On June 5, 2014 Councilor Mike Layton presented two new plans for Bickford Park in a public meeting at a local school. The biggest change from the three earlier plans (see Bickford News on this website) was that the former option A with only one baseball diamond had disappeared. This was the only option which created space for a more balanced use of the park. It got most support in June 2013, as well as from the 250 residents and park users who signed the Save Our Neighbourhood Park petition given to Layton on June 2, 2014.
The new plans have two priorities: the construction of a fenced-in dog field and the retention of the two existing diamonds. “Community gathering”, “social sports” and “community planting” areas are squeezed into what space is left over. None of these elements were suggested by the community; in fact we were never asked. The ‘survey’ on Layton’s website merely asks whether you are for or against these designs. There is no room to suggest alternative park details.
The two plans (options 1 and 2) differ in that they locate the dog area at the north or the south end of the park. Both plans replace grass with gravel in the dog area, reduce green space in the park, and add more fences which further restrict informal use of the park. They can be seen on a website created by Councilor Layton (mikelayton.to/bickfordsurvey) which also contains a list of secondary “park improvement elements” and a survey with 25 questions, some of which are leading (“Would you support the removal of the north diamond if it displaced recreational youth programs?”) or ambiguous. There is no question about the removal of the south diamond. The questionnaire uses the SurveyMonkey, an on-line guide for home-made surveys which records frequencies that are wide-open to interpretation. There is no indication how the results will be used.
Here are the changes which the plans would make to the south or north end of Bickford Park:
South end with no dog area: “social sports” and “community gathering” areas would be created between the current south diamond and Harbord Street, containing a firepit, 3 concrete ping-pong tables (white rectangles), and benches (small black rectangles). A board walk (black path segment) would take a path along the east side of the diamond (note that the diamond is decribed as “Little League and Slo-pitch” although it is mostly used for adult baseball and the outfield extends to the Montrose Lane).
South end with a fenced-in dog area. The dog fence runs along the two paths leading into the park from Harbord Street and follows the upper edge of the south slope. The south dog area is larger than the north one.
North end with no dog area. The north diamond stays in place. Between diamond and path, “social sports” and “gathering” areas include 3 concrete ping-pong pads (white rectangles). The small space between path and the Bickford Center will be a “community planting area.
North end with dog area. This design moves the north diamond somewhat to the south. The dog fence runs right along the north path and along the north side of the diamond. The option of adding a path between fence and diamond (as shown below) is to be “examined”. The wavy design in the path at the upper left is apparently a “Garrison Creek interpretation”.
Key questions about these plans:
The two plans show little knowledge of the current uses and problems of the small Bickford Park, or of its historic link to the Garrison Creek ravine. The term “green space” appears nowhere in the plans, although it is a high priority with park users and residents. The plans seem to assume that park surfaces that have just grass and trees are unused and must be assigned to ‘stakeholders’ and filled with hard structures. Option 1 (dog area at the north end) actually specifies “fewer trees”. These trees were planted by residents and volunteers over the past years to create an area of shade and rest in the park.
The proposed paths in the park lead visitors past dog fences, a washroom, and two baseball fences. People may be better off walking up the Montrose lane and down the Grace Street sidewalk.
A concrete ping-pong table currently exists in Stanley Park. It sits on a concrete pad measuring approximately 18×23 feet (6×8 meters). How would three of these fit into the small public areas remaining in Bickford Park? Would fire pits become a center for late-night parties? Bickford is a small park with residences on east and west sides which are directly affected by noise and park abuse.
The plans design every square inch of Bickford. If people were given a green, beautiful park, might they not find their own ways to enjoy it without being guided into social sports and community gathering spaces?
Over the past year Councilor Layton has been repeatedly advised of facts that favour a one-diamond solution for Bickfoprd Park. Christie, Bickford and Eggleton parks contain more baseball diamonds than any other downtown park (2 in Trinity-Bellwoods, 2 in Stanley Park and 3 in High Park). High Park operates a large children and youth baseball program by using nearby schoolyard diamonds; we have some 25 diamonds in the neighbourhood around our parks. Even if these were not used, the Christie and Bickford baseball programs could be consolidated because the four diamonds are not always used at the same time (not counting the fully fenced-in Maple Leaf diamond which is on public parkland but stands mostly empty).
Layton told the June 5 meeting that he plans to negotiate with baseball groups to move children’s baseball to Eggleton Park, an attractive venue because parents can let younger siblings play in the adjacent wading pool and playground. A refurbished Eggleton diamond could replace one of the two diamonds in Bickford Park. That suggestion was rejected by the few baseball functionaries present on June 5. One of them suggested that, should the Eggleton diamond ever become available, it should be added to the existing baseball facilities in Christie and Bickford parks.
Bickford Park must remain a neighborhood park which, within the constraints imposed by its small size, is open to a variety of users. It should neither be monopolized by organized sports, nor serve as a source of political patronage to be divvied up among ‘stakeholders’ and supporters.