Park People

Park People is an independent charity that builds stronger communities by animating and improving parks, placing them at the heart of life in the city. As Canada’s first citywide park organization, we’re leading a renaissance for our parks, built around a simple principle: when communities get involved, parks get better. We support more than 100 community park groups, bringing them together with city staff, funders, businesses, and other partners to host events, plant more trees and gardens, build new park infrastructure, steward volunteers, and transform parks into dynamic community hubs. We offer crucial training and mentorship, and share learnings through our Parks Summit and Park Talks. We get the word out on what’s new in parks through a network of over 5000 park enthusiasts, and through research and reports profiling challenges and opportunities. We don’t stop there, though. We drive change through transformative developments such as the Green Line linear park, and our Sparking Change program to turn under-used green space into community hubs for low-income neighbourhoods. Our work has made us a leading authority on Canada's city parks.

Our Impact Why We Exist

We develop tools and resources that help park volunteers become better stewards for their local parks. We also bring park friends together to share what they know and to collaborate on projects and issues that improve parks for all. Together, we recommend policies and practices that recognize how parks contribute to the social and economic health of cities.

When parks are strong, residents are healthier, neighbourhoods are safer, and local economies flourish.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

In September 2010, Dave Harvey released the Metcalf Foundation sponsored report: Fertile Ground for New Thinking: Improving Toronto's Parks. The report showed that Toronto is lagging behind cities across North America that are bringing people, government, park staff and private organizations together to create dynamic parks that become the hub of neighbourhoods. The report spurred the development of Toronto Park People in early 2011.Since its inception, Toronto Park People has helped to network 40 existing park groups and create over 50 new park groups across the city. We have connected park leaders with resources and programming to improve and activate their parks, hosted annual Park Summits and regular Park Talks that engage and inform community members of the potential of their local parks, and acted as the voice of parks at the municipal planning and political level.]

Accolades and Accomplishments

  • In 2011, Toronto Park People Founder and Director Dave Harvey was awarded a Vital People grant by the Toronto Community Foundation.
  • Park People’s approach of partnering with the City instead of just fighting from the outside is getting results: “In an era when all levels of government are pleading poverty and reducing services, Harvey’s Park People has hit upon a working method of do-it-yourself community activism: community volunteers seeking permission to do things on their own. This approach of cooperating with bureaucracy to get results could serve as a model for the future of advocacy in Toronto.” Toronto Globe and Mail, March 30, 2013
  • The annual Park Summit, held each spring, brings together hundreds of citizens who are committed to better parks across the city. The event allows them to learn about great initiatives from other parks across the city and around the world, and network with like-minded park builders. One attendee described it as “… incredibly inspiring… thank you for being the spark that we all needed!”
  • Our Park Friends Group Guidebook is an essential resource for everything from rules and regulations to facilitation tips for activating great public spaces. We’ve compiled lessons from over 100 different groups in every corner of the city into one guide that is the starting point for anyone interested in activating their park.
  • The bi-monthly Park Talks series convenes audiences across the city to shed light on specific park issues like permits, underutilized structures, infrastructure upkeep and maintenance issues.

Many of the recommendations outlined in our Park Solutions paper were adopted in the City of Toronto Parks Plan, which sets the groundwork and vision for the next five years.

Our Programs How We Do It

Park People is bringing better parks to communities. Better parks bring a range of benefits: social cohesion, access to healthy food, economic development, recreation, and healthier communities. There are also significant environmental benefits - tree cover and greenspaces reduce heat island effects, absorb carbon emissions and air pollution, and reduce stormwater runoff.

In marginalized neighbourhoods parks are even more critical. These parks are the residents’ backyard and community gathering place. They are often the only opportunity for youth and new immigrants to be exposed to nature. Unfortunately, many of these neighbourhoods are served by parks that do not meet the community’s needs.

 

Better Parks in All Neighbourhoods

We are supporting the creation of new local park groups across the city, particularly in low-income neighbourhoods. As part of this effort, we are creating a “How to Set Up a Local Park Group” kit to assist these groups.

We are working with park and community groups to resolve issues and support new projects, with a particular focus on Priority neighbourhoods and communities with significant populations of new immigrants. For example, we assisted the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee in obtaining city permission and city funding to build a tandoor oven in R.V. Burgess Park.

We are building a network of park advocates with more Park Talks, our next Park Summit in spring 2017 and updating and expanding web based and social media resources for local park groups.

We are monitoring and influencing decision making at City Hall to ensure strong support for our parks and communities in budget discussions, the upcoming Parks Plan consultations and in new policy development. 

 

Funding and Program Partners

Park People's work is generously supported by TD Bank, the George Cedric Metcalf Foundation, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Live Green Toronto and individual donors. 

Our key work is with 60 local park and community groups across Toronto actively engaged in improving and animating their local park. We also partner with local BIAs, community agencies and City of Toronto staff to bring positive change to parks and neighbourhoods. 

Program Impact

More than 400 People, including 40 City of Toronto staff, attended our most recent Park Summit in 2016;

2500 currently receive our Park People newsletter. We have a social media following of over 6000. 

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

  • Civic Engagement - less than 66% of Toronto residents reportedf eeling a strong or somewhat strong sense of belonging (Toronto's Vital Signs® 2011)
  • Health and Wellness - less than 15% of children are active (Toronto's Vital Signs® 2010)
  • Environment -more than 12 % of city is now an urban heat island (Toronto's Vital Signs® 2010)

Participant Vignette

Park People has been working with Sabina Ali and the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee to assist them in challenges they have faced trying to get city park staff approval for projects that are animating R.V. Burgess Park. “Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee is very supportive of Toronto Park People’s effort to work with local groups across the city who are interested in transforming their public space into a place that builds and enriches the community and the neighbourhood.” 

“I’m not sure I would have gotten involved with my park without the inspiration you provided. So – thank you!” Julia Lo

What You Can Do

Better Parks in All Neighbourhoods

Activities a donation will support

Park People is actively working with community groups in Priority Neighbourhoods such as Thorcliffe Park and Kingston-Galloway to improve their local parks. Donations to our project will go directly to expanding our work into more priority neighbourhoods and communities with significant populations of new immigrants. 

Donation impact

Revitalizing a local park and connecting it with the community can turn a potential neighbourhood blight into a dynamic space, leading to a more active, healthier and more engaged community. 

Contact

Dave Harvey
Executive Director
416.885.6177
Charitable Number: 130560188RR0001

Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 125,000

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