Consensus reached on Wellesley parkette plans: no off-leash

Eric Morse –

A state secret of parkette planning was revealed at a May 14 community consultation on Clover Hill park chaired by councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

It’s apparently the same secret as successfully dressing for dinner: put on all your jewellery, then take something off.

Most people say they just want some green space and some trees, and mostly that’s just what they do want. But—as overheard in post-meeting conversation—if that’s all you present, then somebody will ask where the benches are, or the tables, or the playground, or the fountain, etc. It seems to describe the process perfectly.

Clover Hill Park is the restored original name for the green space at the northwest corner of Bay and St Joseph streets, just east of the driveway to St Basil’s Church. It is being built by city parks staff thanks to Section 37 funding from the U condominium development at Bay and St Mary.

A preliminary plan was presented to residents on Dec. 5; the May 14 presentation (to about 30 community residents) was the final go-round.

According to parks staffer Carol Martin, the plan will be revised once more to take further suggestions into account and the project should be completed by the fall of 2014.

Very few objections to the second-stage proposal were expressed at the meeting. Most residents seemed to feel that the concept was very pleasing and less contrived than the Dec. 5 version had been. For an area roughly the size of four tennis courts, it contains a remarkable number of features, including grass, the older “mature” trees that have stood there for many years, a push-button (“dry” except when you push the button) fountain, a strip of wood chips around a playground, seating in a paved area and a sculpture that has been a landmark since its installation in 1981.

The sculpture, Zen West by Kosso Eloul, forms part of a collection of over 400 pieces collected by Father Donovan of the adjoining University of St Michael’s College, and has been placed on long-term loan to the city.

The major concerns expressed by residents were whether dogs would or would not be permitted (they will be, on leashes), and whether there might or might not be a farmers’ market. The market question seemed to be a point of major contention among many present until it was pointed out by city staff that no farmers’ market is proposed and that the city is not, in fact, in the business of promoting particular activities, merely in that of providing a flexible and green space for public enjoyment.

Kathryn Holden, resident of 62 Wellesley, made the point that whatever features are implemented, they must be sustainable, and that irrigation—both for watering the greenery and washing away the inevitable “remains of the day”—is essential. City representatives responded that irrigation is part of the plan, along with the push-button fountain.

“Our focus was to maintain as much of the existing green space as possible,” NAK designer David Pantaleo said, “and to expand on it where possible. This is a very rare asset that we have on the site right now. It’s incredibly rare for an inner-city park to have this much green space and mature trees.”