withrow park

Toronto resident sick and tired of construction vehicles parking in public parks

Sarah Elton lives across from Withrow Park in Toronto's Riverdale neighbourhood, and while the view from her window used to consist mainly of trees swaying and kids playing, lately she mostly stares out at rows of parked trucks.

The issue has been a consistent headache for Elton since a house on her street was torn down and new construction began roughly halfway through 2020, and the best-selling author told blogTO she has done everything in her power to have it remedied — unfortunately without much success.

"I see trucks parking frequently, using the public space as their private parking lot," Elton told blogTO, adding that children in the neighbourhood often use the park unsupervised and these vehicles present an obvious danger to them.

"You have vehicles in the public space where kids don't expect them to be."

And Elton isn't just worried about safety.

The Toronto resident said these trucks often drive over and park directly on the root zones of trees. And as someone who researches ecological public health as part of her job, she said this directly endagers the life of a much-needed tree that cannot simply be replaced tomorrow.

"Trees such as the ones that line Withrow park provide us with all kinds of health support," she said, explaining that creating shade in the summer and serving as a home for biodiversity are just some of the ecological health supports provided by trees.

"These trees determine our health so when we allow construction vehicles to drive over their roots… we're actually endangering our own health."

But while the negative impacts of massive construction vehicles parking in a public place where kids play and trees grow may seem evident, Elton said she hasn't had any luck at getting the problem resolved. 

She told blogTO she has contacted 311, a bylaw officer, her local city councillor, and Toronto Police, but her concerns have either gone ignored or been passed off to a different authority. 

"Either the city doesn't have the inclination to stop it or the city has no power to stop it," she said, "but this idea that the park is a parking space for construction vehicles associated with a private construction company is wrong."

At one point, Elton was so desperate that she actually approached a few of the drivers herself, but she said she was immediately met with hostility and anger. 

"I tried to explain that they were killing the trees," she said.

But their immediate response was to yell at her, she said, and they also maintainted that parking in the park is more considerate than blocking traffic. 

"That to me was just such a Toronto answer," she said. "The idea of cars and vehicles over any other priority was depressing."

One of the drivers also told Elton they had received a permit from the city to park there, but a spokesperson for Parks, Forestry and Recreation confirmed to blogTO "that a permit was not issued and vehicles would not be allowed to use the park for this purpose."

The spokesperson added that the park supervisor checked on the situation at Withrow Park yesterday and the trucks were gone by the time he arrived, but staff will contact parking enforcement for a follow-up if it happens again.

But Elton said she already contacted parking enforcement and they said it was not within their power to deal with and instead had to be handled by Parks, Forestry and Recreation — pointing to clear jurisdictional issues.

"It's part of a larger pattern in the city where we see construction not respecting the trees in our neighbourhood and my impression is that the city rules that are designed to protect urban tree canopy seem ineffective," she said.

"I think that the city should generally be enforcing tree protection and enforcing vehicles in the park. Private vehicles should never be allowed to drive in parks. That should be strictly enforced and it isn't."

Lead photo by

Sarah Elton

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