A new jewel in the landscape of the West Don Lands, Corktown Common is a 7.3 hectare (18 acre) park located at the foot of Lower River Street and Bayview Avenue. Situated on former industrial lands, the park has transformed an underutilized brownfield into a spectacular park and community meeting place featuring a lush landscape. With a marsh, sprawling lawns, urban prairies, playground areas, a splash pad and a variety of inviting features like a fireplace, permanent barbeque, large communal picnic tables and washrooms, this spectacular new greenspace is already the heart of an emerging new community.
Built as part of the revitalization of the West Don Lands by Waterfront Toronto, this sophisticated park was designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. Besides being an intelligently designed park that accommodates a wide range of uses and activities, it also offers a diverse range of habitats as evidenced by the growing cacophony of birds, amphibians and insects that have inhabited this park.
What makes this park even more unique is that its maintenance and care was a significant component of the design process. From the outset, the intent was to manage Corktown Common using organic horticulture principles and methods. Recognizing that the legacy of Corktown Common and new waterfront parks will be defined by how these new parks are maintained and operated, the City of Toronto has worked very closely with Waterfront Toronto and design firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates to create a specialized, organic maintenance program for Corktown Common.
Corktown Common and Lawren Harris Square Organic Landscape Maintenance Guidelines is a one-of-a kind, comprehensive initiative to care for the park. While not definitively prescriptive, these Guidelines will provide the foundation for maintaining this park organically. Planning at the outset for sustainable maintenance practices will contribute to the preservation of capital investments made in the new waterfront public park system, and will also help to protect the ecological integrity of this complex greenspace.
While still under the management and operation of Waterfront Toronto, Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) has been providing specialized organic landscape and turf maintenance. PFR has been working behind the scenes to ensure that dedicated and qualified staff work in this park and that there's a seamless transition when the park is transferred to the City of Toronto.
To that end, a new organic horticulture assessment was established as a qualifying tool for seasonal gardening staff interested in working on organic landscapes. Full-time staff associated with Corktown Common were also registered for organic horticulture training at Humber College.
From September through to November 2014, Parks staff had the opportunity to put their skills and education into practice through a sub-licence agreement with Waterfront Toronto. Using the Corktown Common and Lawren Harris Square Organic Landscape Maintenance Guidelines PFR staff provided horticulture and turf care in Corktown Common.
As the City embarks on the journey of discovery in maintaining such a complex and diverse landscape organically, there will be lessons learned, adjustments made and new approaches introduced. The long-term vision is that years from now, when best practices are established for this site, we can begin to look at how we can take this innovative model of organic land care to other park spaces in Toronto.