City of Toronto Recreation Service Plan Consultations show high usage in surprising places

The City of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) division is optimistically developing a five-year plan. Consultations are underway. A recent consultation for local agencies on the Recreation Service Plan was well attended, while PFR staff facilitated and recorded participants’ comments. The table discussions were passionate and loud. In fact, because the small meeting room was made of concrete building blocks, people sitting at the same table could not hear each other.

The session began with a summary presentation of current programs.

A city ward map describing where PFR program registrants live showed some surprising patterns. Central Etobicoke and the Beach (ward 32) showed the highest levels of participation, where as the downtown wards showed the lowest. Those outside the city core are more likely to be higher users of community recreation centres than those who live downtown.


High users Medium-High Medium Medium-Low Low Users
 Area of City Over 8% pop. 6.51% – 8% 5.01% to 6.5% 2.01% – 5% Under 2%
Etobicoke wards 4 3 3 1 0
North York & York wards 0 1 9 1 0
Toronto & East York wards 1 3 0 5 2
Scarborough wards 0 2 7 1 0

This patterns holds even where residents may have fewer places to access recreation programs, however this was not as easy to tell because not all program locations were mapped.

The summary presentation then described other program components.

The identified (and fairly vague) guiding principles for the PFR plan are equitable access, quality, inclusion, and capacity building. The new Recreation Service Plan will address how the principles can be achieved; what the appropriate program mix should be; what service gaps need to be addressed; and, what other improvements are needed. To develop this, attendees were asked the following questions:

  1. What do you think the barriers are to achieving equitable recreation opportunities across the city and how they can be overcome?
  2. Does the current mix of programs and services support the principle of equitable access to all city residents?
  3. In your opinion, what are the most important areas that the City of Toronto needs to focus on in providing high quality recreation programs and services?
  4. How can PFR engage communities and groups who do not participate in recreation programs and services?
  5. How can PFR help to strengthen communities and who can we partner with?
  6. How can PFR attract, support and retain volunteers?

Among other items, the table discussions raised the following key issues in their responses:

  • PFR is not meeting the current demand. The levels of service often mean programs fill up quickly and registrants are put on long waitlists.
  • PFR should be working in partnership with local non-profits to maximize the use of space, better outreach and local community benefit.
  • The importance of raising the bar vs. driving to the lowest common denominator, that is making sure everyone has access to good local programming
Other consultations are being held around the city.

If you are interested in providing input, the City’s survey is available on-line at www.toronto.ca/parks/serviceplan.

In order to encourage wider input, Public Interest consultants has developed a simpler version at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/accesstocommunityrecreation to submit to the City afterwards.

Responses are due June 30, 2011.

How this new PFR plan will fit with the core service review also going on now is still to be determined.

To see the map from the consultation of program participants as a percentage of the ward population, go to page 12 of this PDF on the City website.

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