I have some exciting news to share with my neighbours and their best canine friends!
My staff and I have been working hard to engage the Parks, Forestry and Recreation division and dog owners across Ward 13 to develop an Off-Leash Area (OLA) revitalization plan. In 2019, I convened a meeting of OLA representatives at City Hall from across the ward. We profiled and reviewed each park that contained an OLA, discussed the key issues, working priorities for the community and Park staff.
Since that initial meeting, I continued to advocate with Parks staff regarding the conditions and maintenance of OLAs in Ward 13 and based on these discussions and with community input, it was clear that Allan Gardens and Corktown needed to be elevated to priority status.
I have stressed repeatedly with Parks staff that Allan Gardens should be prioritized for revitalization because of its high-profile status as a destination OLA for residents in the immediate neighbourhood and for those travelling from outside our ward to visit with their dogs. The Allan Gardens OLA officially opened in 2008 and it was unique at the time given the separate areas for large and small dogs, an unusual feature we rarely see elsewhere in the city’s other OLAs.
Allan Gardens is one of my son’s favourite park because of the exceptional playground the City built in 2015. We visit Allan Gardens almost daily for his outdoor playtime, so I have seen firsthand how well-used the OLA is. Having spoken personally to many residents in the park, it’s my intention to invest sizeable resources to revitalize this beloved OLA once Parks staff are ready to further the consultation that was delayed because of the global pandemic.
My staff and I have witnessed the lack of maintenance in the OLA and raised many concerns on your behalf to Park staff. The OLA redesign work in the upcoming year will address maintenance issues such as broken gates, gaps in and under the fencing, deteriorated surface material and uneven ground. It could also correct the deficiencies missed in the original OLA consultation and design, such as the lack of irrigation, additional fountains, etc.
After considerable advocacy from our office to Parks staff and now with the peak of the COVID-19 lockdowns behind us, I am happy to share with you that the anticipated upgrades are finally back on track for the Allan Gardens Off-Leash Area!
Parks staff will begin the Allan Garden’s OLA public consultations in the second half of 2022 with an anticipated full reconstruction to take place in 2023/2024. The project will be fully funded through section 37 funding for community benefits. As a short-term, immediate measure, I have submitted a motion for the November 9 City Council meeting to release $250,000 for initial capital improvements including replenishing the crushed granite ground covering - an improvement that can not wait until the full OLA reconstruction which is at least two years away.
Crushed granite is not an ideal surface material, however, based on the results of a quick poll that was conducted in the Allan Gardens OLA Facebook Group, this is what was identified as an immediate and interim intervention. Newer sustainable materials and smarter contemporary design solutions will take place with broader public consultation which is starting next year.
We will post detailed updates on our community engagement platform Toronto Centre Projects as more information become available: www.TorontoCentreProjects.ca/processes/allangardensola
Thank you and I look forward to seeing you in the park!