In the central core of many cities, green spaces are like jewels. They’re valuable, particularly in high-density areas, where parks are treasured as the only open spaces for residents. They’re rare because many large cities did not set aside adequate space for public parks. And, like jewels, they tend to be small.
Still, in the same way that individual gemstones may not impress until they are strung together to form a stunning necklace, linked greenspaces have the capacity to change an urban landscape. Individually, small parks may not appear to provide much benefit, but when strung together by safe, vehicle-free connections, they can improve quality of life by providing viable spaces to run, walk and cycle.
We see this phenomenon on display in central Toronto, one of the world’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas, where Golder has been involved in creating a “string” of cycling and pedestrian routes that connects several small parks together, so that they provide a larger experience to area residents.
In recent years, there has been intense growth west of Toronto’s downtown core. Some of this growth is in the popular Liberty Village area, with its 19th-century factories and warehouses refurbished as homes for Toronto’s burgeoning high-tech sector. There’s also a growing forest of residential high-rises looking down on the small patches of green space in the area.
The available green spaces include the grounds of Fort York, a reconstructed early 19th Century fortification built by the British colonial authorities to protect the then-fledgling city. Continuing south of Fort York, residents can access the extensive public space that runs along the north shore of Lake Ontario. The first challenge was to provide park users with a safe way to cross two heavily used rail corridors, each with multiple tracks; the other was to address the area’s legacy of impacted soil.
Working as a team to make the best use of resources
In 2014 Golder joined one of three consortiums competing for the Garrison Crossing project. The team included Pedelta Canada Ltd., part of a globally renowned firm specializing in innovative bridge designs. The bid process involved a community meeting held at Fort York, where each team described their vision for the project and residents were able to provide feedback. Golder’s role, as part of the team that won the contract, was two-fold – environmental and geotechnical. The project was awarded by CreateTO, who led the project on behalf of City of Toronto.
Golder reviewed existing soil characterization data to advise the project team on excess soil management strategies associated with the bridge construction. Golder also reviewed designs for the north bridge landing and the associated park, to confirm that they complied with the risk management plan and certificate of property use for the landing site. To manage the legacy of impacted soil, including fill that had been placed on the site many years before, the affected areas were graded and capped to meet regulatory requirements established for parkland.
One challenge was to keep the bridge landing footprint small, to avoid taking up park space and minimize the impact on the Fort York heritage site. To help reduce this footprint, Golder developed shallow and deep foundation designs for the bridges, ramps and retaining walls. The two signature stainless-steel bridges (the first such bridges in North America) are comparatively light, but the foundations had to address wind loading on the high steel arches. Golder’s work also included assessing the impacts and interactions of the new abutments with existing retaining walls along the railway.
In addition to using the available land efficiently, the project had to show good use of public funds. Golder helped save costs and support timelines through its extensive knowledge and experience with the subsurface conditions in the area, providing support to the design and construction team throughout the project delivery.
The Garrison Crossing project opened to the public in 2019, improving access to the waterfront and providing a recreational resource to a growing area population in a place where each parcel of green space is treasured.