The New Wave of Parks
Meadoway Western Gateway in Toronto. Credit: TRCA

In Park People’s 2015 Making Connections report, we profiled creative strategies cities were using to ensure parks kept pace with growth. Pressures have only intensified since then, and will continue to intensify due to COVID-19, resulting in further innovations in planning and design.

In Part 1 of our story, we took a look at the challenges and opportunities of navigating the constraints of the changing city for parks. In Part 2, we showcase leading examples of projects that use creative measures to expand parkland.

Layering: parks up top—and underneath

Cities are planning for spaces that do double—or even triple—duty by layering parks on top of or underneath rail corridors, highways, malls, water filtration plants, and more.

Rendering of Oakridge Mall park woodland area. Credit: Vancouver Park Board
Rendering of Oakridge Mall park woodland area. Credit: Vancouver Park Board
  • Vancouver’s park on top of Oakridge Mall, will swoop up from ground level to ensure accessibility and provide space for sports, naturalized areas, and social gatherings.
  • Calgary’s Flyover Park, a new park built underneath an overpass, was created through a partnership between University of Calgary landscape architecture students and local sixth graders and the Bridgeland Riverside Community Association.
  • Langley Township’s Jericho Reservoir Park is a new water reservoir being built that will include a park sloping onto its top, providing amenities like pickleball.
  • Montreal’s 62-hectare Parc Frédéric-Back is built on top of a former landfill, which will include large naturalized areas and social spaces.
  • Toronto’s Rail Deck Park, a planned 8-hectare park over a downtown rail corridor, is north of a new running track and basketball court built on top of the Canoe Landing Community Centre and near The Bentway, a public space underneath an elevated expressway.
Stitching: greenways to tie a city together

As cities turn to bolstering connectivity within their park system, linear parks and greenways are helping to stitch parks and neighbourhoods together.

High Level Line Railtown Green in Edmonton. Credit: High Level Line
High Level Line Railtown Green in Edmonton. Credit: High Level Line
  • Edmonton’s High Level Line is a community project seeking to tie green spaces and neighbourhoods together using an existing rail line.
  • North Vancouver’s 35km North Shore Spirit Trail, a collaboration with the Squamish Nation and other levels of government, ties together the waterfront with community facilities, including a mini-suspension bridge.
Spirit Trail. Credit: City of North Vancouver
Spirit Trail. Credit: City of North Vancouver
  • Vancouver’s Arbutus Greenway is a 9km trail along a former rail corridor connecting multiple neighbourhoods through a newly approved master plan.
  • Waterloo’s Laurel Greenway is a priority initiative from the recently adopted 2019 Uptown Public Realm Strategy, which will connect Laurel Creek, a new LRT station, and Waterloo Public Square.
  • Toronto’s Green Line Implementation Plan will create a 5km linear park through an urban hydro corridor and The Meadoway will connect Scarborough neighbourhoods through a 16km trail in a hydro corridor.
Re-allocating: opening up streets for people

By temporarily or permanently re-allocating space within the public right-of-way, cities are using their own streets as a resource for enhancing public space.

Montreal pedestrian street. Credit: Park People
Montreal pedestrian street. Credit: Park People
  • Spurred by COVID-19, Toronto is creating “quiet streets” that target those adjacent to parks, Montreal is planning a network of “active family streets,” and Vancouver is studying longer term pedestrianization.
  • Toronto’s Berczy Park included the redesign of an adjacent street as a curbless, flexible space.
  • Vancouver’s new parks master plan, VanPlay, includes policies to explore street closures for parkland acquisition and temporary activations, cementing in policy the city’s practice of piloting new plazas on streets, such as Jim Deva Plaza, and temporary street activations through VIVA Vancouver.
  • Kingston’s City Hall pop-up pedestrian plaza on Ontario Street ran for two summer weekends in 2019, creating space for salsa dancing, yoga, and a DJ.
  • Guelph’s Guelph Market Square was redesigned with a flexible adjacent street that can be closed off to cars to accommodate events and programming.
  • Longueuil’s redeveloped Empire Park, removed a street that crossed the park to improve safety and user-friendliness.