Council to vote on Kew Beach lease of Pantry Park

It may be smaller than Ted Reeve’s pantry, but leasing Pantry Park is a big deal for Kew Beach Junior Public School.

On May 5, Toronto city council will vote on a 999-year lease that allows Kew Beach to use the track and field at Pantry Park as part of its school yard.

In exchange, the Toronto District School Board will take on field maintenance costs of about $15,000, and give up its long-held option to build a new school on the east side of Woodbine Park.

According to city and school officials, the deal is a win-win.

“It really works,” says local school trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher.

Kew Beach is bustling with students, said Cary-Meagher, and the existing yard is too small for students to play soccer and other sports at recess.

“They need more space,” she said. “When you have energetic, happy kids running around, if they don’t have enough square footage they’re inclined to collide.”

Tucked behind the school and the backyards of homes along Kippendavie and Kenilworth Avenues, the 3.6-acre Pantry Park is a popular spot for youth soccer, and for dog walkers and joggers who live nearby.

A satellite image shows Kew Beach Public School and the portion of the adjacent Pantry Park that the Toronto District School Board would like to lease as an extra school yard. Image: City of Toronto, Google Maps
A satellite image shows Kew Beach Public School and the portion of the adjacent Pantry Park that the Toronto District School Board would like to lease as an extra school yard.
Image: City of Toronto, Google Maps

If the lease goes ahead, Pantry Park will continue to be a public park outside school hours, like the city parks beside Bowmore, George Webster and other schools.

The only difference is that any groups who want to rent the park will get their permits from the TDSB, not the city.

“If people walk through the park on a Sunday afternoon now, they should continue to do that,” said Cary-Meagher, adding that neighbouring residents who have backyard gates to the park can continue to use them.

The lease excludes the small field house and public washroom at the park’s south end, which will remain open to the public.

Since 1996, the TDSB has held an option to build a new school on a 4.3-acre parcel of land on the east side of nearby Woodbine Park, along Northern Dancer Boulevard.

But given the board’s current finances, Cary-Meagher said the chance of that going ahead is “about zero to none.”

“The province doesn’t want to give us one dime for anything,” she said.

It is more likely that an addition will be built on the existing Kew Beach property so it can add Grades 7 and 8, though Cary-Meagher said even an addition would be a challenge to fund.

“It’s a possibility,” she said. “The school very much wants to be a K to 8.”

Ryan Glenn, business services manager for Toronto’s parks department, said the lease is a good deal for the school board, the city, and for regular park users, too.

At first, Glenn said the board and the city looked at a straight land exchange – Pantry Park for the eastern portion of Woodbine Park.

“The city obviously doesn’t want to give up parkland because it’s so valuable, and so important to the overall fabric of Toronto,” he said.

By choosing a lease, Glenn said the city doesn’t give up ownership, just a use of the park during school days.

And should the school board decide to sell Kew Beach school in the next 999 years, Pantry Park will remain city property.

Over 90 per cent of the groups who already rent the park’s track and field do so outside school hours, Glenn added, so the lease should have little impact on community groups.

In fact, the city gets more permit requests for the property at Woodbine Park, and Glenn said that securing that land means the city can make longer-term plans for events like the Beaches Jazz Festival, or future park upgrades.

“It allows us to do all the things we’re doing now, and even more in future,” he said.

Questions about how Pantry Park got its unusual name led to local historian Gene Domagala.

Pantry Park started out with a straightforward name – Beaches Athletic Field – that was exciting enough for people like Ted Reeve, who grew up playing there in the years before the First World War, said Domagala.

An archival photo shows people playing on the Beaches Athletic Field, now Pantry Park, in the spring of 1932. Kew Beach Public School stands at the north end of the field. PHOTO: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 52, Item 1520
An archival photo shows people playing on the Beaches Athletic Field, now Pantry Park, in the spring of 1932. Kew Beach Public School stands at the north end of the field.
PHOTO: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 52, Item 1520

The park was smaller at the time, but as the Beach was still transitioning from a cottage hotspot to a year-round neighbourhood, it was really the only local park with a good field for sports like rugby and football – a perfect training ground for Reeve.

“Ted Reeve was the sports guy – he played everything,” said Domagala.

Reeve won a Mann Cup in lacrosse, played on two of the Beach’s own Grey Cup football teams, and stuck out some tough injuries to play wing for the Balmy Beach rugby squad.

And Reeve wasn’t the only big-name athlete who trained on Beaches Athletic Field.

So did Myrtle Cook, who was born the same year, 1902. Cook would go on to set a world record for the 100-metres and win Olympic gold with Canada’s 100-metre relay team in the 1928 Olympics before she, like Reeve, became a popular sports writer.

But it was a quote from Reeve that gave the park its lasting name.

A big guy playing on what was then a small field, Reeve made a complaint worthy of his ‘Moaner’ nickname.

“He said, ‘This place is so small – it’s the size of my mother’s pantry,’” said Domagala, smiling. “The name stuck forever.”

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This would be a great idea for KEW. How many who went to KEW remember the park gate at the bottom of the lower yard. I guess that will date me. I visited my old school last year and remember back in the day the upper and lower field. If the board will maintain it I am sure it will give some well deserved green space to a crowded school. I hope they get.

I remember Pantry Park as a student at the original Kew Beach P.S. in the 1950s. Yes, there was a gate and fence. We were not allowed to go into the park during recess, etc. We held our annual Track and Field Day in Pantry Park and the whole school participated. It was a highlight of the year.

I remember seeing Olympic runner (later) Bruce Kidd training on the track at Panty Park. He was a student at Malvern C.I. at the time I think but already people knew who he was.

I have visited the new Kew Beach school and the backyard playing area seems a lot smaller than before. I think the new school was set back further south compared to the old school. The old school yard seemed to be quite large with several baseball diamonds and pavement areas. At one point I think the boys and girls had separate playing areas and entrances. Ah, the great memories of the old Kew Beach school…

Why does this article only include the viewpoints of the School Board and the City, and not anyone who might have concerns or oppose this?

Why is it one sided?

I wrote about this in an email I sent out to the community expressing concerns, and I heard from someone who has a property backing on to the park who was concerned about the impact of this (and they have a child in the school) and in particular there are concerns that this deal was done without any public consultation or meetings or notification on the part of the City.

Andrew Hudson has my email etc. yet did not contact me about this story – but then, he has never contacted me or interviewed me regarding any story.

A key point that I had made was that this is the ONLY park south of Queen in this area that was not covered by the lease that gave Foulidis (Tuggs) rights over sales. If the city wanted to have a Farmer’s Market,this is the only park that would not require his permission – but now the School Board has a veto and will put their interests first.

Frankly, when I read the Metro I do not feel that it is speaking for the residents as much as it speaks for the those in power, particularly incumbent politicians.

I’m a resident and agree 100% with you Brian Graff. If this is how the City plans to conduct business everyone is in trouble somewhere down the road. Some of us around Pantry Park are trying simply to slow this down as there is no rush. Taking a month or two to let residents and a wider community of park users know about the change in a way that is transparent and democratic should be the norm. The way it’s been done so far is behind closed doors. How this deal is being handled should be of concern to anyone who cares about how any City business is conducted. It could be another park next. This is the transfer of daytime use of a public park to one school. It really makes no sense as the school already uses the park freely and hasn’t applied to expand yet. I have sent questions to the City and TDSB and await their answers. Will share when they come.

As a resident if the Beach I think this sounds like a very reasonable solution that works well for everyone. The City will get to maintain the its ownership Woodbine Park and it gets to ensure public access to Pantry Park.

The pervious post made a good point, that the school already uses Pantry Park during the day….so what’s the issue?

To Mr. Graff’s comment on the fact that this park could be used for “farmer’s markets”; it has never been used for that in the past. If there was some pressing desire for a market I wonder why there has never been (to my knowledge) one in the park previously? Considering it would be available for permitting, what would prevent a market from simply getting a permit from the school?

I had no idea the school could take a huge portion of Woodbine Park, I go there with my kids all the time and went to the Jazz Fest there last year. Losing that park (or a portion thereof) would be a huge loss, and I think the City and the School came up with a very reasonable compromise.

Having farmer’s markets in parks is fairly recent. I fact, one of Councillor McMahon’s main accomplishments has been seeing some set up in other parts of the Ward.

Som epeople were hoping to organise a farmer’s market in Kew Gardens but Foulidis controls the rights to Kew Gardens and his terms have prevented it from going ahead – though he was offering a location closer to his restaurant that the people organising the park found unacceptable.

But is is not just a farmers market, as long as Foulidis controls the park through his lease (to 2028 if I remember) he can turn down anything involving the sale of food or drink or certain goods…

At least if the City controls Pantry Park it has an alternative and some ability to use that as leverage… if it hands th epark over to TDSB it loses it.

McMahon has done nothing to terminate or buy out any part of the Foulidis/Tuggs lease… other than the idea of a few community bake ovens!

And McMahon’s mind seems made up.

She complained about how bad the Tuggs/Foulidis deal was and yet she doesn’t seem to be at all cautious about what this deal would mean.

And then the City-TV reporter says how McMahon points to the parks controlled by Foulidis saying that they can be used for some things without his permission due to that lease!

Councillor McMahon is not responding to reasonable questions from myself and several other constituents I’ve talked to. It redefines the meaning of public official in my mind. I want very much to believe in the system. But I can’t even get a reply from my Councillor. There is a public meeting at Kew Beach school gym at 7:00 p.m. April 28th. It’s open to the public. The notice came out just a few days ago and states a representative from Ms. McMahon’s office will be there. Her Executive Assistant Edward said he would see me there. But yesterday he changed that to it’s the TDSB’s meeting. Even though the vote is going to City Council? I don’t understand. I can’t even verify if he means that Ms. McMahon will or won’t be there. Nothing is being answered. This does not reflect well on the City being “open for business”. It is entirely disappointing to have my questions go 100% unanswered. If there are good answers to share hen please Ms. McMahon share them. If there are not good answers to share then please be open about that and move the item fron the May 5th date to a date in June. Whichever way, please don’t ignore me. I’m a constituent. Thank you.

I am a former Beach resident who lived there for many years. Though I no longer reside in that ward I still keep in touch with the local news.

Most of my closest friends still live in the Beach, some of them on Kippendavie and Kenilworth. So, I certainly understand why they would be upset about how this has been handled behind closed doors. I would personally be concerned if I still lived there and was told that my property would soon be backing onto school property instead of a charming public park. No better way to see you property values drop!

I hope everyone who still resides on those streets and surrounding area sits up and takes notice before it’s too late.

Good Luck!

This is typical McMahon strategy ie. avoid hard questions, ignore residents, quote misleading information and avoid face to face contact with residents.
If you aren’t aware of her office’s history and the full implications of this deal, on the surface it could look reasonable, however it is from it in many ways.
Why does the lease need to be so long?
Why won’t they let residents see the details, given the volume of people who have requested ?
What controls are there so that TDSB can’t lease out the park again to private interest ?
What about the other local schools who use the park during the hours that TDSB wants ie. St. Denis ?
Why didn’t the councilor establish a meeting with LOTS of lead time and a full disclosure of the agreement for residents to view, given she keeps saying she’s there to fight for the people ?
This is yet another disgusting example of lack of leadership and closed door discussions by our councilor. Let’s hope her repeated promises to only keep office for two terms is something she can actually keep ! We need leadership that cares about residents, doesn’t just manage them and is willing to show their face, be accountable and work with residents !

A few points need to be clarified here.
1. TDSB does not “own” the property at Queen St E and Eastern Ave.-it was always to be a park unless the TDSB could come up with the money to build a school.
2. No one disputes that because of the new development and subsequent condos and townhouses the enrollment at Kew Beach School has grown and they need more play space. They already use Pantry Park for gym and track programmes so why shouldn’t they use it for recess and lunch hour with the proper supervision? If Kew Beach School needs to have something concrete I am sure some arrangement can be worked out to allow them access during recess and lunch.
3. Why the urgency to rush this through council with no public consultation or vote?
On such an important matter our councillor Mary Margaret Mahon should have thought this through as she is supposed to be such a champion of our parks.
4. Why a 999 year lease? Is the $15000 quoted what it cost the city last year when they were revitalizing Pantry Park or is that how much it costs on a normal year?
This matter should not be voted on at council until these and other questions have been answered.

The Councillor leaves my questions answered. She didn’t appear at a TDSB hosted meeting. She refuses to defer this non urgent motion from May to June to hold a public meeting. She came to the door yesterday only to push her agenda and continue to not answer questions. There are so many questions left unanswered. Why is a lease between the City and TDSB done in secret when they are two public bodies? What will happen if the TDSB needs land to build a school in the area in the next 999 years after they release their option in Woodbine Park? How will exclusive use for school and shared public access in Pantry Park be managed by TDSB without fences, as fence free has been promised? If the school needs the park for recess and lunch, which they say in literature, why does that require a lease? They use the park freely now anyway. Forming a lease starts to exclude public access from this public park. Does the TDSB even have the right to trade off their option in Woodbine park?

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