Bickford News

Alternative Plans for Bickford Park

On June 20th, 2013, three design options for Bickford Park were presented at a public meeting organized by Councilor Mike Layton. The Toronto Parks Plan classifies Bickford as a “neighbourhood park”. Parks in this category are designed to “provide opportunities for passive recreation and limited types of active recreation amenities within a reasonable walking distance of intended users. Amenities include: seating areas; gardens; playgrounds; small sports fields; waterplay; and tennis courts”.

In recent years the small Bickford Park has seen increasing competition between baseball players, dog owners, and unorganized users who enjoy the natural features of the park and look for open areas for recreation and pick-up games. Two baseball diamonds currently occupy much of the floor of the park and are increasingly used for adult baseball. A small unfenced off-leash area exists at the north end, but dogs often roam freely across the park. The result has been the loss of the “neighbourhood” character of the public park. On summer evenings pedestrians, joggers and recreational users often have to stay on the Montrose Lane path and the Grace Street sidewalk, and prior to being re-sodded in 2012, the park floor had lost much of its grass surface and was muddy and unusable after rains.

Bickford Park 2012, prior to re-sodding.
Bickford Park 2012, prior to re-sodding.

All three plans attempt to relieve the competition for space on the bottom
of the park. All envision an enclosed area for leash-free dogs and retain at least one baseball diamond. Plans B and C maintain but relocate the two existing diamonds. Oval, fenced off-leash areas are shown at the south (C) and north end (B). These would have a gravel or screed surface. Both proposals increase the total length of fencing in the park, a controversial issue ever since, in the mid-1990s, opposition from local residents and many baseball parents prevented the construction of a chain-link fence around the entire north diamond. Plan B leads to a net loss of natural space in the north end of the park. Because they compress the area between the diamonds, B and C reduce or eliminate space for other activities such as soccer. Both B and C add a path through the park. This is a desirable addition, but the path leads straight along the east slope, and sections would be separated from the park by a washroom building, two baseball fences and a dog fence.

Plan A shows the park with the north diamond removed. Its path leads pedestrians into the center of the park. It allows for significant space for pick-up games, especially soccer, and envisions additional tree planting. There is no net increase in fencing. All three plans add seating areas to the south or north end of the park.

Each plan can be modified further. In B and C the size of the dog areas or the distance between the diamonds in B and C could be changed. In plan A, the surface of the leash-free area  and the nature of the enclosure were left open. Leash-free areas in other parts of the city use a variety of fencing, but whatever is used must enclose the entire area and must prevent dogs from entering other parts of Bickford Park.


(click maps to enlarge)




10 responses to “Bickford News

  1. Helen Foster

    My vote would be for Plan A. I feel this plan offers the most variety for users while maintaining the beauty of the park. The park is meant to be for all to use and enjoy (not just dog owners and baseball players). By removing one of the diamonds (while maintaining the south diamond for T-Ball) it will free up so much more space for a multitude of sports and leisure. Whether it is to sit and relax or play a game of soccer, there should be a free area for all to enjoy.
    In addition, this design offers a dog area that is both large enough and can include natural elements to help to beautify the enclosure (even if there is a fence hidden within the bushes or logs). It is true that the dogs can occasionally pose a problem for other users of the park and this would address this issue while maintaining the natural beauty of the park. I think it is also a safer option to have the T-Ball and dog park placed at opposite ends to avoid any conflict.
    The issue I have with plan B and C is that it does not allow any area extra park space and everything is crammed together as it has always been. These designs leave the park more chopped up and separated and less beautiful. This park is a community park and it should represent the users in the community. No single sport or use should take it over. We need to be willing to compromise in order to find the solution where most users will be satisfied while enhancing the natural park landscape.

  2. I saw these alternatives in the meeting. I was blown away with Plan A. It is perfect mix for all users of Bickford Park. I would love to see all the users come together in the summer harmoniously. This is the only plan that really allows for that – baseball, soccer, dogs, picnics happening while my elderly neighbours walk the middle of the park (not just around the edge). There are so many ball parks within a 3 block radius (Christie Pits has 3, Bickford will have one, and Art Eglinton has one for the small kids (right near a playground!!!)). There are few good dogs parks. Most enclosures are too small in the city that promote way too much barking and fights. The other plans would put too much sqft to a game that is only played 3 months of the year for at most a couple of hours a week. Although I wouldn’t be adverse to see the dog area fenced in, this Plan A shows real vision and takes the concerns of the whole community — especially when you consider that “35% of Canadian households have a dog” (Ipsos Reid) and only “28% have kids” (Stats Can). Don’t get me wrong, I want to see everybody enjoy the park, but that does mean everyone — the dog owner, the baseball player, the kids, the soccer players and the elderly.

  3. My preference is plan A with a modification to the size of the baseball diamond. The adult size diamond does not fit into the park as illustrated with the arc of the outfield falling half way up the slope. This is, and always has been a safety hazard for both players and general park users. During the summer when the general public enters the bowl of the park from the south west pathway, they literally walk into baseball games played by adult men. With this in mind the diamond should be changed to a T-ball or children’s ball diamond

    Please remove adult baseball diamonds from this park, they do not fit and are dangerous. Surely Parks Recreation and Forestry staff are aware that all summer long adult baseball players stand halfway up the western embankment to catch fly balls. This does not in any way meet health and safety standards, and it certainly does not meet any baseball association or regulatory body standards for ball diamonds.

    Please also note that both Options B and C show the outfields overlapping which again does meet any reasonable standard for obvious reasons. The opposing field batters and outfielders will have to coordinate it so that a ball can only be in play one diamond at a time.

  4. Bonnie Goodman

    I am a long time resident of Montrose Avenue and daily user of Bickford Park. I too would support Plan “A” as it clearly offers the most functionality of the park for all purposes. In the past I have often had to walk around the top periphery of the park as there were 2 baseball games and soccer being played which allowed for no safe access into or through the park during these times. For me, one of the great benefits of a public park is the access to open green space and trees that they provide. Although I fully support sports activities in the park (both of my children played T-Ball here), I also feel there needs to be space for people to just sit and enjoy the park as well as seating where friends and neighbours can gather and socialize. The addition of a number of trees and naturalized spaces over the years has also increased the diversity of birds in our neighbourhood and I have seen several varieties of hawks, woodpeckers and warblers that previously were not here. This is truly a wonderful park and I hope that the future plans are inclusive to all needs.

  5. Anne Nikkel

    I’ve observed the evolution of Bickford Park over 20 years and watched it become a safer, more beautiful space in that time. This has been largely due to the commitment of community members and neighbours bordering the park who help to plant flowers & trees, pick up trash and alert authorities to unsafe activities. I’ve personally benefited by picking service berries that were fortuitously planted 5 – 10 years ago – makes great jam!
    Who knew the downside to park beautification would be the need for more fences :(. At this point I am convinced we need a roomy, fenced-in dog area to preserve safety and shoe cleanliness. If the space isn’t large enough I fear nothing will change and we will continue to have dogs running in the whole bowl. In order to ensure adequate space, I believe one of the ball diamonds has to go. Only then would there be adequate space for additional walkways, naturalized areas and space for general leisure activities including picnics and fire pits – can’t wait!

  6. Bernd Baldus

    The first public parks were created to bring nature back into the industrial cities of 19th century England and North America, to offer green refuges from urban stress, and to serve as informal “people`s gardens”. Since then, natural areas have been the core of all well-designed parks. Today, many people in Toronto can no longer afford a cottage, and parks are their only opportunity to stroll along a path or sit in the shade of a tree. Bickford Park no longer offers such options because it is in danger of being converted into a sports field. To achieve this, past baseball flyers called trees in Bickford “eyesores which … look, at best, unkempt and, at worst, provide a hiding place for vermin and illicit activities”. They claimed that trees “turned a well-lit path into a dangerous tunnel”, and served as “ornamentation which plays into the anti-recreation agenda of a few people”. Our area is not lacking in diamonds, but it is one of the most parks-poor parts of Toronto. The issue in Bickford is not environment vs. sports but a balance between both. Any future plans for Bickford park must include a significant natural area and encourage informal recreational use.

  7. I’ve used this park regularly in several capacities for many years. I’ve also seen it improve and be beautified thanks to the efforts of local residents who volunteer time and resources to plant and maintain trees and flowers. I’m shocked at the implication that this hasn’t been well kept or encourages illicit activity? I would argue the opposite … I often see people down there with a coffee at the picnic tables and benches. Increasing the informal/free green spaces will benefit all users (2 and 4 legged as well the winged non-mammalian ones).
    I was also very much in favour of plan A as a starting point as it provided the best balance satisfying most users. Still ample space for t-ball, improved and increased green spaces, and a larger space for off leash dogs. If the area allocated to off leash area isn’t large enough, the dogs won’t use it, which is what is happening now.

  8. Shelagh Northey

    I agree with other commenters that Plan A is the only realistic option. The layout does not reduce the park to another warehouse for playing fields. We have plenty of those. However, beautiful green space in our part of this busy, noisy city is at a premium and that is a real problem. Green space is restorative and an enlightened expression of caring for the community. Everyone feels better both mentally and physically when we have somewhere lovely nearby to stroll and chat, bird watch or play soccer, baseball, or walk the dog. And, consequently, we treat each other better when we ourselves feel better. Let’s choose Plan A.

  9. I too think that plan A is the best compromise for everyone. I played house league baseball in the south dimond when I was 15 and the hill in the outfield even then was too close, spoiling any hits out of the infield. Tballers are the only players who would benifit from such an uneven playing field. Adults should be playing at Christie pits or trinity bellwoods. I would also like to note that a natural barrier for the dog area as opposed to a fence would be preferred most park goers. Dogs are territorial animals and from my experience, when they’re fenced in the alphas claim the area as their own which can get violent. The wychwood barns dog area is a classic example of this. The space is too small, the dogs there can be quite aggressive and the area smells terrible in the summer. It would be a real shame if a failed space like that was introduced to bickford.

  10. It’s hard to conceive of Bickford as a real park when its public benches and picnic tables overlook the edges of sterile playing fields. The key elements of any park, such as trees, shrubs, flowers, grassy spaces for picnicking, paths for strolling, etc., are confined to the slopes and perimeter of Bickford. Without removal of one diamond, the dominant feature of the park will remain that of fences – fences at each of the two diamonds, and possibly more fencing for a proposed dog enclosure – and even less grass than before. What’s lacking is a balance between space designated for passive use and that for organized sports.

    At its core, any revitalization plan for the park has to address the current imbalance that exists in the way that the bottom of the park may be used. At present, playing fields occupy virtually the entire bottom of the park. If one diamond were to be removed, the potential would exist for creating a green space that welcomes all users with the opportunity for a variety of recreational activities.

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