Future of Church-Wellesley's 'orphan' parkette up in the air

Connie Langille, of the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, says she'd like to see a few modest improvements to the park, to reverse its 'eyesore' condition. (Mike Smee/CBC - image credit)
Connie Langille, of the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, says she'd like to see a few modest improvements to the park, to reverse its 'eyesore' condition. (Mike Smee/CBC - image credit)

Residents in a busy downtown neighbourhood say they've been struggling to have a popular parkette cleaned up — but no one seems to be taking responsibility for its upkeep.

The tiny parkette on Charles Street E. near Jarvis Street has been a popular rest spot, residents say, a lush, green oasis in an otherwise busy neighbourhood.

It's had benches, a trash container on a concrete pad and even a bike share station added.

But in the past few years it has deteriorated into a litter-filled dust-bowl with patchy, weedy grass that becomes a quagmire whenever it rains, says Adam Wynne, director of the Church-Wellesley BIA.

"This small parkette has great potential — there is a great opportunity to unlock this space," he said. "Unfortunately the ground is so poorly maintained that people sink up to their ankles when it rains."

Adam Wynne, of the Church-Wellesley BIA, says the small parkette has lots of potential, provided it's properly maintained.
Adam Wynne, of the Church-Wellesley BIA, says the small parkette has lots of potential, provided it's properly maintained.

Adam Wynne, of the Church-Wellesley BIA, says the small parkette has lots of potential, provided it's properly maintained. (Mike Smee/CBC)

The problem seems to be that no one's taking responsibility for the maintenance of the property, says Connie Langille, of the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association.

She says there's a dearth of green space downtown, and city statistics bear her out. At just 21.4 square metres per person, Old Toronto and East York offer the least amount of green space in the city. By comparison, Scarborough provides the most, at 44.6 square metres per person.

The parkette has deteriorated from a lush, well maintained greenspace in 2016 (top) to the worn-out dustbowl it's become lately. The bottom picture was taken in 2021.
The parkette has deteriorated from a lush, well maintained greenspace in 2016 (top) to the worn-out dustbowl it's become lately. The bottom picture was taken in 2021.

The parkette has deteriorated from a lush, well maintained greenspace in 2016 (top) to the dust-bowl it's become lately. The bottom picture was taken in 2021. (Church Wellesley Neighborhood Association/Google)

Even by downtown standards, the Church Wellesley neighbourhood is starved for park space. From a total of about 100 hectares in all of Toronto and East York, only 2.97 hectares are in the Church-Wellesley neighbourhood, according to the city's website..

One thing that everyone can agree on is that the patch of land itself is owned by Hydro One — it sits in front of a Hydro One sub-station — and leased by the city. But Langille says that no matter who she approaches to have the parkette rehabilitated, her requests have fallen on deaf ears.

"Hydro, the city, city councillors, it's just really difficult (to get someone to clean up the site)," she said. "It looks like it really needs to be cared for, like it's not an orphan."

In statements to CBC Toronto, the city and Hydro One appear to have different ideas about what lies ahead for the parkette.

Under lease to the city since 2014, the city has deteriorated over the years, becoming a quagmire during rainstorms.
Under lease to the city since 2014, the city has deteriorated over the years, becoming a quagmire during rainstorms.

Under lease to the city since 2014, the city has deteriorated over the years, becoming a quagmire during rainstorms. (Mike Smee/CBC)

Although it's been leased by the city as a parkette since 2014, that arrangement ran out last month, according to Hydro One's statement.

"The space at 83 Charles St. East is Hydro One property that the City of Toronto leased from us. In late April, the City confirmed they would not be renewing their lease and as a part of their agreement, they will remove their bikeshare services, benches, concrete pads and trash cans and return the space to its original condition. Going forward, Hydro One is responsible for maintaining the space."

That's at odds with the city's view.

A statement to CBC Toronto from staff indicates the city will continue to maintain the parkette.

"The City continues to maintain the green space at 83 Charles Street East under a licence agreement with Hydro One," the statement reads. "A City crew will be on-site to perform maintenance in the coming days. The City remains committed to ensuring that its parks are safe, accessible, and well kept. "

CBC Toronto has asked the city for clarification about the spot's future, in light of the Hydro One statement, but so far has not received a response. The local city councillor, Chris Moise, has not yet responded to requests for clarification about who's responsible for the park's condition.

One regular park user, Shannon Gagnon, says no matter who is in charge, she hopes the parkette is rehabilitated soon.

"I feel like we need a better spot," said Gagnon, who eats her lunch in the park about once a week. "There's nothing really beautiful or nice ... just a strip with a bench."

Langille agrees that only modest upgrades are needed to return the parkette to its previous condition, so it's not "an eyesore."

"I'd like to see some decorative paving, some raised flower beds, not so big you could put a tent inside, but high enough to keep dogs out; maybe another bench or two," she said. "It's about caring. Somebody needs to pick it up and do better."