Roxton Road group dreams up parks plan

When dreaming of what a park can become, the Friends of Roxton Road Parks say why not dream big.

Roxton Road runs parallel to Ossington Avenue, north of Dundas Street West. On the south end of the street there are three city parks:

* Fred Hamilton Park, a fair-sized park with trees and that features benches, a splash pad and bocce ball courts;

* George Ben Park, a large sports field-type space beside St. Luke Catholic School;

* and Roxton Road Parkette, a small, largely vacant plot of land.

The Friends of Roxton Road Parks is currently working on a master plan for these three parks and according to Melana Janzen, a member of the group, people have some ambitious ideas.

Perhaps the trees in Fred Hamilton Park could be incorporated into play structures with forts, climbing apparatus or even a zipline. Maybe solar panels could be installed on existing buildings and lighting could be upgraded. The Roxton Road Parkette could become home to fruit trees and allotment gardens, Janzen said, who has lived across the street from Fred Hamilton Park with her husband and two young children for the past five years. Over in George Bell, perhaps a small-scale geothermal energy plant could be installed under the field.

“These are just seeds of ideas, but we are dreaming big,” Janzen said.

In 2011 a group of residents from Ward 19 came together at the request of Councillor Mike Layton.

Fred Hamilton Park had been earmarked by the city for maintenance and capital upgrades. Park levies from the condo development on College Street will provide additional funds for future upgrades, Janzen. With this money coming though, Layton asked residents to come together to develop a community-based vision for the revitalization.

The neighbours decided to include the Roxton Road Parkette and George Ben located adjacent to Fred Hamilton under one group and the Friends of Roxton Road Parks, made up of a steering committee and five sub-committees overseeing the revitalization, was born.

Officially formed in February, the Friends of Roxton Road Parks has spent the past few months developing guiding principals for the revitalization of the three parks. Principals include: incorporating intergenerational activities; making the park ecological/environmental sustainable; recognizing creative people and industries in the community; and celebrating the history as an immigrant community and part of Garrison Creek.

The first project the group is tackling is the installation of a ramp in place of stairs that lead into Fred Hamilton Park. Funding for this ramp is coming from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which pays for greater accessibility, and it will be completed by September.

Looking to 2013, the Roxton Road group want to see the pathways in Fred Hamilton Park paved and perhaps add a beach volley ball court for area teenagers.

They also want to upgrade the washrooms – exactly how is the subject of community consultation, which is ongoing until the end of August.

“The washrooms are (in) this huge building,” she said. “What we would like to do is divide the larger side into male and female washrooms and then turn the other side into a kitchen.”

The idea behind the kitchen is to hold community dinners or rent it out to a cafe during summers.

“Food draws people into parks,” Janzen said. “But what we are trying to determine is what people want.”

The group has launched a new website, http://roxtonroadparks.com, and on it is a survey around food in the parks.;