‘You think you’re in the country’: Thistletown residents revel in rare urban greenspace

If you've made your way to the west end of Toronto, you've likely made your way through Thistletown. We hear from residents about the importance all the outdoor space has on this community.

By Brandon Choghri

Fresh air and greenspace aren’t always top of mind when thinking of Canada’s largest city but it’s something residents of Thistletown revel in, with unique access to parkland in their neighbourhood near Islington Avenue and Albion Road.

“You go into the park and you think you’re in the country,” says Ian Douglas, who’s lived in Thistletown for 57 years. “You think you’re miles away, there’s no city at all.”

Albion Gardens Park follows the Humber River, tucked behind the suburbs in the city’s west end. The 5.8 hectares of land provides a welcome escape for residents.

“It’s very enchanting. It’s a great place to go and unwind,” says Douglas.

The park features tennis courts, a children’s playground and a lengthy trail that stretches to the West Humber Parkland.

“I come play with my son,” Gogi Jadpal tells CityNews. “He plays tennis and then I go walk almost five, six kilometres in the back.”

Overhead view of Albion Gardens Park.

A drone shot of the children’s playground at Albion Gardens Park.

Toronto boasts 8,000 hectares of parkland, covering 13 per cent of the city. Toronto’s Parkland Strategy Preliminary Report estimates that’s equal to 28 square metres of greenspace per person, less than similarly sized American cities like Houston and Los Angeles. Toronto’s parkland supply is expected to shrink down to 21m² per person due to population growth over the next decade.

Improving that number is a key part of Toronto’s citywide Parkland Strategy, a 20-year plan approved back in 2019.

“This network of green infrastructure supports and provides essential social, economic, health and ecological benefits,” reads a statement from the City of Toronto.

“Not only is access to parks important for physical and mental well-being but these spaces are where people gather to build community and to play, celebrate and explore.”

Douglas says the park has helped transform the neighbourhood, drawing new parents to the area.

“Not an evening goes by where you don’t see maybe fifteen, twenty families going into the park, and these are families with young children. It’s just great to see.”

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