Downsview Park is nestled in the heart of Toronto. It is a large, open park with rolling hills. The park spans over 572 acres, with both field and dense forest land. The expansive land stands as an oasis of green park space for people living in North York. The park is full of green spaces and walking trails for people to enjoy a break from the urban environment. However the park could have more improvements made to elevate the park to the next level.
Downsview has a rich history, as the land was first used as an aircraft manufacturing plant during the Second World War, then became a military base before being turned into a park. In the 1990s, the conversion from a military base to a park marked the location of the largest restoration project in Toronto. There were plans to turn the entire military base land into a large forest park called “Tree City”. Funding challenges prevented this plan from continuing, but in 2006, the park was developed with the fundamental principles and concepts still in place from the original plan.
The plan, however, had poor execution in some aspects of the park. When designing the parks, the developers wanted to have a part of the park as a prairie section with its natural inhabitants. However the soil was not able to support the ecosystem that they wanted to have. More importantly there was a lack of stewardship and support for these ecosystems after they were first planted.
Notably, prairie ecosystems require occasional wildfires, similar to High Park’s black oak savanna, in order to persist. Much like in High Park the local neighbourhood homeowners did not want to have fires in their local parks. Moreover, government support for such programs was lacking, impeding the maintenance of prairie ecosystems within the park.
Many trees are planted in High Park every year, however many suffer from a high mortality rate. This is mainly due to a lack of maintenance and care on the trees. Many trees die from lawn care machinery damaging the base of the tree and causing a fungal infection. Additionally, when sapling support steaks are not removed from the tree, and the ring that supported the tree is left in place and suffocates the tree.
Downview is a really amazing open space for Toronto’s infrastructure-filled landscape. However its shortcomings show the importance of maintenance for these green projects. Many projects are left not properly maintained and lose their proper function. It is important to keep in mind the future of the project not just during the construction or planning phase. If the lifespan of green infrastructure is taken into account it will create a world where people can get the most value out of the infrastructure investment they paid for.