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Changes coming to venerable Trace Manes Park

The City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department held a public information session at Trace Manes Community Centre on Monday, March 27, to discuss their plans for improving Trace Manes Park, and, as their announcement stated, to develop “a shared vision for park enhancement” with the community.

Neighbourhood residents were able to examine several conceptual drawings of the proposed changes to the playground area of the park, and to discuss them with Jillian Walsh, Georgia’s mother; Rich McAvan, a landscape architect from Harrington McAvan Ltd., and Councillor Jon Burnside. Several members of the Parks Department were also on hand to discuss the project, answer questions and hear feedback from the residents in an informal discussion format.

The driving force behind the project is Jillian Walsh, whose goal is to find a way to unite the community in memory of her daughter, Georgia, who always enjoyed spending time in the park. Jillian explained that her family wants “to give back to the community for their support, and to enhance Leaside.”

To that end, she has worked tirelessly for two years to raise funds for the project, mostly from private individual and corporate donors. The two Georgia Walsh Memorial All-Star Baseball Games in August 2015 and 2016 served as fundraisers as well. To date, the total raised is $1.1 million.

The proposed changes focus on modernizing and upgrading the narrow strip of land between the Leaside Library and the Tennis Club that now includes a playground and wading pool. The old playground equipment will be replaced with a series of modern swings, seesaws, disks and spinners, all designed to develop motor skills as well as be fun to use. There will be equipment for special needs children, and the base will be rubberized to make it wheelchair accessible.

In addition, the wading pool will make way for a splash pad filled with a number of different water features that spray water when activated by a button. Because they are set on timers and have to be activated, they are an improvement over a wading pool because there is no standing water, no lifeguard is required and electrical costs are kept to a minimum. The splash pad can, therefore, function all day long without an operator, and it appeals to children of all ages.

The playground and splash pad will be surrounded by a low ornamental fence to reduce the risk of children running into the street, and there will be increased seating areas including shaded options. Other proposed improvements include wider pathways, better materials and lighting, additional site furniture and bike racks, as well as a small floral or herbal garden, according to Senior Project Manager Tony Nagy.

Overall three different design styles were presented: modern, natural and a hybrid of the two. It is hoped that construction will begin in the spring of 2018 and take about four months to complete.

Comments from residents at the meeting included concerns about parking, noise, and electricity and water use. But these worries were, by and large, allayed by city staff, and by Mrs. Walsh’s comment that their objective is “to integrate as much opportunity as possible for a variety of equipment to maximize the space, to cater to a broader age range and to serve the whole community.”

There is no decision yet as to how Georgia Walsh will be commemorated in the parkette, but as Councillor Burnside stated, “This is a wonderful way to honour her.” Mari Caravaggio, business development officer for the city, said that there are many benefits for the community in this project. “Updating a facility is very rewarding and will create a legacy for years to come.”