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Call to Action for Ontario Place

Put Ontario Back in Ontario Place

The Government says it has a new vision for Ontario Place, but what is it?  Giving pieces of Ontario Place to three businesses who will charge people for pay-to-play entertainment does not amount to a vision!

If you share our concern about this, here are some things you can do:

  1. Register here for a Public Information Session on October 27th at 6:30 pm
  2. Click here to fill out the province’s survey. The survey closes October 28th – but note the comments below about this survey
  3. Forward this email to your network all over Ontario.

A Big Caution about the Survey

The Government’s survey is full of leading questions designed to limit your ability to respond frankly and sincerely. The government has not yet committed to making the results of the questionnaire public. 

The questions are written in a way to force respondents to accept the government’s development decisions. It is mandatory to answer all questions. Only three questions have a box where you can provide your own comments.  We suggest you use those boxes to enter your concerns.  Here are some suggestions: 

Question 2 talks about Ontario’s vision and plan for Ontario Place. 

  • In the comment box you can point out that this is not Ontario’s vision.  It’s a “plan” created for commercial interests without public consultation.

Question 3 says open spaces with free public access will be key to the site. Of course, it does not tell you that most of the site will be privatized.

  • You can use the comment box to say that all of Ontario Place should be accessible and affordable for everyone. That was the original vision. More than ever, we need that vision today. 

Question 4b asks which heritage features are important for you. You cannot say they all are.

  • Again, use the comment box to say something like “Ranking heritage features is like asking us to pick which finger we are willing to lose. They are all important and work together.”

Take a few minutes to fill out the survey and register for the Public Information Session.

Your voice counts!

Pine Trees not Palm Trees at Ontario Place

Pine Trees not Palm Trees at Ontario Place

Ontario Place for All says the government’s plans for Ontario Place are a total insult to the memory of former Premier William Davis, who opened the lakeside park fifty years ago this summer. 

Spokesperson Cynthia Wilkey says when the Ford government first announced its plans to redevelop Ontario Place, Davis said, “It would be a shame and a disservice if commercial gain replaced the public interest on the present site of Ontario Place.” Wilkey says that is exactly what the Ford government has done.

“The public has clearly identified the post-COVID need for more open and accessible parkland, but the Ontario government is instead turning two-thirds of Ontario Place over to commercial interests.”

Ontario Place for All says the plans of the three winning companies, Therme Group, Live Nation, and Écorécréo Group, desecrate the original vision of Ontario Place.

“It was supposed to celebrate Ontario,” says spokesperson Suzanne Kavanagh. “But under the current proposals, we are getting a spa with palm trees, instead of pine trees. There’s also no word on how they are going to preserve the award-winning landscape at Ontario Place. How does this celebrate Ontario?” asks Kavanagh.

Another member of the Ontario Place for All coalition says the government is treating the current facilities, such as the Cinesphere and the Pods, as orphans.

“There is no Conservation Management Plan,” says planner Ken Greenberg, “and no indication about how the new facilities are going to be integrated into what is already at Ontario Place.”

Ontario Place for All says supporters need to get ready for a new and critically important phase of the battle to save the lakeside park. It begins on September 6, Labour Day, with a World Monuments Fund “Watch Day” at Ontario Place sponsored by the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and The Future of Ontario Place project. Visitors and supporters will be invited to explore Ontario Place and participate in a scavenger hunt and match drawing of Ontario Place with their memories and hopes for its future. More details can be found at https://acontarionextgens.ca/ontario-place-watch-day/.

Ontario Place Turns 50!

ONTARIO PLACE TURNS 50!

We want to thank the hundreds of you who signed on for our online rally last week kicking off the 50th-anniversary celebrations of Ontario Place.

For those who missed the rally or had trouble signing in at the beginning, you can view the entire event here

Many more Ontario Place videos can be viewed on the Future of Ontario Place YouTube channel.

The government is expected to soon make a major announcement about the future of Ontario Place. Here are some ways that you can help ensure that it is a future that includes all of us:

  • Send this letter to Premier Ford, Minister MacLeod and Mayor Tory demanding that the public and heritage values of the site be respected.
  • On May 22nd, join with us to celebrate Ontario Place’s 50th Anniversary. Here are some ideas:
    • Make a safely distanced visit to Ontario Place and post a selfie with the hashtag #HappyBirthdayOP.
    • Photoshop yourself into an image of Ontario Place and post it on Instagram.
    • Share your ideas for Ontario Place on Twitter and Instagram.
    • Tweet your favourite Ontario Place memory.
  • Watch for Minister MacLeod’s announcement later this month and see if it respects the core principles developed by Ontario Place for All, The Future of Ontario Place and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario.
    • Ontario Place must be for ALL and kept publicly accessible.
    • There must be a thoughtful, comprehensive public review before any changes, with a full and robust public consultation that:
      • conforms to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report’s call for informed, respectful and meaningful consultation with Indigenous peoples over economic development,
      • recognizes the diverse communities that use and contribute to Ontario Place.
    • Public interest, not commercial interest must drive the new vision.
    • Future plans must:
      • acknowledge the waterfront’s Indigenous heritage and incorporate meaningful Indigenous consultation.
      • maintain Ontario Place as part of Toronto’s waterfront park system.
      • be integrated with the revitalization of Exhibition Place.
      • celebrate Ontario.
      • be guided by a collaboratively developed Conservation Management Plan that sustains Ontario Place as a recognized cultural heritage landscape.
  • Make sure to use #HappyBirthdayOP as a hashtag.

Congratulations – You Did It!

Congratulations – You Did It!

Ontario Place for All (OP4All) wants to thank all its members and supporters for the important victory they won yesterday – the Ontario government’s announcement that there is not going to be any wholesale destruction of Ontario Place.

Thousands of you joined OP4All in demanding the government preserve Ontario Place’s unique heritage landscape, including the Cinesphere, the Pods, Trillium Park and the William G. Davis Trail.

Yesterday, Lisa MacLeod, the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries agreed, and in a White Paper, promised that “key heritage and recreational features will remain, such as the Cinesphere, the pods, Trillium Park and the William G. Davis Trail.”

Bill Greaves, with the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, says the government has come a long way from its “nothing can be saved” talk of 2019. “We look forward to working with the Ministry to develop a Conservation Management Plan to manage change and build on the value of what is already there. That’s what governments around the world have done in similar circumstances.”

While yesterday’s announcement is an important victory, the fight for Ontario Place isn’t over yet. 

The Minister says there will be some announcements in the New Year, even though there have been no public consultations on the future of Ontario Place. OP4All’s Cindy Wilkey says it must remain as a park and open public space. “The Minister said yesterday her government recognized the tourism potential of Ontarians’ new embrace of nature and the outdoors during the COVID lockdown. Ontario Place offers an opportunity to capitalize on that momentum.”

OP4All believes yesterday’s announcement was a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go. The Ontario government needs to recognize that Ontario Place is an essential public space and that there needs to be meaningful public engagement in determining its future.

Fight for the Right To Swim at Ontario Place

Fight for the Right To Swim at Ontario Place 

Ontario Place for All (OP4All) is calling on the Ontario government to permanently restore swimming at Ontario Place.

OP4All’s Cynthia Wilkey says, “Four beaches were planned for Ontario Place when it opened almost fifty years ago. Now there are none. This is unacceptable, as swimming is not only popular but also the least expensive and most immediate way for people to experience one of Canada’s Great Lakes.”

Photo credit: Dieter Janssen, http://www.dieterjanssenphotography.com/

Ontario Place for All believes COVID-19 has made it even more urgent to preserve Ontario Place as a park and open public space. While most amusement facilities were shuttered, hundreds of thousands of people continued to flock to Ontario Place, enjoying everything the park offers. Many of them swam at the beach on the West Island this summer, even though it is not an authorized swimming area. 

Some were still swimming there until almost two weeks ago when Steve Mann and six friends were told the beach on the West Island was closed off for a film shoot. “I was shocked to be told I couldn’t go there,” says Mann. “I have been swimming there nearly every day this year, winter, spring, summer and fall. It should not be closed off to the public.”

OP4All’s Suzanne Kavanagh says Ontario Place should not be off-limits to swimmers, as it is the province’s greatest lakeside attraction. “The government should start planning now to restore swimming at Ontario Place not just for next summer, but forever.” 

Joe Cressy, the Toronto City Councillor for Ward 10 (Spadina-Fort York), agrees. “Ontario Place is a key part of our community that provides much-needed access for people to the waterfront, for many activities including swimming. With the current pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we preserve open outdoor spaces where people can exercise, play, and explore safely,” he said. “The beach and swimming at Ontario Place should be open and accessible for everyone.” 

Make sure Premier Ford. Minister MacLeod and Mayor Tory hear our voice. Send them a letter, your own or the one available below, demanding it increase the number of beaches at Ontario Place.

Ontario Place for All also salutes Steve Mann and his group, SwimOP. They have done what the government should have and made swimming at the West Island safer by cleaning up the beach and removing old construction debris from the landfill that created Ontario Place.

2021 will be critical for Ontario Place

2021 will be critical for Ontario Place 

Ontario Place for All hopes you are well and staying safe during this COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 was a brutal year for all of us, and we can only hope things will be better next year. 

Next Year

2021 will be the most important year for Ontario Place since its inception. It’s the 50th anniversary of its opening and we should finally see the government’s redevelopment plans. The government continues to refuse to meet with Ontario Place for All, despite our numerous requests to the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, Lisa MacLeod. The Premier has committed to consulting with Mayor Tory, but that is not good enough. While the pandemic has delayed the process, it has not eliminated the need to engage the public. 

The COVID pandemic has underlined the public importance of Ontario Place. While numerous facilities have been shuttered around the world, hundreds of thousands of people continue to flock to Ontario Place, to relax on the lawns, walk or ride a bike, and enjoy everything the park has to offer.  Some are still swimming, despite the approach of winter. The drive-in movies are still on, and some of them are holiday-themed. It is so important for our physical and mental health to get out as often as allowed, and Ontario Place is a perfect place to take a winter walk. 

Photo credit: Dieter Janssen, http://www.dieterjanssenphotography.com/

 

Minister’s Statement

The Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries said in a speech in October that the redevelopment of Ontario Place is her first priority. “Ontario Place will be central to the recovery of heritage, culture sport and tourism for all Ontarians as we move through the pandemic.” Lisa MacLeod did not spell out exactly what that means but promised that “the historical components of Ontario Place will be protected.” An article by CBC News said MacLeod’s priorities will be to maintain the parkland at Ontario Place and ensure the site reflects the province’s diverse population. Ontario Place for All is waiting to see more details. 

Support is Growing

There is some good news amidst all this uncertainty: A new group has joined the coalition fighting to protect Ontario Place. The World Monuments Fund, Architectural Conservancy Ontario and Daniels Faculty at the University of Toronto have come together to form The Future of Ontario Place Project. The project is working to build the public’s understanding of the heritage values of the site. It has compiled the first consolidated public archives of Ontario Place and called for counter-proposals in a Canada-wide design challenge. Urban Toronto recently wrote about their efforts in an article “Call to Action: Protecting the Future of Ontario Place”.

Those Were The Days

And finally, we want to make sure you have read the recent article in BlogTO, “That Time When Ontario Place Was The Most Fun Amusement Park in Toronto”. It’s a wonderful piece about Ontario Place at its most popular and attractive, with photos and videos showing the Children’s Village, the Forum and people everywhere enjoying the groundbreaking park. 

Fight for the Right to be Consulted

Fight for the Right to be Consulted

Ontario Place For All hopes you and yours are enduring these challenging times. Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter have changed all of our lives and promise to have an impact for years to come.

We are at a critical point for the future of Ontario Place. The Ford government has instituted a bit of a pause in its plans to develop the precious lakeside park and heritage site. It’s asked the three finalists to rework their proposals and has reached out to the Mayor of Toronto, promising that the City of Toronto will have a major say in what happens to Ontario Place.

Make sure Premier Ford, Minister MacLeod and Mayor Tory hear your voice. Send them a letter, your own or the one available below, demanding an open and transparent consultation process for the future of Ontario Place.

One of the lessons we have all learned from the Covid-19 pandemic is the importance of open public space where people can gather safely. It is clear that Toronto does not have enough park space, especially in the downtown, and cannot afford to lose any of what it now has to a private developer.

Now, more than ever, we need both the City and the province to consult with the public, open and transparently, about what they would like to see at a revitalized Ontario Place. The 155-acre site is owned by the public, and we should have a say in its future. Both Ontario Place For All and the City of Toronto have identified principles that should guide any additions to the site.

Use Ontario Place to Help Fight COVID

Use Ontario Place to Help Fight COVID

Ontario Place for All says, in light of the Covid outbreak, the provincial government should reconsider its plans to redevelop Ontario Place.

“One thing became crystal clear over the past weekend,” says Ken Greenberg, urban designer and member of the Steering Committee of Ontario Place for All (OP4A). “The overcrowding at Trinity-Bellwoods showed Toronto needs more park space. Unfortunately, a lot of the greenspace currently at Ontario Place could be lost under the government’s redevelopment plans.”

Committee member Cynthia Wilkey says there should also be some immediate improvements to the lakeside attraction, now that it  has been opened for the summer. 

“We think by building shade structures and adding safely managed food and refreshment trucks, the Ontario government could make Ontario Place a signature item on an agenda of helping people through the summer.” 

Wilkey says it would bring much-needed relief to people who have been socially isolating for more than two months.

The President of Swim, Drink, Fish says Ontario Place should also bring the beach on the West Island up to standard and hire full-time lifeguards. Mark Mattson says Toronto is facing a critical shortage of beaches this summer.

“People can’t get to the four beaches on the Toronto Islands because there is no ferry service. That increases the urgency of using the beaches that we have.”

Mattson says Ontario Place has some of the cleanest water on the lakefront, and Swim, Drink, Fish will resume it’s testing for water quality next week.

Ontario Place for All is calling on the government to abandon its plan to allow the private redevelopment of Ontario Place.

“Amusement parks everywhere have been shuttered,” says Wilkey. “In a world that could see more virus outbreaks, open park space is a better investment.”

Don’t Blow This New Opportunity at Ontario Place

Don’t Blow This New Opportunity at Ontario Place.

Ontario Place for All says the Ontario Government now has a chance to fix its mistake and start over with its plans to spoil the iconic park on Toronto’s waterfront. Ontario Place for All says the process for selecting the winning redevelopment proposal has been delayed, and the government should use the opportunity to rethink its approach to the idea.

To assist in the rethink, Ontario Place for All today released a framework for a reimagined Ontario Place, produced in conjunction with the International parks’ experts, HR&A Associates. Ontario Place, The Value of Toronto’s Public Space proves the government’s focus on the private sector redevelopment of Ontario Place delivers only short-term profits at the cost of longer-term benefits.

Toronto has benefitted from a new vision for the City’s waterfront that used existing heritage landscapes, prioritized the public nature of the spaces, and accommodated a wide mix of activities and diverse communities.

“When compared to public use spaces,” says the report, “commercial uses will typically create short-term improvements but at the expense of long-term enduring benefits.” It says public spaces create stable neighbourhoods, increasing social interaction between different groups and increasing residents’ sense of belonging.

The report also says City’s public spaces are a key reason companies and workers locate in Toronto. “Local amenities are particularly important for employees in the knowledge economy sector.” They increase the attractiveness of working in Toronto by 33%.

Ontario Place for All is calling on the government to use the report as a foundation for a new vision for Ontario Place, one that respects the heritage and cultural history of the site. It should take a more comprehensive approach to reimagine the lakefront site, starting with a robust consultation process. Ontario Place for All also believes there should be an international competition to come up with a new plan for Ontario Place, as was done for Toronto’s iconic City Hall. In the coming weeks, we will be asking you to support our call for a rethink and a competition to bring the best ideas forward.

Press Release, SEPT. 2019

End the Secrecy about the Future of Ontario Place

For Immediate Release – September 24, 2019

Ontario Place for All is calling on the provincial government to lift the veil obscuring it’s plans for Ontario Place. Today is the deadline for developers to submit their proposals for redeveloping the waterfront park, and Ontario Place for All believes the public has a right to know what the future could hold for the award-winning attraction.

“Everything is being done behind closed doors,” says spokesperson Suzanne Kavanagh. “While the government has been holding discussions with developers, it has refused to meet with us or listen to our demands that Ontario Place remains a jewel in Toronto’s system of public waterfront parks.”

Under the terms of the government request for submissions, developers could tear down the Cinesphere, the Pods and the recently built Trillium Park. There is no requirement for the successful developer to keep any part of the park open to the public. Ontario Place could be turned into a gated entertainment community, accessible only to those who can “pay to play”.

Ontario Place for All is calling on the Premier and the Minister to share the developers’ proposals with the public and get their feedback before moving forward. The public needs to have a say in what is going to happen to this iconic park, which already attracts more visitors than the CN tower.

In May, Toronto Council unanimously endorsed a set of principles that align with those put forward by Ontario Place for All and called for a fully transparent process that is responsive to the broader community interests.

“Ontario Place represents 155 acres of exceptionally valuable publicly owned land,” says Joe Cressy, speaking today as the City Councillor for Spadina-Fort York. “We only get one chance to revitalize these lands and it is critical that the public has a chance to review all private proposals before any decisions are made”.

For more information,

Contact: 

Cynthia Wilkey 
wilkeycj@gmail.com 
(416) 892-8941

Suzanne Kavanagh
suzkav123@gmail.com
(647) 309-4365

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