When the Parks Plan (2012-2017) was adopted, City Council made a request for staff to update the City’s strategy for the acquisition of parkland. Under the Planning Act, a “parks plan”, like the Parkland Strategy, is required prior to adopting any changes to the Alternative Parkland Dedication Rate.

The Parkland Strategy is a 20-year plan for the enhancement of Toronto’s park system through the creation of new parks and the expansion and improved access to existing parks. The strategy will build on current practice providing new approaches and tools to support decision making on the acquisition and reinvestment in our City’s park system.

Parkland Strategy – Preliminary Report

  • The City is currently guided by a 2001 Parkland Acquisition Strategic Directions Report, using the Local Parkland Assessment Cells (LPAC) map as the tool to assess parkland supply per person across the city.
  • The first phase of work of the Parkland Strategy developed an improved methodology to measure and assess parkland supply and distribution.  The new methodology is based on park catchments and incorporates walkability as a key factor in parkland access.  The use of smaller reporting units show variability.
  • This new approach has provided a more refined and improved picture of parkland provision city-wide and within specific study areas.

Preliminary Report Findings

  • Toronto’s parkland was measured including all city-owned and operated parkland within Toronto’s borders, including the extensive ravine system and the now federally managed Rouge Park. This results in a city-wide average of 28m2 of parkland per person.
  • The City district average of parkland provision was measured using the updated methodology with a 500m catchment demonstrating the following: Etobicoke-York 36m2 per person; North York 29m2 per person; Scarborough 45m2 per person; and Toronto-East York 21m2 per person.
  • Comparison to six other large North American cities was conducted for both city-wide and dense core areas, showing:
    • City-wide, Toronto compares to Vancouver, has more park per person than San Francisco, but less than Los Angeles.
    • In each city’s dense core, Toronto has less than New York, Chicago and Houston – which are all cities that protected and/or reinvested in large parks in their downtown areas.
  • The updated methodology also confirms what was already known, that parkland provision varies widely across Toronto.  There are pockets of very low parkland supply (less than 4m2 per person) throughout the city, most notably in downtown core.
  • When future estimated population is incorporated in the assessment, the amount of parkland per person decreases. Assuming no additional parkland is acquired, Toronto’s city-wide parkland provision average will decrease to 23.5 m2 per person with estimated population growth.
  • To maintain the current provision level considering this population growth, the city would need to acquire 1,400 ha of new parkland city-wide. It is clear that this amount of parkland cannot feasibly be acquired. This underpins the importance of securing land in underserved areas, along with making strategic connections and park improvements, which will be key to growing Toronto’s park system to meet future needs.
  • Non-residential populations, including students, visitors and employees, put additional pressure on Toronto’s park system.  Including employment population decreases the current city-wide average of 28m2 to 18m2 per person; and will further decrease by 2032 from 23.5mto 15m2 per person.
  • There is currently a low provision of large parks in the Downtown core.  This is an important finding, as acquiring large parcels of land for parks is challenging and creative approaches to parkland provision must be planned for and considered in the near term against escalating costs and declining land availability.

Alignment with City-wide Strategies

  • The Parkland Strategy builds on the City’s many service plans and strategic initiatives such as the recently Council-adopted Ravine Strategy and the Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan.
  • The Parkland Strategy’s preliminary findings have provided a provisioning, accessibility and functionality analysis to planning exercises currently underway, including Rail Deck Park, TOcore and Yonge-Eglinton study areas.
  • The Parkland Strategy will assess the options for potential updates to the Alternative Parkland Dedication Rate, coming from the analysis of The Review of the City’s Alternative Parkland Dedication under Section 42 of the Planning Act.

Next Steps

  • This preliminary analysis of city-wide parkland supply and distribution will be used to build an understanding of the scope, scale and location of parkland need across Toronto.
  • The next phase of work of the Parkland Strategy will consider acquisition, reinvestment and functionality of the parks system.
  • This will be integrated into an implementation, policy and investment framework to be presented in the Parkland Strategy Final Report, due back in second quarter 2018.
  • The Parkland Strategy Final Report will act as Toronto’s “parks plan” as defined in the Planning Act. This will satisfy the new requirement in the Act that municipal organizations study the need for parkland through preparation of a parks plan prior to adopting any changes to the Alternative Parkland Dedication Rate.

Media contact: 
Wynna Brown, Strategic Communications, 416-392-8937, wynna.brown@toronto.ca