Addressing the flood risk posed by the Don River in this area of the city was a fundamental requirement in planning for the West Don Lands community. Flood modelling shows that with a Hurricane Hazel type of storm, flooding from the Don River would extend well into downtown. The hill in Corktown Common is actually a highly engineered Flood Protection Landform (FPL) that protects the community and the downtown against severe flooding. There is no other structure like it in Toronto. The Canary District/West Don Lands community could not legally have been built without the FPL. If the FPL were to fail, then everything to the west of the park would be at risk.

The design of the FPL and preservation of its structural integrity was the foundation for the creation and design of the park. No interventions to the FPL are allowed that would compromise its integrity. These include ground penetrations (fence posts, light posts, trenches for utilities and services), and degradation of the vegetative surface (meadow). Any existing infrastructure on the east side of the hill is at the base of the FPL structure or else does not penetrate it in any significant way and does not impact the structure itself.

Unfortunately, a temporary OLA is not possible in this location. There are two reasons for this: new, unfenced OLAs are no longer supported by the City because of negative impacts on other park users. In addition, the meadow on the east side of the FPL is a fundamental part of its design and operation. Currently, the meadow is experiencing stress under its current use, and there is concern that more frequent and concentrated use will further degrade the meadow, despite enhanced maintenance efforts from City staff. This will lead to overly compacted bare earth and muddy areas in spring and fall, which will promote erosion and compromise the integrity of the FPL.

Because the bylaw prohibiting dogs off-leash in the park remains in effect, bylaw enforcement does also. This includes proactive monitoring of the park, as well as complaints-based enforcement.

The first stage of location assessment was the development of a matrix to compare each site's inherent ability to host an OLA. The matrix is a high-level inventory of each site and an assessment of criteria that PFR would apply to determine the feasibility of introducing an OLA in a candidate site. Examples of criteria are:

  1. Compliance with standards developed for OLAs through City policy, e.g., size, proximity to residences
  2. Location within a community and ease of access
  3. Existing infrastructure in place to support an OLA
  4. Pedestrian and dog safety with respect to traffic, and surveillance.

The matrix provides a high-level assessment of the potential of each site to host an OLA, but a more detailed review of the impacts, both positive and negative, of introducing an OLA on each existing park site was also required. This detailed review and assessment led to the City's recommendation of Underpass Park West as the best fit for an OLA.

It is important to understand that there is no consensus among OLA users in Toronto as to which surface material is best. While mulch is preferred by some, it is very much not preferred by others. A number of factors are considered in selecting the appropriate surface material for an OLA, including dog comfort, safety, accessibility, durability, ease of maintenance, aesthetics, size of the facility and concentrated use. The use of artificial turf in OLAs is an emerging best practice that is being implemented in other OLAs across the city. In the example of Underpass Park West, artificial turf provides the best user enjoyment, and greatest durability, and is the most cost-effective in terms of maintenance.

The skateboard park is located east of the recommended OLA site, and will not be affected by its construction. Some of the existing seating in Underpass Park West is intended to remain. We would have to monitor whether skateboarding migrates to Underpass Park West and mitigate it as may be required.

The timeline for delivery of the OLA takes into account the time required for planning, designing, tendering, and constructing the OLA through the normal City process. We will take advantage of any opportunity to accelerate its delivery, and advise the community accordingly.

We won't have an estimate of the project cost until later in the design process. We have secured funding in the amount of $500,000.00 from Enbridge for the displacement of the formal OLA.

The development site immediately west of Corktown Common park is referred to as Block 9 in the West Don Lands Precinct Plan and is identified as a site for a future elementary school and possibly also a recreation centre. Proximity to schools is considered when locating an OLA.

The City's policy on unfenced off-leash areas is based on operational experience of the impacts of these facilities on other park users as well as maintenance requirements and is not likely to change.