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First Gardens cost $395,000

All of us now know that the construction costs of the second ice rink at the Leaside Memorial Community Gardens is certain to exceed the originally estimated $12.2 million.

What many of us may not know, however, is the origin of the Memorial Gardens.

lt started in 1947 when the Leaside Lions and the Leaside Rotary club began raising money for a sports and community centre to commemorate Leasiders and others who had served in the recently ended Second World War.

The first site suggested was Trace Manes Park, but because of problems with the underground water stream running through that location, the present site was finally chosen.

The project, which then included only the arena and the auditorium, was approved by Leaside Town Council in 1951. The original building cost was $395,000, of which almost $160,000 was raised by the service clubs, individuals and local business.

At that time none of these donations were tax deductible. The balance was paid out of municipal tax revenue. A portion financed by a bond issue was fully repaid in 1973.

ln 1957 the swimming pool was added at an approximate cost of $153,000, of which the province paid $5,000 and the town $25,000. The balance came from surplus Gardens’ revenue.

The curling rink, under a separate board of management, was built in 1962.

The Gardens is administered by an unpaid volunteer board of management, formerly appointed by Leaside council and then East York council. Now it’s appointed by Toronto City Council for a four-year term.

The current board members are Brooke Biscoe (chair), Paul Burns, Allan Williams, Charlene Kalia, Ray White, Jeff Dover, Elaine Snider, Barry Samuel and Cheryl Bannier. Past board chair Paul Mercer heads the construction committee.

Over the years the board has
set rates for the use of the facilities that have invariably covered operating costs. Since amalgamation, no operating subsidies are paid to the Gardens by municipal taxpayers.

We are most fortunate to have these facilities and the community volunteers who administer them.

Leaside Memorial Community Gardens helps to make our community the desirable place it is to live in and raise a family. The volunteers are part of the great Leaside tradition of community involvement and participation.