Woodbine Park group making plans

Almost 30 residents gathered on March 22 for a second meeting about the beautification of Woodbine Park’s eastern and northern sections. Three speakers gave overviews on their area of expertise, and a general vision was discussed.

James Dann, City Waterfront Parks Manager and long-time Beach resident, clarified some of his department’s internal workings. In his animated review of the department’s history, Dann said that city parks used to consist of a baseball diamond and a smattering of horticulture.

All parks are part of the department’s overall annual capital, so to requests Dann’s initial response is “my budget is zero.”

He then prioritizes and decides whether he can re-allocate funds. He said community groups can leverage the budget by raising money themselves, which the City might then match. Greening Ward 32’s members added that numerous community grants are also available.

Dann would like to see the soccer clubs’ sheds at the north end ‘hidden’ by hedges, and sees expansion and improvement of the playground and neighbouring grassed area as ideal projects.

Co-organisers Dale Randal and Sue Sachs of the Leslieville Farmers’ Market gave a brief overview. Launched in 2011, this weekly market in Jonathan Ashbridge Park west of Coxwell provides fresh organic produce, homemade goodies and kids’ programming.

Historian Gene Domagala spoke about the former Greenwood racetrack’s history. In the 1800s, the area between Coxwell and Woodbine was swampy marshland. When James Duggan first purchased the land, it was used for markets that sold everything including fresh fish.

In 1876, Duggan and a partner built Greenwood Racetrack, which – through the Ontario Jockey Club’s involvement – quickly became “the most important social gathering place” in Toronto. It drew crowds of 20,000 to 30,000 people and in 1939 the British King and Queen even honoured it with a visit.

Suggestions at the first community meeting included honouring the racetrack’s legacy with a plaque or memorial of some kind. Domagala has been pursuing just that for many years, and he has tracked down a portion of the old paddock building. He wants to see it returned to its rightful place and hopes the Friends of Woodbine Park will bring new energy to get it done.

Group discussion aimed to draw out ideas for an overall vision and theme for park improvements. There seems to be a need for adult outdoor programming. As one resident said, there are many play structures in the Beach for kids, but “let’s have something for the adults.”

Designated areas for bocce, chess and fitness classes like tai-chi and yoga were suggested, as well as designing a beautiful area to meet and socialise.

To get involved or for more info, email greeningward32@gmail.com.

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