Work on much needed improvements to the Hillsboro entrance of Ramsden Park is scheduled to start the Fall of 2018. The ramp will be 116 metres long and will be AODA-compliant (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act).
The initial plans for the Hillsboro entrance were presented by the CIty at a public consultation held in 2014. These plans did not involve an elevated ramp of the magnitude that the City subsequently approved for the site.
In July of 2017, approximately 15 trees were marked for removal. The local residents became worried by the bright orange “X”s on majestic and mature maples. This started an outcry from community members who were also concerned with the environmental effects of a massive steel ramp on the slopes of the ravine, not to mention the cost, estimated at over $750 k. (media HERE)
ABCRA worked with local residents to ensure that their voices were heard at City Hall.
Ramsden park has several other park entrances fully accessible at grade level, therefore, we questioned the need for the initial plans which called for a 187 m long and 10 ft high ramp with 7 switchbacks and a 2 m-wide staircase running through the structure at mid-point.
Several meetings were held with Councillor Wong-Tam, Parks Forestry & Recreation staff, and representatives from PMA Landscape Architects Ltd. The necessity for the ramp was discussed - particularly given that the City does not clear park paths and ramps of ice and snow. This could render the ramp inaccessible to everyone during the winter season. We also discussed ways that the ramp could be scaled back to minimize visual and environmental impacts.
ABCRA commissioned alternative designs and made presentations to the October 27th meeting of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee (see PDF of presentation HERE).
Members of the Committee expressed concerns about flaws in the City’s design which would be an issue for the visually impaired as the original concept included a staircase which requires an interruption to the handrails of the ramp. ABCRA also identified this to be an issue for individuals with cognitive impairments who might be subject to disorientation on an elevated ramp. In addition, we heard from people who assist persons in mobility devices such as manual wheelchairs. They are worried about the ability to push a device and its passenger a long distance uphill. We also heard from dog owners whose furry friends will not set their paws on a metal structure with gaps intended for water and snow run-off.
As a result of ABCRA’s engagement, the plans for the ramp were revised considerably to take into consideration individuals with all disabilities. The ramp length was shortened by 20 m and the height was reduced by 40%. In addition, the stairs were moved to the east side of the structure. This allows for an uninterrupted railing, a reduction in the number of switchbacks, and also allows for an in-ground path at the bottom of the ramp to mitigate the visual effects of the metal structure.
We also addressed the concerns about the trees and other landscaping issues.
The mature trees that are coming down are mostly damaged or invasive species, such as Norway Maples planted by the City in the 1970s. These species discourage other plants from growing.
ABCRA will continue to work with the City to ensure that site appropriate shade trees will be re-planted and that the Hillsboro entrance will include landscaping which will enhance the natural beauty of the area. We hope that with time mature trees will soften the negative impact of this large structure.
While we are disappointed that we were not able to convince the city to implement an alternative in-ground path that would be accessible, functional and beautiful, we were able to negotiate some improvements and the re-design is a compromise that we are willing to support.
To learn more about the plans for Phase 2 and 3 of Ramsden Park Revitalization visit: https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/planning-development/construction-new-facilities/ramsden-park-revitalization/