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Exploring the environmental and social benefits of parks

An exhibit featuring TMU research demonstrates how parks and open spaces are valuable tools for climate action and social engagement
July 31, 2023
A busy park with people riding tandem bikes in the foreground

Parks in Action highlights the role of parks and open spaces in fostering climate action in Toronto’s inner suburbs. Free workshops will explore themes of urban heat, flooding and green infrastructure.

Globally, as we navigate record-breaking heat and unprecedented flood and fire seasons, climate action is top-of-mind. A new exhibition from TMU’s School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP) and University of Toronto’s Centre for Landscape Research is exploring how city parks can be part of climate action and mitigation. 

Parks in Action is a research collaboration that studies the impact of parks at both the macro and micro level, including topics like how parks can mitigate urban heat or how individual parks can be retrofitted to be more sustainable.

“Parks are also gathering places that promote social interaction, health and well-being,” says Victor Perez-Amado, SURP professor and co-curator of Parks in Action. “This exhibition encourages community participation in exploring the design and social engagement of parks to ensure that everyone has access to green spaces and their benefits.”

Perez-Amado says that, “Toronto’s parks fulfill essential social and environmental prerogatives, including mitigating urban heat island effects, supporting biodiversity and improving air quality. They also offer crucial water management goals and reduce the impact of extreme weather events.”

“This project aims to evaluate and measure the social and environmental value of public and private open space assets, including parks, ravines, and rights-of-ways, as they relate to the city's resilience goals,” he said. 

With this in mind, Perez-Amado and his co-curator, U of T Professor Fadi Masoud, designed Parks in Action to include a series of free workshops throughout July and August. Bringing together community members, climate research experts, non-profit organizations and policy makers, the workshops aim to educate park users on the role parks play in climate action, while identifying ways to make infrastructure changes and provide solutions to climate risk.

Each workshop will take place at World Urban Pavilion, 660 Dundas Street East. It is free to attend and those interested in participating should register on Eventbrite (external link) 

Dates and themes of the remaining workshops:

  • August 9: Urban Flooding
  • August 23: Ecology & Green Infrastructure
A group of six people have a lively discussion around a table

The first Parks in Action workshop, pictured here, took place on July 19 and discussed the topic of Public Space Activation. A second workshop, on July 26, covered Urban Hear

Perez-Amado said he hopes another outcome of the series will be to begin building new public spaces called Action Hubs, smaller areas in parks that have programs and installations. 

“Action Hubs are areas that have adaptable furniture, promote multigenerational placemaking, create playful recreational spaces, prioritize biodiversity and facilitate ecological restoration through green infrastructure and food-growing security,” he said.

Parks in Action is a collaborative effort from University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design's Centre for Landscape Research (external link)  led by Professor Fadi Masoud, the City of Toronto Environment & Climate Division, the City of Toronto's TransformTO (external link) , Neighbourhood Climate Action Champions (external link)  and TMU's School of Urban and Regional Planning led by Professor Victor Perez-Amado. 

For more information, visit the Parks in Action website (external link) .

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