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Ecology Park
Toronto, Canada

At 38 meters long by 25 meters deep, Ecology Park is described by its stewards as "relatively small." Yet, its benefits outweigh its spatial stature.

Among the park's plant communities are swales of moisture tolerant plants, important in a watershed - Taddle Creek - whose predominant land cover is impervious surfaces of asphalt and concrete. Downtown Toronto's landscape is dramatically different than that of the landscape that supported the free flowing creek. One park steward describes Ecology Park as "an oasis, one of the few pearls of green which lead down to the lakeshore through the
concrete desert of 21st Century Toronto."

Ecology Park is in The Annex reach of Taddle Creek. The Toronto Green Community Lost Rivers project website notes that "walking through The Annex today [it] is hard to see any indication that a stream ever flowed here, except for the last 200 meters and even there it is hazy." In addition to the swale plant communities, there is a meadow/savannah, a butterfly/bee/bird habitat, and a woodland.

The park is assuredly better than the staging area it replaced, twice. The first iteration of the park, designed by Pollution Probe, replaced a vacant lot which previously housed four Victorians. The houses were demolished in the 1960s for the construction of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. Between 1987 and 1993, Pollution Probe leased the land from the city and operated a garden also called Ecology Park. The Pollution Probe garden was taken in 1993 as a staging area for the Spadina LRT line. Incidentally, Jane Jacobs was involved in the effort to stop the freeway project on Spadina. Both the Bloor-Danforth (east/west) and the Spadina-University (north/south) subway lines run beneath the park.

Although the city had taken the Pollution Probe garden for streetcar construction, the parcel was designated park land. However, the parcel did not support park use for 10 years until The Annex Residents' Association (The ARA) approached the city with both "an idea and a plan." Current Ecology Park gardeners believe that "landscape should be natural, not artificial," so all the plants communities in the park feature natives, with the exception of an oakleaf hydrangea. For Paul Martel, the design of the garden was an ethical decision, extending to the canoe-shaped raised beds which he described as "an empathetic gesture" towards the Ojibwa.

The park was designed over the two years, 2001 - 2003, and the first phase of construction began in 2003. The community process has been described as intensive. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for its "thriving" plant communities and close-knit group of volunteers. The garden experienced its first incidents of vandalism this year, on June 21. I helped to stake some of the plants that had been damaged. There are over 1000 plants in the park whose presence are attributed to the commitment of the volunteers to the project and to each other. I had conversations with several of the gardeners, one of whom does not have a garden where she lives. The urge to garden drew her to the park but the socializing keeps her committed. On the day of my visit, most of the gardeners left together, wishing me well.


Photos by Georgia Silvera Seamans, all rights reserved.

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