The well-used and much-beloved Christie Pits Park is slated to get a makeover with many of its old features fixed up and new features added to help the surrounding community enjoy the space.
The proposed changes to the park were unveiled at a recent public meeting at the Bob Abate Community Centre, with local residents dropping in to look at the designs and offer feedback.
Councillor Mike Layton, whose office hosted the meeting, noted some parts of the park are in definite need of an upgrade – particularly the paved paths running through Christie Pits, which have become worn and cracked.
“It’s pretty clear people love the park and love the way it operates, but some stuff in there is old and tattered and some of the pathways, at the time they were built, didn’t completely acknowledge safety implications,” he said.
Steep asphalt walkways leading down into the park would be replaced by more accessible, safer pathways with gentler slopes that will allow those with mobility issues to enter the park safely from multiple points.
The park revitalization will also feature plenty of new features for park users.
“Looking forward, one of the things we really want to add is improved seating around the (bread and pizza) oven beside the kids’ play area,” Layton said.
“We’re also looking at another basketball facility. Right now, there’s an old basketball pad and there was volleyball equipment on a cement pad there. We’re looking to build a suitable facility across the two pads.”
Other improvements would see a community hub installed around the fire pit, improved fencing around the baseball diamond – complete with a warning track – and a play feature to replace the park’s old merry-go-round.
Friends of Christie Pits chair Monica Gupta believes the community would rather see a climbing structure there than another merry-go-round, given that there are more older children in the neighbourhood these days.
She, and some others in attendance at the Tuesday, Feb. 12 meeting, also wanted to see a covered area near the park’s pizza oven, something that could yet be added.
“There are obviously improvements required to the pizza oven to make it a better community space,” she said.
New banquet-style seating will provide some of those improvements.
Gupta was pleased with the proposed changes overall, noting they were long overdue.
“As a whole, it’s great, and it’s nice to be able to be a part of the process,” she said. “We haven’t had funds (to upgrade the park) for 10 years, so we’re happy to have the commitment from the government.”
There is also talk of installing a new stage in the Christie Pits bowl, a proposal welcomed by Felan Parker of the Christie Pits Film Festival, which screens films in the park every summer.
“It will hopefully give more room for our audience,” Parker said, noting the festival drew roughly 1,000 people to its free screenings at times last year – up from its historical highs of 500 audience members. “The hill was pretty packed.”
Layton noted Christie Pits hosts several events every summer where groups must bring their own stage spaces, and the addition of a more permanent installation would make things easier for those groups while opening the park up to other groups.
“The purpose of building a stage there wouldn’t be that we’d start hosting musical events every weekend or anything like that, but we could possibly extend its use to other events and have community groups hold recitals and performances there,” he said.
Longtime park user and park advocate Jode Roberts feels the stage could help animate the park and hold other uses as well.
“I always hold my son’s birthday party in the park and the stage could be used as a covered area for birthday parties and other get-togethers when it’s not being used for other events,” he said.
Roberts added that, as a frequent user of the park’s pizza oven, he is looking forward to improvements to make that feature more of a park asset.
In addition to the physical features proposed, Gupta said she would like to see more human resources put into the park.
“Everything there now is run by volunteers, and that’s lovely, and great, but what we would like to see is (City of Toronto) rec staff in there to help with programming,” she said.
Other additions to Christie Pits would include new lookouts that provide vantage points into the park’s bowl area, while Ping-Pong tables on concrete pads would give park-goers another fun play feature.
Drainage in parts of the park would also be improved.
The park upgrades could come in multiple phases, with future phases addressing surfacing on some of Christie Pits’ smaller baseball diamonds, and upgrades to the ice rink and coffee shop.
Layton said he hopes the lion’s share of the work can be completed by next spring.
“We know we have to avoid the baseball season for upgrades to the baseball fencing and we want to avoid having it happen during the park’s most-used times so people can continue to use it,” he said.
Those looking for more information on the upgrades can contact Marco Bianchi in Layton’s office at email@example.com