On Friday, City Council voted on extending the operating contracts on five City-owned golf courses. While Council voted to extend the contracts with golf course operators by two years, after public pressure from organizations and individual residents, several motions led to wins including a commitment to hold a public consultation in 2021, and to explore opening these lands for free, year-round use.
During the two and a half hours of debate, Councillors spoke about how many emails and phone calls they received, calling for a public consultation on these City-owned golf course parklands and to immediately open up access for free public use during the pandemic. Councillors, including Mike Layton, Kristyn Wong-Tam and Gary Crawford put forward motions that directly responded to our concerns and demands.
This debate wasn’t just about golf courses - it was about how public space in our city is used, who has a say in what it is used for, and ensuring public land serves the greatest public good. It’s time for Toronto to reimagine public spaces to better serve community needs and build a more healthy, resilient, and sustainable city.
Here is what we won:
- Council directed City Staff to report back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee (IEC) meeting in Spring 2021 with recommendations on alternative recreational and community use options for golf courses. When this report comes back to the IEC Committee, it will be an opportunity for the public to comment and speak up on what they’d like to see considered.
- Council voted to hold a public consultation on the future uses of golf course parklands that engages all stakeholders, including people living near golf courses.
- Council voted to direct Staff to consult with Indigenous Affairs Office and Aboriginal Affairs Committee on the future of public golf course lands.
- Council directed the Department of Parks, Forestry and Recreation to explore and pursue options to open up golf courses for yearround public outdoor recreational uses to encourage more opportunities for physical distancing in greenspaces. The department will begin this immediately with a focus on increasing access to these parklands during the winter months by addressing barriers to use.
When the Infrastructure and Environment Committee meets this spring to review recommendations about the future of these city golf course parklands and how the public consultation will take place, we’ll be on alert. We’ll let you know what’s happening when and how you can get involved.
Once the golf season ends at the end of November, the Department of Park, Forestry and Recreation will allow the public to access city golf courses for ‘passive use’. Now, City Staff will look into additional options to increase recreational activities and - most importantly - increase access, since there is limited signage, barriers to entry (e.g. fences), and many local community members may not know they are allowed to use this space during winter months.
A Green and Just Recovery for Toronto
In mid-October, Toronto’s Office of Recovery and Rebuild will release a public report with recommendations on how the city can “build back better” after the pandemic. When you imagine building a more equitable and sustainable city, what do you see? There will be opportunities to engage decision-makers on this in the weeks to come. (Sign up for email updates here).
A coalition for public space for public good
This campaign was the effort of a coalition of non-profit organizations, local community representatives and leaders in the BIPOC-led (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) urban agriculture sector, including Aboriginal Legal Services, Black Creek Community Farm, Sundance Harvest Farm, FoodShare Toronto, University-Rosedale MPP Jessica Bell, Progress Toronto, Toronto Environmental Alliance, and Toronto Food Policy Council. Many organizations have endorsed the campaign including, Afri-Can FoodBasket, Greenpeace Canada, Not Far From the Tree, Toronto Community Benefits Network, Toronto Youth Food Policy Council, Toronto Public Space Committee and Toronto Field Naturalists.
Above: The coalition held a joint press conference at Dentonia Golf Course. Watch the video recording on Sundance Harvest’s Facebook page.