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Riverdale Farm could fall victim to Toronto budget cuts - Globe and Mail

July 14, 2011
Elizabeth Church
Globe and Mail

The hunt for savings at Toronto city hall is moving on to neighbourhood zoos, farms, trees and gardens with the fourth and latest instalment of a consultant’s report combing through parks and environment services.

Shutting down the High Park Zoo, Riverdale Farm and the Far Enough Farm on Toronto Island, and scrapping the Toronto Environmental Office are singled out as potential cost-saving moves by the KPMG study. It also suggests tapping volunteers from sports and gardening clubs to maintain playing fields and flower beds. Alternatively, the report says these services could be contracted out.

About 83 per cent of the $187-million parks and environment budget is essential, say the consultants who spent five months reviewing more than 150 city services to finds ways to save. Of the remaining activities, the report zeros in on the Environment Office, with a budget of $11.5-million. The zoo and farms located in the city’s parks – The Toronto Zoo is a separate corporation – are “above standard services,” that represent a “high” potential savings and have a budget of $1.4-million, the consultants say.

Fewer trees and flowers, reduced litter pick up and longer grass are also given as options by the report, which notes that horticultural activities are “not related to maintaining the safety of parks.” It also singles out programs that give access to parkland to local residents to plant gardens.

“This is really a Scrooge special from KPMG to city council,” said councillor Paula Fletcher. “People will be shocked when they hear what the suggestions are. That in order to save money we would shut the zoos, shut the farms, reduce tree planting, reduce grass cutting, reduce litter pickup, eliminate flowers in our parks and eliminate community gardens. What kind of a 21st-century plan is that?

“This is a recipe for disaster for Toronto’s parks. It simply can’t go forward.”

The suggestion of chopping the city’s environmental activities, a legacy of former mayor David Miller’s time in office, does not take into account the bigger costs to society of not addressing issues such as air quality and global warming, said Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

“Torontonians don’t want to live in a city where clean air and a clean environment are considered gravy,” he said.

The findings of the $350,000 study are being rolled out in stages for committees to review. The Parks and Environment committee with discuss the report’s findings next week. A special meeting of city council in September will have the final say on the cuts.

The city is looking to close a funding gap in next year’s budget estimated to be about $775-million.

As originally published here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto/future-of-riverdale-farms-at-risk-as-toronto-city-hall-continues-its-search-for-savings/article2097127/?from=sec431

2011-07-14 Riverdale Farm could fall victim to Toronto budget cuts _Globe and Mail_.pdf17.26 KB