Turning a City into a Homegrown National Park Turning a City into a Homegrown National Park

Turning a City into a Homegrown National Park

by Natasha Milijasevic

December 15, 2013

Satellite mini-parks are spreading within my community of Seaton Village. This year, the David Suzuki Foundation launched the Homegrown National Park project to create a green corridor following the path of one of Toronto’s buried rivers, the Garrison Creek, which once ran from central-west Toronto down to Fort York on the banks of Lake Ontario. The Homegrown National Park will transpose the qualities of Canada’s iconic national parks into urban residential settings.

A few streets away from Palmerston Square, on Manning Avenue, my eight-year old neighbor Felixe Pellizzari reflects on her green community spirit: “I was so proud to have a sign in front of our house showing that we’re part of the Homegrown National Park. We’re planting flowers and plants for the bees and butterflies on our street and that’s good for the environment.”

In Palmerston Square, we most recently created a massive interactive art installation, recreating the refrigerator magnet poetry concept on a larger scale. Words painted onto recycled carpet tubes can be moved around on a block-long fence to create phrases, sentences, and poems. The concept originated from Annex-based artist Ksenija Spasic and was installed by children and adults in our community, led by resident, Yu Li. Several neighbors knit-bombed the fence with wool flowers and garlands, created fabric trees, and painted on the grey pavement.

This community initiative is crowdsourced, empowering community members and local volunteers to act as Neighborhood Park Rangers. In Seaton Village, Park Rangers have been inspired to create more wild green spaces, so they've started the PS Project: Palmerston Square  | Public Space | Park on the Street.

The PS Project has three principle goals:

1. To create opportunities to reflect, congregate, connect, explore, and grow through the addition of whimsical elements (e.g. tree bridges and ladders or butterfly corridors).

2. To promote stewardship for shared resources through the addition of communal front yard gardens, sidewalk benches, tree houses, and small free libraries along the boundaries of public and private residential spaces.

3. To transform the Square's alleyways into forest, meadow and river-like paths, creating reflections of the natural landscapes that once existed in their place.

Thus far, neighbors have championed local fundraisers and collectively planted raised wildflower beds along an ill-used paved lot bordering Palmerston Square. They've been inspired to green-up their own outdoor living spaces -- front yards, front stoops, balconies – with plants, vegetables, flowers and outdoor chairs. Another neighbor even threw a lantern party in the alleyways of the square.

There are new plans in Seaton Village to build even more garden beds and plant guerilla gardens. Working under a collective banner introduced by the Homegrown National Park has been a magnet to pull out even greater participation from the community. It has inspired us to act together.

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Turning a City into a Homegrown National Park