Bickford Park plan: final round?

Here are the two most recent plans for Bickford Park.

Plan A

Feb 7 Layton plan-1
Plan B
Feb 7 FOBP-2

Click on each plan to enlarge and see details.

Plan A was presented by councilor Layton at the Bob Abate Center on February 7.  Plan B is a revised version  based on comments from Montrose and Grace St. residents and park users. In both plans the Bickford Center is on the right (north) side of the plan, and Harbord Street is at the left (south) side.

Plan A has a paved path along the east side of the park, with a  long wheelchair accessible stepped ramp branching off to the NE corner of the park. One (south) diamond remains. An enclosed dog area is shown at the south end of Bickford, extending to the top of the curved slope. 9 trees would be removed from this area and transplanted in other parts of the park. The path currently entering from the corner of Harbord and the Montrose lane makes a sharp turn at the bottom, supported by a new retaining wall and railing. Most of the park floor is an open playing field. At the north end are two circular ‘social areas’, and some new naturalization on the west slope. People entering the park from Grace and Harbord walk along fences until they reach the middle of the park.

Plan A leaves most of the floor of the park open and provides no additional natural space. The people who responded to our 2014 petition overwhelmingly wanted a Bickford Park with more trees and grass. They wanted a diamond removed in order to create a greener park, not to make room for other permit sports.  The lack of green space and natural areas in our neighborhood  deprives us of the well-documented benefits of green oases in an urban environment, and of a natural refuge for the many people who can no longer afford a cottage.

Plan B  suggests some major revisions. It realigns the path at the north end to connect with the main junction of paths near the Bickford Center underpass. This  significantly increases the natural area of the park and creates two ‘green rooms’ for passive recreation and informal activities. The plan also creates a new path along the top of the south end slope, and a raised flower bed at the SE entrance

Plan B shifts the dog enclosure further north. This brings the fence halfway down the slope, protects the grass surface from erosion, and makes the removal of 9 trees unnecessary. Most of these trees would not survive transplantation. Watering and care are beyond the capacity of park volunteers. Trees remaining in the dog enclosure can be easily protected by smaller fences. Plan B also contains a curved entrance to the west side of the dog enclosure instead of the retaining wall, and creates a grass border between the path and dog fence dog fence at the SE corner.

Several people have suggested that the long accessibility path from the NE corner into the park will not work. Manual and motorized wheelchairs may with difficulty get into the park, but they will not climb back up the long incline without help. The path with its stepped design will, however, be a gift to the skate-boarders and stunt bicycles which already occupy the Bickford Center underpass, and create safety hazards and more nightly noise for Grace and Montrose residents. A social area overlooking the park at the SW corner is one way to make the park more attractive for people with wheelchairs.

Plan B removes the naturalization on the west slope proposed in plan A in order to retain sightlines into the park and allow tobogganing. Other changes suggested are berms (low earth mounts) to separate pedestrians from sports, more trees, and the deletion of the concrete Ping-Pong table in plan A (3 new ones will be installed in Christie Pits).

Most of the comments agreed that the central area in plan B should not be subject to user permits.

Much of the work in the park is scheduled for 2015. Please make your views on these  plans known by posting comments on this website. This is a park we all love. How it looks and how it will be used depends on our input!

2016 update

The year 2015 brought two decisive changes to Bickford Park: the relocation of the north baseball diamond to Eggleton Park south of Harbord Street, and the creation of an enclosed area for leash-free dogs at the south end. These are the first significant steps toward greening the park and retaining its character  as a neighborhood park. They follow plan B above, but reflect many earlier plans which can be found on other pages of this website. In 2016, a paved path along the bottom of the east side of Bickford will be added which will curve in to join the junction of paths at the north-west corner just south of the underpass.

These changes will define three zones of park use: a leash-free area at the south end, an open area in the center for baseball and non-permit games, and an enlarged natural area at the north end with more trees and benches. This reorganization is essential for preventing the overlapping and competing uses which threatened to overwhelm the small park. With the construction of the path along the east side it will now be possible to walk through and around the park without having to walk along Grace Street. Together with the new paths in Christie Pits one can now enjoy a circular stroll through both parks, crossing Bloor at Christie or at the north end of Montrose avenue.

Much credit for these changes is due to Mike Layton, our local councilor., who opened up the discussion, presented different plans, and proved responsive to changes suggested by residents and park users. The results so far have been very positive: the new dog area is now well-used, the children`s baseball has found a much more appealing home in Eggleton Park.

 

 

6 responses to “Bickford Park plan: final round?

  1. Mirek Kotisa

    I do not like Mike Layton’s plan A. To me it is complete waste of money and effort. Plan B is much better, but even there the open central area is inviting to the soccer people who will come and kill all the grass.
    I went to a number of the meetings, and the objectives of these changes were never made clear. Resulting plans do not represent what the neighbors and actual users of the park want.
    Mirek

  2. I am opposed to a ramp in the northeast park corner that would only serve as an invitation to skateboarders and manic cyclists, and thus create a safety hazard to pedestrians, as well as extra noise pollution, particularly late at night. The ramp will not be of any use to the handicapped, as it would be much too long for anyone in an unassisted wheelchair to ascend. Even a motorized wheelchair would have trouble with such demands on it. Therefore, the ramp would not serve its purpose, and it should be discarded as part of the park renovation.

  3. Bernd Baldus

    Although the new plan finally removes one of the two baseball diamonds and creates a pedestrian path through the park it is far from perfect. This is not an innovative design to create a beautiful park. Instead it is a compromise dictated by the retention of the south diamond. Only the removal of that diamond, or its relocation in the park, would have allowed different locations for a dog enclosure and a natural part of the park. With the diamond remaining where it is, a significant green space with a pedestrian path can only be created in the north end of Bickford because the area south of the diamond is too small. I do not like the removal of trees in plan A. I also think that the long and very expensive ‘wheelchair-accessible’ ramp will never see its intended users but will become a source of trouble.

  4. Paul Orenstein

    Here is the text of a letter sent to Mike Layton reflecting my opinion but also those of many others I have spoken to who could not attend the Feb. 7 meeting.

    Hi Councillor Layton,
    I’m sending this as a response to the plan drawings shown at the Open House on Feb.7 /2015. I know that comments were gathered at the time but I have had some additional thoughts reached after reflection and discussion with many users who were not able to attend the Open House. I will also post this letter on http://www.bickford.org as I believe it sums up a consensus of opinion from dog owners as well as many other users. I make this distinction because as well as being the most frequent and arguably the most numerous users of the park the dog owners feel that our interests are not solely concerning the off leash area but for the park as a whole. Think of us as a group with the park’s best interests in mind…that meets every day and discusses them.
    This said,the general opinion is relief that it seems some real progress has been made. Removing the ‘obstacle’ of the second baseball diamond has really moved this forward so congratulations on that front. However there is a general sense of mystery as to why the off leash area has been moved to the south end of the park. Everyone I spoke to prefers the off leash area roughly where it is now so we don’t know where the impetus for this decision has come from. There are many reasons why it should remain where it is including the safety of the dogs given the proximity of the new off leash area to busy Harbord Street and especially because the the presence of dogs in the park is the main reason the park is much safer than in the past. Moving the dogs to the busier south end virtually cedes the quieter north end to more undesirable activity.
    Aside from this, the consensus is also that having it at the south end is not unworkable if certain things are refined and improved. I know that we are all eager to move forward and to have a positive resolution to this process which I think it’s fair to say has dragged on far too long.So lets say that we still prefer the off leash at the northern end but would support a plan with it at the south end that would include the following changes.
    The surface in the off leash area should be grass with the exception of the entry points and other high traffic areas which should be paved.
    The existing trees in the off leash should be left as they are and no trees inside the off leash area should be barricaded with fencing. Plastic collars at the base of trees with a diameter of 4 inches or less would be need however.
    The lighting in the new off leash area should be retained or modified to best advantage.
    Years of daily experience at the north end have shown that the dogs do not harm the trees provided the younger ones are protected by collars. The same goes for the grass. Any degradation in the surface is caused primarily by poor drainage and even if the surface would ever have to be replaced it would be on a much longer cycle than the soccer field that was replaced 2 years ago. These changes are aesthetically pleasing and given that they are substantially less expensive it should be an easy decision to implement them.
    With the money saved from fencing and surfacing there was a consensus that there should be a pavilion in the off leash area to provide shelter in inclement and sunny weather. It could be very simple open on 3 or 4 sides and not too big maybe 12 x 18 ft. with a paved floor and some seating or picnic table provided. Additional seating in the off leash area would be nice too.
    The plan shows the perimeter fencing for the off leash very close to existing walkways. It might be wise to leave a 6 to 8 ft. buffer to allow pedestrians and dogs inside the fence a bit of a neutral zone and also for plantings to soften the hard edge of the fence line. The fence line at the top of the hill could also be moved down the hill slightly4 to 6 ft. to improve the sight lines from above and to provide a buffer for the joggers that run along the top of the bowl.
    These are basically the requested changes for the off leash area. The following are changes to the rest of the park plan that are generally agreed upon.
    The plan showed a fountain and dog shower in the off leash area, both welcome additions but there should also be a fountain outside the area for other users. It shouldn’t be too onerous to tie the plumbing into the one provided for the dog fountain and get an extra benefit for not too much additional cost.
    While there has been an effort to naturalize more of the park we felt that the plan presented would encourage the soccer players to migrate to any available playing area once the grass they play on dies. This as we have seen takes 1 to 2 years to transpire so that while a field should be kept for soccer or football we strongly feel it should be oriented on an E/W axis to limit the damage to the rest of the grass areas in the park. The soccer area has had and still has some weed growth that amazingly holds up to the cleats of the soccer players…far better than grass, it can be mowed and costs nothing. Letting it become the default surface of the playing field may be the best solution for this problem.
    The best way to achieve an E/W axis for the playing field and still provide a secondary smaller open area and the possibility of tobogganing from the west side is to place strategically 2 or 3 large trees in the middle of the field approximately along the E/W axis of the northern edge of the western wooded area. This will prevent soccer being played on a N/S axis but it will also relieve the ‘bathtub’ look that the park currently has. The sight lines and vistas from various vantage points both from elevate and lower areas will be enhanced with this relatively minor addition. The use of a curved berm or berms perhaps echoing the line of the new pathways to delineate the change of areas in a subtle manner has also been mentioned by many.
    The naturalized area shown on the slope of the hill on the west side is not necessary. There are beautiful sight lines from here and many people sunbathe, read and picnic on the slope in summer and in the winter toboggan. Better to deploy this budget for the added plantings elsewhere, perhaps on the exterior of the fence of the off leash area.
    Whilre the decision to make the park wheelchair accessible is admirable the long new path that traverses the eastern slope at a gentle rate to accomplish this is a rather massive intervention. The path is sure to be more popular with skateboarders than with the intended beneficiaries. Is there no way to comply with the regulations by keeping the wheelchair accessible areas to the elevated parts of the park at the southern and western perimeters?
    The boardwalk is also a big project necessitated by the need to avoid damaging the tree roots. It might be reduced in scope at least in part by shrinking the baseball diamond by about 6 ft. along each foul line (the foul lines would move north and west). As new fences may have to be installed anyway this shouldn’t be a big problem. There would be more room down the right field line where currently the natural walkway is about 2 ft. from the foul line and the amount of necessary boardwalk construction there could be reduced. Along the left field line, foul balls from the baseball diamond are a risk to dogs and owners. I know you have mentioned a higher fence down the line in the past and while this was not indicated in the plan it would certainly help, moving the diamond 6 ft. would provide a bit more of a buffer for the off leash area and perhaps allow a slightly lower fence.It would also help with the transition of the diagonal path at the S/W corner of the park where it currently joins left field.
    The drawing shows an expensive retaining wall . I’m not an engineer but I know this is a really popular spot for tobogganing and a concrete wall here seems to be a potential hazard going forward. Moving the field north potentially makes this wall unnecessary.
    Nobody I talked to has mentioned wanting a concrete ping pong table. Playing ping pong outdoors is extremely problematic with even the faintest breeze.
    Thanks for taking the time to read this and I and the rest of Bickford Park’s users look forward to a responsible process and a positive outcome.

    Paul Orenstein
    paul@paulorenstein.com

  5. I support plan B over Plan A, but it must be said, that if the baseball diamond at the south end is to remain, it should have it’s adult permitting status removed as it does not meet the dimensional requirements for either teen or adult baseball. That is why “Left Field “players stand half way up the western embankment through the entire game.

    This is neither appropriate or safe for, the adult players to be fielding balls on a steep slope, or the general public who enter into the park bowl at the south west corner literally walking into the middle of an adult baseball game.

    As a designer of recreation facilities I can state categorically that the field dimensions of the outfield do not meet any jurisdictional standards for adult or teen baseball, so if the diamond were to remain, it should re-designated for T-Ball, because that is the only age group that suits its dimensions.

  6. Galina Bershteyn

    I agree with the insights and recommendations put forward in Paul Orenstein’s letter. I feel that these revisions address the majority of current issues with park usage, as well as being a more cost effective strategy. It seems that there will be more problems with the off leash dog area being moved as it will interfere with baseball games and potentially present a safety hazard with flying balls into the off leash area. Personally, my own dog would be very happy with random baseballs to chase but I’m sure that the players would not be as enthused!

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