The Importance of Parks Near Your North York, Toronto, Home

Family Picnic

City living is great. Country living in great too. Both of these ways of living have their own benefits and disadvantages: being in the countryside can mean that you have little access to cultural events, and even something as simple as a visit to the cinema can be a bit of a trial. Conversely, living in a city means that everything is within relatively easy reach – but access to fresh air and long healthy walks can be limited. If you must live in a city for work or school, there are ways to make sure you can still reap the ‘outdoor’ benefits of country living. Let’s take a look at the importance and benefits of parks near your home in North York, Toronto.

A Short History of North York, Toronto

York Township was established in 1793 as settlers moved into the area. Over time, as the nearby city of Toronto grew and expanded, gathering a relatively large population of Black residents as freed and escaped slaves made their way to the country, building homes and businesses, the urbanization process absorbed the southern part of the York Township region, while leaving the northern area in the hands of the farming community that had been eking out a living there since the township was first established. Despite this disparity, both North York and South York were expected to pay the same levels of taxation, despite North York remaining relatively undeveloped and therefore underserved as far as municipal services went. This led to North York successfully leading the move to secede from Toronto in 1922, a breach that remained in place until as recently as 1998, when Toronto finally absorbed York Township. Today, it would be difficult for a visitor to note the difference between old Toronto and old North York as the many parts that comprise metropolitan Toronto today fit seamlessly into one thriving and vibrant city.

You Have a Choice of Parks

Thanks to the ‘running together’ effect of joining up many small villages and communities, Toronto has a great number of green spaces which range from tree-lined avenues to beautifully laid-out parks, designed to serve the population of the city by providing leisure and cultural activities, inviting spaces for taking exercise, and simply, green spaces to break up the otherwise monotonous urban greyness of the concrete and glass cityscape. Explore all the parks and find the one that best suits your needs.

1. G Ross Lord Park: Named for the Professional Engineer of the same name, this park is large, covering over 350 acres of land. There are four kilometres of walking and cycling trails – you can also roller-skate or rollerblade here too! – as well as a number of useful amenities which you will find handy. These include washrooms and water fountains, picnic sites and firepits, off-leash areas where responsible dog-owners can let their dogs run about safely, and even places where fishing for carp, bass and more is permitted from the shore. The shore where fishing is permitted is fully wheelchair accessible so everyone can indulge their favourite hobby, and there are also a great number of sporting facilities, with multiple cricket pitches and soccer fields – you can even cross-country ski here when the snowfall is heavy enough! With all these wonderful leisure activities on hand, it may come as something of a surprise to learn that Dr G Ross Lord planned the park for a purely practical reason. This park was laid out to protect nearby homes from the risk of flooding – but he decided that there was no reason why he couldn’t lay out a multi-purpose feature. As well as providing miles of walkways and sports facilities he also was something of a conservationist, laying out trees and bushes and flowers that would benefit the natural world as well as people. This has paid off, and now visitors to the park can enjoy looking out for waterfowl and birds of prey, rabbits and raccoons, and even deer, skunks and coyotes amongst other species. It doesn’t matter where in Toronto you live: the park is served by eight different car parks, so you can approach from almost any direction! Or, of course, you can live right by the park and walk over any time you like. Check it out!

2. Earl Bales Park: A sizeable park, although not the largest in North York, this sculptured garden is named for Robert Earl Bales, a former reeve (a sort of mayor) of the old township. The land on which the park is located used to belong to the old mayor’s grandfather in the early days of the settlement, when farms abounded. Following this, the old farm was transformed into a golf course for a time, and the traces of the former tees and greens are still visible to observant visitors. At 127 acres, the park is home to plentiful walking and cycling trails, playgrounds for children of all ages, a sensory garden, splash pad, outdoor performance space, and picnic and barbecue spots. Commercial dog walkers are allowed to use the fenced-off Off Leash space to exercise their charges alongside other park users’ pooches. There is also a memorial to the Holocaust in the park, because so many survivors of that appalling time settled in the area and rebuilt their lives in the city. The park still attracts visitors in even the snowiest winters, thanks to the Ski and Snowboard Centre which can cater for everyone from the most nervous beginner all the way to more confident skiers.

3. York Mills Valley Park: Just five minutes’ walk from the York Mills subway station, this park is small, but more than adequate if you are longing for a breath of fresh air and some greenery and Nature to immerse yourself in. Benches line the walkways, and the large trees throw welcoming shade that seems to positively invite picnickers to take a seat on the grass and relax for a while. The park offers a cool stroll on even the hottest days thanks to the proximity of the River Don which slides past the park, mostly hidden behind a line of luxuriant thriving shrubs, but still noticeable thanks to the change in temperature and humidity that comes with being close to running water. Just past the park, the river is channelled into a concrete spillway that carries it through the city and away back to freedom. In winter, the hill bristles with toboggans and people, making it an anytime destination for residents.

People At The Park

Benefits of Living Near A Park

But why do we need to access green spaces when the city centre offers restaurants, cinemas and theatres, cultural hubs, retail experiences and more? The answer is a simple one: people like and need green spaces, no matter what else they have going on in their lives. Our mental and physical health is boosted when we regularly spend time out of the house, amongst greenery and wildlife (within reason, bears, for example, aren’t especially good for anyone’s health!) – and besides, it is good fun to walk or cycle to explore new places or revisit familiar ones. Parks are literally good for the souls of city dwellers, and this is why almost every modern city as at least one large, free-to-the-public, park. We need them almost as much as we need shelter, food and safety.

Now you know just how important the parks near your North York, Toronto home are to your well-being, you can make sure that you make the most of these fantastic amenities as often as you can. Why not mix it up and visit all the parks in turn to see which one ends up being your favorite?

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