March 23, 2023

A Toronto park’s $4.8 million upgrade replaces a winterized washroom with a porta-potty. Here’s why


A popular midtown Toronto park recently reopened after more than four years and nearly $5 million worth of construction — and with all new paths, benches and lighting, a new washroom building in David A. Balfour Park. Is.

But it’s closed for the winter and there’s only one porta-potty to stand in — a situation all too familiar to anyone who’s decided to stroll through a Toronto park during the winter months.

Adri Stark, a senior manager at the charity Park People, told CBC Toronto in an interview, “When we’re designing new parks, the goal is to have parks that meet people’s basic needs, really entry. There is only a baseline bar for

“The failure to provide washrooms in the winter is not unique to Toronto. But it creates barriers to access and restricts park use, particularly for vulnerable communities such as older adults and those with limited mobility. For people living together.”

Of the 187 washroom facilities in Toronto’s parks, only 52 are equipped for winter use. 47 additional washrooms are available at the city’s seasonal outdoor ice rinks. Two more winterized park washrooms are currently under construction, according to the city. And staff notes that high-use parks are equipped with portable washrooms.

But for some residents, that’s not enough. During the COVID-19 lockdown, with more people outside, there have been calls from Torontonians and city councilors to increase the number of washrooms and water fountains in city parks throughout the year.

Adri Stark, a senior manager at the organization Park People, says the lack of winter washrooms in Toronto’s parks limits access, ‘especially for vulnerable communities such as the elderly and people with limited mobility. Took.’ (Provided by Park People)

The City of Toronto says there was never any plan to winterize the new washroom building at David A. Balfour Park, located near St. Clair Avenue East and Mount Pleasant Road.

Planning to upgrade the park, which began in 2015, “premeditated discussions about introducing more washroom facilities throughout the year,” according to a statement from city staff.

A residential ‘don’t worry’ bathroom is not winterized.

Making it clear she’s only speaking for herself, Midtown resident and Summerhill Residents Association president Deborah Briggs says she’s surprised the new building isn’t winterized but “not bothered.”

“The park has little or no winter activities. The children’s playground is probably not used much in the winter, if at all, and there is no outdoor rink,” Briggs wrote in an email.

She notes that even during the winter, the park’s trails are not cleared of snow.

“That being said, I can’t speak for all residents,” Briggs clarified.

But for Edith Wilson, a PhD candidate at the University of Guelph, access to public washrooms is a human rights issue.

Wilson has studied this problem, particularly in Toronto, and says that not having a place to go to the bathroom is a barrier to participating in society.

“When people feel they don’t have enough access to a washroom, they tend to stay home and not get involved in the community,” Wilson said in an interview.

“Because again, nobody really wants to be put in that awkward position — like begging for access to a washroom in a business or … going out into the street or defecating,” he added.

Edith Wilson, a PhD candidate who studies issues related to access to public bathrooms, says that when people feel they are lacking, ‘they tend to stay at home and the reality I don’t join the community.’ (Contributed by Edith Wilson)

Improvements to David A. Balfour Park were part of a larger project to restore Rose Hill Reservoir. A major part of the project involves structural upgrades to the drinking water reservoir buried beneath the park.

Construction started in 2018. The City of Toronto developed a plan for the upgrade of the park through the Rosehill Vision Committee. The cost of renovating the park was $4.8 million.

City staff confirms that a portable toilet will be available at the park during the winter months.

‘Significant’ cost to winterize park facilities

In June, city council directed Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department to modernize park operations and improve services, including winterizing washrooms, though it’s unclear how the city will pay for it.

Requested improvements include more frequent and earlier mowing of sports fields, garbage collection, earlier activation of water fountains and winterization of public washrooms.

Toronto City Council has directed staff to winterize washrooms as part of a plan to modernize the city’s parks. However, it’s unclear how the city will pay for it. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Although a cost estimate is not provided, the financial impact statement associated with the move notes that it is a “significant increase in service levels that will incur additional costs over existing Parks, Forestry and Recreation. Can’t be included in the budget.”

Park People’s Stark acknowledged that expanding washroom access in the winter would come with a price and would require changing the way the city’s parks department is funded.

“We need to work towards ensuring that parks budgets are truly keeping up with population growth in Toronto — as well as the high levels of park use we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic that So far so stable.”

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