Great public places create community and vice verse – community creates great public places. We all live and work and play somewhere, and we are constantly influenced by our surroundings in terms of our mood, our interactions with others, and our behaviours. Of course, I am a huge fan of Jane Jacobs and I continue to read and think about public spaces and places, especially within cities.
The Project for Public Spaces, which has an excellent website (www.pps.org) has a concept of “The Power of Ten” – that a great place needs to offer ten things to do or ten reasons to be there. The Power of Ten means that this great place will attract lots of diverse people who will interact together, all with different motivations to be there.
I live near the Toronto Beach and I love it (geographically defined by me as at the water, with the west border at Ashbridges Bay/Coxwell and the East border at the Water Filtration Plan/Victoria Park Ave). I think it is truly a great place, and here is my “Power of Ten” list of what to do for my beloved Beaches area:
1. Exercise – my go-to for running and biking, with wide open sky and a very long boardwalk, as well as public water fountains throughout. There are also exercise stations (like chin-up bars etc) although I don’t use them. The beach makes me want to put on my runners and run, just so I can get down to see the beach.
2. Playgrounds for children – Lots of excellent playgrounds all along the beach, from what my family calls “The Purple Park” on the eastern edge (with an awesome sandbox filled with trucks and diggers that people have left) to the castle at Kew Park to the toddler-friendly little park right at the pool…
3. The Pool – I am SHOCKED when some of my neighbors say they have never been to the pool! The Donald Summerville pool is amazing – free, outdoors and three pools – a kids pool, a diving pool and an olympic sized pool with lanes. This is our go-too place with the kids – we love it!
4. Swimming in the lake – I love the pool but I also love to splash around in the lake. People still don’t seem to know that the lake water is perfectly fine to swim in, internationally recognized by the Blue Flag program. There are very few people, even on the hottest days, in the water. Often the water is choppy so I don’t swim per-se, but I do jump in, and I have been known to jump in the water in my clothes, just to cool off.
5. Lake sports – people are on the lake doing all kinds of activities, from canoeing, kayaking, para-sailing (I SO want to take up this sport!)
6. Kids soccer – my son plays on the Beaches Soccer League, which has 1300 players from ages 4 to 16. It is wonderful to go down to the beach and watch my sons soccer – a real community event where everyone is out.
7. Play in the sand – make sand castles, inukshuks, bury your body etc etc – There is lots of fun to be had on the sand. My kids and I have made awesome sand castles, and of course, they also enjoy burying me in the sand. There is a guy who makes amazing inukshuks with the rocks on the sand, always out there on a summer weekend.
8. Eat ice cream and other treats! Of course, when you’re frolicking around on a summer day, you and your family may be looking for an icy delicious treat. Close to the beach is Queen St with lots of ice cream and frozen yogurt shops. I especially highly recommend Ed’s Real Scoop where the ice cream is made in-house!
9. Reading on a park bench – I love reading and I love finding nice public places to read, and there are plenty of park benches along the beaches boardwalk to relax and read. There are also beautiful trees to read under if you are looking for shade. I spend a lot of time during my maternity leave, with my baby asleep, reading under a tree or on a park bench.
10. Pray / Appreciate the beauty of nature – I don’t explicitly pray to God, but I do go to the beach just to feel connected to nature. The beach waves calm me, and the big open sky reminds me that my life is a part of this big and amazing and beautiful world. And no matter what is happening in my personal life, the sun is always rising and setting each day and the waves are always moving. When I am upset or anxious and just need to clear my head and breathe, I go to the water. And if its not too cold, I dip my toes in and give thanks for my life.