Parks and Recreation or Why We Need More Shrubberies

by Nomes

As a girl born and bred in mostly cities and… small cities, I have somehow always remained a country girl at heart. Perhaps it was the summers spent in rural Quebec or at my Nanny’s farm or at a friend of the family’s cottage or camping (the only way to travel on a budget with 4 kids!). Perhaps it’s that in a past life I was an otter, who can really know? In any case: Nature. I will always and forever love you. No matter how hard humankind tries to emulate your colours, your shapes and your sounds, your sights, your smells and your feel… nothing comes close to sitting on the edge of the highest cliff in Algonquin park and looking down on a vast expanse of deciduous and coniferous forests with their shades of green and earth tones, mingling on the shores of beautifully wild lakes as the sun and the wind dance their dance and make the air just… perfect…

But I digress.

Having almost always had a backyard of sorts and, as mentioned, access and opportunity to roam beautiful parks (Gatineau Hills in the Outaouais region is a good one, and just a short trip from my Ottawa home), I am at a loss when it comes to living in the downtown core of such a vastly concrete city as Toronto. In my previous post, I mentioned the lack of lawns around downtown homes. This results in a few negotiations such as patios (rooftop and other) as well as parks, for residents of these areas. It was a beautiful surprise to me to see wonderful parks such as Trinity-Bellwoods being well used. With facilities such as a kids park, tennis courts, baseball diamonds and a dog pit (…ravine-like portion of the park which usually holds a whole LOT of dogs), this is a buzzing place to be on weekends, day AND night. It occurred to me, rather quickly, that this popularity was due to a few factors, but mainly: the fact that no one had a back yard. When you just have to get out of the house, when you just want a breath of fresh air, what better than a beautiful park, not too far from home, if you’re lucky enough to have this.

Another option is the Harbourfront, the marina, Toronto Music Garden or any other portion of the waterfront not devoted to roads and condos. The Toronto Music Garden is one of my favourite little spots, for its diversity of flora and beautifully original landscaping work. It has several “spots” which were designed with a movement of music or type of musical piece typical of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach, in mind. Being a music nerd from a young age, this tickled me pink the first time I came upon it, and continues to do so every time I introduce this magical place to friends or family. It is just across from the National Ballet of Canada on Queen’s Quay West and up against a part of the marina which includes fantastic boats and a view of Lake Ontario and islands (namely the Billy Bishop Airport Island). It is a gem of landscape architecture with a little bit of wildlife preservation on the east side.

One of the “music spots” inspired by a musical movement often composed by Bach. This one is the “Courante”, with an upward swirling path, surrounded by wildflowers and leading up to a Maypole. Landscape architect: Julie Moir Messervy

A few weeks back, with my parents, aunt and a friend of my aunt’s, we discovered some interesting Waterfront parks, newly installed which had highly original concepts and architecture. One in particular, a water park near the south end of Sherbourne st was a lovely little discovery. This all gives me hope for the future and maybe we CAN build a beautiful city (if you can name that reference, you get a gold star). With all of this talk of Ontario Place closing, building a casino there and other silly ideas, I have been cringing at the thought of this city becoming more tacky than ever. Though I understand budget constraints and just the need to make money instead of losing it, I believe that there are FAR better ways than building a casino, which, as I have learned usually uglifies a landscape like no other: litter and such, have been known to define the area surrounding a casino, such as in Atlanta: known for its beaches and casinos killer combination. That being said, I do appreciate the efforts to create a beautiful waterfront in other areas, just as long as it is sustainable and eco-logic-al.

My next and final discovery of a natural wonder, is the Evergreen Brickworks/Ravines, just north of Bloor/Danforth, around the Sherbourne area. Not it is a well kept secret for us avid TTC-ers and if it wasn’t for PenRei being such a hiker, we probably would never have discovered its wonders. It’s a short walk north up Glen road, from Sherbourne subway station, to the ravines; a beautiful place, apparently never touched by the city as far as construction goes. The through the ravines a bit of a ways, down various paths and suddenly… there it is: Evergreen Brick Works, better accessible by car or bike but well worth the walk to get there.

Brick Works is the site of the old Don Valley Brick Works, brickyard, where they made.. you guessed it.. bricks. When it closed down, it was preserved for its historical and geographical value, with the quarry nearby creating an interesting bio-system in the area. In the 1990s money was raised to restore it and it opened in 1996 as a beautiful preservation maintained by Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation. It holds many pavilions for exhibits and visits of the old factory as well as interactive areas for children to explore nature. The Weston Family Quarry Garden is also one of the most beautiful havens, where you can forget you’re in the city and just breathe it in. PenRei, her besty Douggy Fresh and I, ventured there last Saturday where we got to enjoy a BRILLIANT Farmer’s Market, complete with organic, local and EXTRA local (tea made strictly from plants grown IN the Evergreen Brick Works!) produce as well as delicious looking meal options from all places of the globe and even our favourite local independent band: The Honeyrunners, performing throughout the morning. We then walked through the quarry garden and just took it all in.

Source : Toronto Life’s article “Wild Thing: the story behind the Brick Works”


This place hosts many activities, year round, but as one can expect, the majority of events are in the summer and fall months with such things as the Kilns where kids (of all ages) can experiment with clay and pottery, Bike-In movie nights as well as a Wild Blueberry Festival in August!

More to discover, as I didn’t even mention High Park and other such green hot spots, but those were my own personal highlights. Nothing makes me quite as at peace, as a good hike in nature, I recommend it to all of you! Get out there, get a little sun and stay hydrated!