TCAT’s Active Neighbourhoods interventions often function as a form of “urban acupuncture” – small changes to unlock big results for local neighbourhood health, safety and community cohesion. While these small, local projects are rewarding, we often wonder what it would be like if we could dream, and plan, on a bigger scale. So last week’s epic Rail Deck Park proposal announcement has our team buzzing.
Building a 8.5 hectare park in Toronto’s dense urban core would dramatically alter the landscape, especially for active transportation. As Toronto continues to outpace population growth projections, the ambitious proposal addresses the severe deficit of available parkland in downtown Toronto. Although funding mechanisms exist to match parkland acquisition with development, we still aren’t close to addressing this growing gap (for a deeper analysis on this, see SPACING’s series: Parks in Crisis). If Active Neigbhourhoods is acupuncture for urban wellness, rail deck park is a major surgical graft.
Urban rail corridors provide necessary transportation infrastructure, but they also contribute to urban heat effects and create linear barriers across the city. In decking over it, the park itself would remove a massive barrier for people walking and cycling. Making downtown accessible and desirable at a human scale will have a massive impact not just for local residents, but also for the large workforce that travels here each day from across the region (not to mention the tourism benefits). It’s bold, exciting and desperately needed. Truly an a-ha moment for a city in desperate need to provide parkland for current and future generations of Torontonians.