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Summer Wednesdays: Make Don Valley Ravine your local Backyard for this summer.

Leveraging the Summer Night program to connect socio-economically disparate neighborhoods, it's resident and the natural world.

Photo of Marina Queirolo
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

“The ravines are to Toronto what the canals are to Venice, hills are to San Francisco, and the Thames River is to London.” - Robert Fulford Green public spaces transform urban environments, allow us to connect with nature, observe our impact on the planet and build common places that strengthen the social (peace) and economic fabric (prosperity) of communities and have a real and lasting impact, creating a better world for all. Toronto’s ravines are vast, however, are mostly underutilized. As the “backyard” to 250,000 residents (and soon another 60,000), representing some of the greatest cultural and economic diversity in Canada, reclaiming and protecting the Don Valley has never been more important. This ravine has 8 neighborhoods backing onto it; 3 of them made up of predominantly immigrant underserved communities. These residents are in need of spaces to get outside, play and enjoy nature yet they are rarely seen using the ravine and Evergreen Brickworks, an environmental community hub. Leveraging Summer Wednesdays, one of EBW public free programs held weekly at the site, Evergreen, residents and other stakeholders want to co-design and pilot interventions that will foster inclusion, increase visitors diversity and foster equal opportunities to all 8 bordering communities of the lower don. First step will be to address access to the site and ravines by increasing awareness and in some cases skills to be able to walk and bike to the site. For example, a learn to bike and a trail ride for first-generation immigrant women. Secondly, ensure we have included a wider range of activities and opportunities for diverse communities to participate both as vendors at our public markets or performers in our community stage, or simply as a program participant. Creating a place where diverse cultures are celebrated and learn from one another. Empowering new communities to participate, increase their sense of belonging and use of the ravines and Evergreen Brick Works.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries will be members of the nearby Regent Park (transitional but gentrifying neighbourhood) and Thorncliffe Park (low economic, high unemployment, predominantly immigrant neighbourhood ) communities: 70-90% live high-rise buildings with minimal shared public spaces with up to 30% of residents who are children under 14 years of age. Please see pdf attached to eight surrounding neighbourhood, its demographic and the focus groups.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Evergreen Brick Work opened seven years ago. In the early years, we piloted several ways to ensure our program offering was inclusive of diverse populations. The site location and it's limited access made most of the programs for underserved communities were funded through grants, resulting in a top-down approach where the user had limited access to inform the design and delivery of the program. From those years we learned that this top-down approach does not result in long-term deep engagement. In this instance, we’d like to invite members of the three identified communities to Summer Wednesday event and collectively reflect on their needs, what is missing and identify areas to co-create solutions that lead to a more inclusive program and site. This mirrors the rising trend in citizen-led engagement and problem-solving in cities around the world.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Evergreen enables flourishing cities and through our award-winning suite of programs, we have actively engaged Canadians in creating and sustaining healthy urban environments in our schools, our public spaces, in housing and transit systems, and communities themselves. and

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Through time the lower Don River Valley has played a role of bringing people together. First people gathered to hunt, gather and trade. Later in time, Toronto residents met in the valley to skate in winter or bathe during hot summer days. During the industrialization, like many other ravines, it became part of the cities transportation corridors and lost some of those functions. Now, the Don Valley can once again play a role in bringing people together to create a city that includes everyone.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

In the local context of Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto, peace is influenced by the high level of diversity and disparity in the community. People lack connection with each other, across cultural and socio-economic lines. Marginalized groups can feel that they aren’t included or don’t belong while the privileged are not aware. Planet has been influenced by urban growth and a lack of connection with nature, resulting in less sustainable and healthy lives. Urbanites often disregard the value of and their impact on the planet. In the midst of demanding, busy lives, connections with nature and each other get lost.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Over the years Evergreen has partnered with a diverse group of organizations and stakeholders in the delivery of programs at Brick Works. Leveraging on those relationships and existing funding for active living programs, we will work with community groups and private sector to advance this idea. Some identified groups are Thorncliffe Park Women's Committee, Flemingdon Health Centre and Flemingdon Youth Council. In Regent Park, the Center for Social Innovation, Community Food Center Canada, as well as Daniels Spectrum Center and Charlie Free Wheels, will help bring residents, artists and entrepreneurs perspectives into the process. In addition, our current food vendors, restaurateurs and industry leaders such as Muskoka Brewery, Forno Cultura and Etsy currently participating in the summer night program. Last but not least, funders such us Atkinson and Metcalf Foundation, advancing issues on social justice and local economic development in communities around the lower Don Valley.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Toronto Conservation authority, City of Toronto Parks and the city of Toronto more broadly are already working making ravines more accessible and safer through the city. Thorncliffe and Regent Park neighbourhood increase in the population of children and seniors in addition to the diversity of backgrounds and skills in those communities provides an opportunity to create a win/win situation for the city, the site and the residents.

Geographic Focus

This project focuses on underserved communities neighboring the lower don valley in Toronto, Ontario

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

This project can be further prototyped with the community users in the next 2-3 months of the summer. As mentioned, because Summer Wednesdays are weekly, during July and August, there’s an opportunity for rapid iteration with users at the helm. Ideally, learnings from this project can then be extrapolated to winter/spring programming to create a continuous empowerment and ownership by these communities to create long-term benefit.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


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