Roundhouse Park

by David Fontaine
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Roundhouse Park lies at the base of the CN Tower, on top of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Its 14 acres provides much-needed green space for downtown Toronto and an important link to the city's waterfront. This beautiful park currently sits empty most of the time, but as the population in the area continues to increase more people will come to this park for rest and enjoyment. It is worth taking the time to check it out before crowds become a factor.       

This tract of land formerly served as the Canadian Pacific Railways’ John Street roundhouse. Built in 1929, the roundhouse was used to provide service and repairs to steam locomotives, but was rendered obsolete with the switch from steam to diesel in the 1960s.  Saving this historic structure from demolition provided the city with the opportunity to create the park. 

Today, Steam Whistle brewery uses a portion of the old roundhouse as a brew house for Pilsner beers. The rest of the roundhouse, along with the coal and sanding tower and the water tower, wait for its next tenant. In the future, local interest groups hope to create a museum dedicated to the history of rail in this unused space.

The park itself is dotted with clusters of different tree species.  Aspen, birch, oak, red maple and eastern larch are prominent, and a prairie garden serves as a vital habitat for wildlife, all helping to preserve biodiversity in the Toronto region. With its large collection of trees and wide open space, the park provides a scenic vantage point for viewing the city's downtown office towers.  

Sculptures further enhance this wonderful park. Two large purple snowmen, complete with corn-cob noses, welcome visitors to the nearby convention centre. A large pole with two oversized woodpeckers is illuminated at night by an array of lights.

Just on the north side of the park is the Olympic gardens, created along with Roundhouse Park in the late 1990s.  Hundreds of engraved stones with the names of Canadian Olympians lead you throughthis diverse garden. Its wild flowers, native grasses andbushes, and comfortable benches make for a pleasant resting place.

The last time I visited the park I spoke with people who were taking advantage of this year’s beautiful fall weather.  Most of the people there said that they came to the park on a regular basis to take in some sights and fresh air during their lunch break.  A couple of women from a nearby office tower were enjoying the park’s serenity and peaceful surroundings.  They said that they were surprised by how few people frequented the park.  Of all the urban spaces in the downtown core, they found this park was the quietest and most relaxing, and they didn't understand why more people did not take advantage of it. Thinking about it some more, they smiled, looked at me, and told me that I shouldn't tell anyone about the park.  I could understand how they felt.  All the times that I have been there, I was thankful for how calm and relaxing it was.  While I doubt this article will make a difference to the number of people who visit the park, I do think the work of all the cranes that could be seen around the borders of the park that day will eventually lead to a well used and visited park.

Whether you are making your way to the waterfront, to a Jays or Argos game, to the Steam Whistle brewery for a tasting, or simply heading for open air, Roundhouse park provides a welcome get-away in the heart of the city.  || contact || subscribe || in this issue || stores

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