining the already awesome trails we have here in Toronto (thanks to many on this very site). With that said I was disappointed, to say the least, with the general lack of acknowledgement of riding as a form of recreation in our Parks etc. While the City included ‘Bike Parks’ as a recreation facility, rightly so, there is no mention of trails – despite including a whole section on ‘outdoor facilities and recreation’.

    Now, we can argue about what a facility implies but here is what I wrote in the last comment box:

    There is a definite lack of mention where trails where are concerned in this survey. The City is not doing an adequate job at providing formalized off-road cycling opportunities for mountain bikers in the City despite what has been laid out in the NETS document. While the addition of Bike Parks in the survey is great to see the MTB community is not looking for bigger and better bike parks, it would rather see time and energy spent on more/ better trail riding opportunities within the City limits. Seeing natural surface trails as part of the recreation infrastructure is long over due. Our natural surface trails are an invaluable resource that are currently suffering due to a lack of management. Study after study shows the heightened benefit of recreation in natural environments yet your survey shuns these ‘facilities’ since they don’t fit neatly into the traditional parameters of a recreational facilities. I challenge the City of Toronto to break the mold and start to view our extensive trail systems for what they are – 4 season recreation facilities in the purest form. The City has the outline to do this with the many recommendations put forth in NETS please start putting them into practice.

    Obviously, feel free to agree or disagree with me where the above is concerned but please, make your voice heard. We have an opportunity to shape the future here so lets make use of it.

    Survey can be found here:
    http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=76ad94c9edf31510VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD

    Santa Cruz

    #808399

    aragon
    Participant

    Filled out, thanks for the link.

    #808425

    mcbain
    Participant

    Completed, also with a long blurb in the comments section. That survey would have been way better in Comic Sans 😉

    As noted above, natural surface trails are noticeably absent from the PFR 20 year plan. Also not mentioned are the City of Toronto (& TRCA) golf courses that stand in the way of connecting trails through and between watersheds.

    #808458

    wyrmblight
    Participant

    Survey completed.

    It appears that they have received your comments already, @fietser. The first page (overview) of the survey now reads

    Some facilities, for example trails and park playgrounds, are not included because they are addressed through other planning initiatives.

    I agree with @fietser, though, that the City should consider the trails networks to be of at least equal importance to their brick and mortar facilities. I left the following comments.

    While the overview for this survey indicates that “Trails” are not being considered in this plan, I feel that this is a mistake. The City should consider the trails networks (both paved and NETS) to meet the definition of “facilities”. Our trails should be considered to be of equal importance to our community centres, and I know that many user groups (roller bladers, skate boarders, road cyclists, hikers, nature seekers, mountain bikers, dog walkers) would hate to see our year round multi-use trails further neglected in favour of single use, often seasonal “facilities”, which have a history of extremely limited operating hours.

    Example, the city currently operates 50 outdoor skating rinks for 30% of the year. There are 4 additional rinks operated by private interests. We love our skating rinks, but do we really need to spend more money on 1 user group?

    The City operates over 300 pools/splash pads. More than half of these are only open in summer, for approximately 10 weeks (20% of the year). The others are available to general users for extremely limited and inconvenient hours during the day. Most of the time, there is specific programming in place which excludes general users. ie. lane swimming is available at my local Community Centre pool for 2 hours per day (1 hour at lunch, and 1 hour in the late evening). There are a total of 3 more hours per day which are confined to aqua-fit, seniors swimming, or “leisure swim”. People with a day job are restricted to 1 hour of use at 9pm. This makes the facility so crowded that it is unusable. I happily spend some of my limited disposable income for a membership at the YMCA, where I can swim whenever I like.

    In contrast, the city operates exactly 1 natural environment trail, and is only now looking at spending money on another at some point in the next 2 to 3 years. Some of our paved trails are in such poor state of repair, that people are more likely to be found on the grassy shoulder instead of the trail surface. A few sections last year literally fell into the Don River. These trails are used by a diverse cross-section of users. They operate for 100% of the year, and at a fraction of the cost of any other “facilities” being considered in this plan.

    #808462

    fietser
    Participant

    As always great point @mcbain – golf courses, yes golf courses – enough said. We have one that chops off the trail here along the Etobicoke Creek. Privately owned mind you, prevents any connectivity trails wise since they obviously aren’t keen on people hiking, walking or riding through the course. Shame as it forces people on to roads or paved MUPs.

    @wyrmblight some excellent points as well! I have actually had brought several of those same points up to CoT staff in the past, specifically the outdoor skating rinks which we (Torontonians) spend a significant amount of money to operate. Unfortunately, we are fighting an uphill battle with hockey/ skating being somewhat of a national pastime. Don’t mess with people’s ice time! Your analytical approach with percentages is the kind of information that goes a long way to showing the reality of the situation – especially to highlight the lack of funding and care that trails receive compared to other ‘facilities’.

    Great conversation here. Thanks!

    #809032

    fietser
    Participant

    The next stage of the Public Consultation process for PFR 20 has been posted. There will be a series of Town Hall meetings. Please see the link below for times, dates and more details.

    http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=f6d3f8033bf52510VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD&vgnextchannel=76ad94c9edf31510VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD

    I plan on attending the one that is near me and would be happy to hear of more people who plan on attending in their local ‘hoods. I think it is important to represent our user group who, as mentioned earlier, is noticeably absent from the discussion.

    Despite what seem to be pre listed Focus Questions:

    Focus Questions
    1. How do the City of Toronto’s parks and recreation facilities make a difference in your life?
    2. Thinking back over the past few years, has your participation in parks and recreation activities changed? What has contributed to these changes? What would increase your participation?
    3. What can be done to improve City of Toronto parks and recreation facilities? Feel free to identify improvements to specific facilities or areas of the City.
    4. In order to provide the right facilities in the right places in an affordable manner, what other opportunities or strategies should the City consider?

    I still want to ask/ point out that trails need to be seen as valuable recreational facilities/ infrastructure and treated with the same level of respect and consequently funded as such. Every single MLS listing in my neighbourhood makes mention of the trails and ravine, often even before the community center – yet this infrastructure goes well used and unfunded. As others have pointed out these ‘facilities’ can be used 24/7/365 by a huge variety of users often with little or no cost to enjoy.

    According to the CoT website these are the facilities NOT included:

    Most types of parks and recreation facilities will be addressed in this plan. Some facilities, for example golf courses and playgrounds, were not included because they have been addressed through other planning initiatives. Smaller park amenities such as ping pong tables and outdoor fitness stations are also not included.

    No mention of trails here either. IF, according to the city trails are being addressed elsewhere then I would like to know:
    a) Where? NETS? I think we all know how well that is playing out
    b) If this is the plan for the next 20 years and it is supposed to address this:
    Reshaping Facilities to Fit Evolving Needs
    Interest in parks and recreation activities changes with time. Some activities – like swimming and skating – have been and continue to be popular over time. Other activities like soccer, cricket, skateboarding and off-leash dog walking have been growing in popularity.

    Can’t the CoT use its own data and realize how popular and well used the natural trails in the City are and will continue to be? I for one have noticed an increase in traffic on my local trails. Increased traffic increases the need for maintenance, this is not rocket science.
    c)It isn’t like trails are a ‘smaller amenity’ there are over 200km of trail out there!

    Give it a read. Hope to see some of you out at the meetings – be great if we could represent the community at each of the locations.

    #809298

    BlurredLines
    Participant

    First meeting was last night, anyone happen to attend? The town hall in my area isn’t for another couple weeks and I’d love a run down of what to expect or how the evening went from anyone in our communities perspective.

    #809299

    fietser
    Participant

    Great question @blurredlines I was thinking the same thing just recently. Wonder how close they are staying to the script?

    I will be in attendance at the March 2nd meeting. Which are you planning on attending?

    #809300

    BlurredLines
    Participant

    My NETS doc, discussion guide and I will be heading up for the March 3rd meeting to stand up and be counted.

    #809549

    fietser
    Participant

    Reminder of the meeting tonight:

    March 2, 7–9 p.m.
    Etobicoke Olympium (Olympic Lounge) – 590 Rathburn Rd

    I have made a list of the questions and points above and will do my best to get some answers and insight which I will post back here.

    Hope to see some familiar or even better, new faces, tonight.

    #809550

    fietser
    Participant

    Just returning home from the meeting. It was the largest turn out so far according to City staff. One large group of young people from the Dixon Rd. area looking for a community centre and more employment opportunities through Park and Rec even had a school bus that brought them – that is how you advocate! Hats off to them, their voices were certainly heard.

    Here are the basics as they pertain to trails – no mention…

    So, I made sure to mention them.

    The town hall ran based on an agenda and was facilitated by Swerhun (they have done a few of these I have attended)

    Mark Bentley, Project Manager CoT PFR, gave an overview of the presentation that essentially talked about the current state of affairs and the background to the project. Last plan of this type was done in 2004 (using 2001 census data) and we are still seeing the results of that being built today. Toronto has changed significantly since then and will continue to change in the next 20 years – obviously. Key element that kept coming up was the challenge of funding, it was mentioned several times.
    Long term the plan will go to council in March 2017. There will be an update/ report to council in May of this year to share the findings to date, mostly from the survey, focus groups and the town halls.

    We then broke up into our table groups to discuss the focus questions, I had Yvan Baker MPP for Etobicoke Centre at my table, Councillor Stephen Holiday was also present at another table – these are the people you really need to talk to;) To be honest most of the discussion at our table focused on the more ‘traditional’ Parks and Rec stuff like centres, access for all ages and demographics etc. Great conversation and I made my pitch about trails to our small group who was receptive.

    After the small groups there was a share out which is where I took the opportunity to share our concerns for trails. As many had done previously on the thread here, I suggested that trails being left out of the plan, despite NETS, was a huge oversight. Trails are an integral part of our parkland and accessible across age and demographic. Ravines constitute 20% of our land mass here in Toronto and are part of our identity. Trails, as far are facilities or infrastructure go, are all but built thanks to many dedicated volunteers so require little capital investment (funding) to get them up and running. Going forward, their maintenance could be provided by Stewardship groups, volunteers, further addressing the funding challenge. They are great value in that as @wyrmblight pointed out they are open 24/7/365 (even and extra day this year – what a deal!).

    The comment was well received and addressed directly by Matt Bentley who acknowledged that trails had come up in the other two town halls as well. He stated that it will be important to talk about the relationship between parks and trails since they are so closely related in many cases. As such, he suggested that the plan will acknowledge trails as a way to seek funding from council to augment them.

    So this is good, right? At the very least the point I made is on the record. Which is why it is important that we attend these events. If it is on the record we have a leg to stand on when we go back and say ‘Hey remember when we discussed this? What gives?’.

    To that end, a summary of all the points, discussions, responses will be eventually posted on the toronto.ca/parks/facilitiesplan site which is great as the City is obviously trying to be transparent about the process.

    One more point, I know people are busy and can’t always attend meetings but you can still have your say here:
    https://cityoftoronto.fluidsurveys.com/s/FacilitiesPlanDiscussion/
    Staff offered that they would love us to be specific, like really specific. Want a Bike Park in your backyard, tell them. Don’t want Bike Parks at all, tell them. Want them to scale back the Bike Parks so they can build more, but smaller Parks, tell them. What do you like about them – what don’t you like, tell them. Rather see money spent on trails than more Bike Parks, tell them. Want them to pave all the trails in the Don… okay, maybe don’t tell them that – just checking to see if you were still paying attention.

    Looking forward to your experience @blurredlines and anyone else that has/ is planning on attending.

    1 user thanked author for this post.
    #809578

    BlurredLines
    Participant

    Sadly got held behind I’m my plans to attend and couldn’t be there in time, so opted for the webinar since missing the presentation seemed like it would be a big loss in the conversation, since that’s what the representatives were making as clear as possible it seemed.

    As far as the presentation content went there was a distinct nod to our trail systems as a facility and one that was certainly addressed elsewhere, but needed to be considered with the facility master plan going forward. Apparently they’ve heard us (and others) who have questioned the seeming lack of investment there.

    The big take away from the entire experience is that they’re interested in what people would like and how they’d like to see it.

    Unfortunately my “webcast question” was suffering from technical difficulties and didn’t seem to be posting to the text feed for input from the online participants.

    That said, if you have any ideas, suggestions, if you’re mad about something, the city has https://cityoftoronto.fluidsurveys.com/s/FacilitiesPlanDiscussion/ for any additional input you feel like providing regarding the Facilities Master Plan

    #809651

    fietser
    Participant

    As part of the continuing consultation process for the Parks, Forestry and Recreation Facilities Master Plan RFG has been invited to attend a user group focus session to represent off-road cyclists in Toronto. This will be a great opportunity to offer specific input in a smaller setting. Below please find a brief description of the meeting as provided by the City:

    As Toronto grows and changes the recreation needs of residents also change. Parks, Forestry and Recreation is developing a 20-year Facilities Master Plan to guide investment in parks and recreation facilities such as community centres, pools, ice rinks and sports fields. Developing a long-term plan to build and renew facilities will help us to be prepared to meet recreation needs into the future.

    As a facility user/permit holder at our Parks and Recreation facilities we would like to invite your organization to attend a consultation session to get your feedback on the current provision of facilities, principles for investment, and facility gaps/needs.

    Further, to this I asked if there was anything that we could bring to the meeting and received this reply:

    Bring along what your user group envisions in terms of investment in parks and recreation facilities over the next 20 years.

    With this in mind I am asking for the communities input so I can bring it to the table. I have offered a few prompts below to get us thinking. Obviously these are only meant as a guide. Feel free to add as you see fit.

    1. What would you like to see in terms of investments?
    2. What gaps or needs do you see that are specific to facilities/ infrastructure specific to our user group?
    3. How might these needs/ gaps be addressed?

    When offering suggestions please be as specific as possible. At the town hall meeting the facilitator was keen on getting the most specific examples possible as that helps with more specific recommendations. Potential solutions to challenges are also greatly appreciated and noted by the facilitators – so if you have any, they are all ears. Our plan is to collate the questions/suggestions/concerns provided here and bring them forth at the meeting later this month.

    1 user thanked author for this post.
    #809729

    repack
    Participant

    When I filled out that survey, I had noted the disclaimer that natural surface trails were not considered part of the scope, so it’s great to see that you have gotten them onto this agenda. But now I guess I don’t see the relationship between this Parks and Rec initiative and the NETS. Are we trying to elucidate ideas here which are not already contained in the NETS document? From your previous post I gather that the NETS process may not have much in the way of specifics on getting trails built, in which case getting that discussion into the facilities master plan is perhaps a way to move things forward more readily. Do you see the ideas contained in the NETS as being mostly correct, even if they don’t have details for implementation? Or are we looking for some new ideas as well?

    #809768

    fietser
    Participant

    Hey @repack – sorry for the delay I was out of town for the week.

    Thanks for the great questions it is awesome to see people wanting to engage in the process.

    Firstly, I’ll be honest I think NETS is a very good document for us to work with. It is very comprehensive and encompasses the entire City being broken down into watersheds and further broken down in to various zones. So, from that point of view it gives a great snapshot of what we already have here in the City which is an amazing network of trails.

    But now I guess I don’t see the relationship between this Parks and Rec initiative and the NETS. Are we trying to elucidate ideas here which are not already contained in the NETS document?

    Short answer, kind of. The idea behind our pushing trails at these meetings is to have them recognized as infrastructure in the same way that a baseball diamond or other ‘traditional’ sports facility is seen as infrastructure. The trails we ride, for the sake of argument, are all informal and non-legitimized meaning they do not receive the attention they need (legal maintenance etc.) that these other facilities do despite being used by a substantial number of users, from various user groups, on a regular basis.

    NETS has a detailed solution to this management issue in that Stewardship groups would be (could be) tasked with taking care of sections of trail(s) at minimal cost, since they would be volunteers. One of the main challenges that has been raised time and time again where this PFR 20 Masterplan is concerned is the issue of funding – trails, a huge piece of infrastructure, which are open 24/7/365 and service a wide variety of user groups could be stewarded by volunteers seem like pretty good bang for your recreational buck. The CoT needs to shift its mentality away from traditional ‘stick and ball’ facilities when it is looking at recreational infrastructure.

    From your previous post I gather that the NETS process may not have much in the way of specifics on getting trails built, in which case getting that discussion into the facilities master plan is perhaps a way to move things forward more readily. Do you see the ideas contained in the NETS as being mostly correct, even if they don’t have details for implementation? Or are we looking for some new ideas as well?

    Your are correct. NETS is more a management strategy. Essentially the trails are already there and built (thank you builders!) this is something that while the City knows they need to realize – there is little for them to actually do since it has been done for them. The main goal of NETS is to ensure that the trails are maintained and built in a sustainable manner. It speaks about priority areas, which are usually areas that are seeing high amounts of use and are either a) not sustainable or b) built in environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs). NETS has some solid, proven ideas behind it, Stewardship Groups and an Adopt a Trail model for example, as well as a dedicated trail crews – but as has been stated before lacks funding which requires council approval. By getting trails seen as the important infrastructure they are the idea is to move the recommendations in NETS one step closer to becoming a reality. In a nutshell, I think it is fair to say we aren’t looking for more trail, we are looking to better that which we already have by being able to legally work on what already exist thanks to the hard work of a few dedicated builders in the various Ravines.

    I hope that helps answer some of your questions – thanks for being part of the conversation.

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