In 2012, I held a participatory budgeting meeting asking Brentwood Towers, Deer Park and Chaplin Estates residents how they would like to allocate Ontario Planning Act, Section 37 funds to improve Oriole Park. This allowed local residents to directly select the amenities they wanted for their local park. Descriptions and a short summary of options were provided with city staff on hand to answer questions. One of the top choices the community voted for was to create Ward 22’s first community garden.
Oriole Park abuts several of the highest density communities in Toronto. Most of the residents in these high-rise towers have little opportunity to garden at home. But this initiative is about so much more than the few tomatoes participants get at the end of the summer.
Community gardens are a vehicle for new friendships. They offer a chance for seniors to do a fun social activity. Planting vegetables is also a great chance for our urban kids to learn about planting first-hand.
Last month, after almost a year of hard work, Carolyn Bennett, Eric Hoskins, community members and I opened the garden. I’ve enjoyed visiting it and seeing it grow ever since. I want to acknowledge local merchants who contributed to our opening, including the Mad Bean Coffee House, Bite Me Gourmet Hot Dogs, Rachel’s Coffee House, Fanfare Flowers and Sheridan Nurseries.
This garden would not have been possible without our tireless volunteer committee who worked with me and city staff from the beginning to create the garden and to now ensure the new planting beds are properly maintained.