Joe Fiorito's The Toronto Star- GTA article-Home is where the parkette is, but for how much longer?
on Carol Sutton and the Joel Weeks Parkette, located on Carroll St/ Thompson St. , Riverside area of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited May 3, 2004/ 2004-05-03 01:00:00 -Home is where the parkette is, but for how much longer?
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QUOTE: "May 3, 2004. 01:00 AM
 Home is where the parkette is, but for how much longer?
All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams.
- Elias Canetti
Carol Sutton was planting tulips in a flowerbed on a recent morning. The bed, full of dark soil and shoots of new soft green, is in a small park on Carroll St., a few steps north of Queen St., a stone's throw east of the Don River.
Carol is a painter and a photographer. She lives nearby. She tends the little park all year long. That handsome silver maple? She found it as a seedling, she tended it and transplanted it. Those gooseberry bushes near the lane? Hers. That rose bush? Hers, too.
She also planted the Virginia creeper which clings to the chain-link fence surrounding the basketball court. In summer it isn't a chain-link fence, it is a wall of green; in autumn, it's a sheet of scarlet; small birds eat the berries all winter long.
On this warm morning, Carol jabbed her trowel into the dirt and planted a tulip amid the irises and the daffodils. She said, "I told the city years ago that if they didn't dig a bed here I'd do it myself." And so the city dug the bed for her. The bed surrounds a sign which reads, "Joel Weeks Parkette."
The city sometimes does the right thing.
Carol stood up, dusted off her knees and said, "I've been doing this for 25 years." There was an edge in her voice. She may not be doing this much longer. Why? Because the city is planning to redevelop Don Mount Court, a social housing project just across the street from the parkette.
The redevelopment is necessary and extensive: there are plans to repair and renovate the housing, cut down most of the trees and reroute a couple of small streets. And, if the city approves the plans tomorrow, the Toronto Community Housing Corp. will drop a block of social housing smack on top of the Joel Weeks Parkette.
Carol shook her head.
She said, "The north part of the park is a playground. This middle part is the public area. There's a jogging trail through here, a kind of figure eight. There are 51 trees in the park. The kids from the Don Mount homework club have their annual barbecue right here. Over there is the finest basketball court in the neighbourhood. Kids come from all around to play basketball. They come on Rollerblades, on bicycles, in cars. They love this court. There's no drug dealing going on here."
She knows what goes on because her studio overlooks the court and the parkette. She cleans up in the morning. She watches what goes on at night. She said, "I've put new nets on the hoops for the past four years. I think this month I've spent $60 on the garden and $30 on new nets." She added, "But I can't even get the city to give me any mulch."
So why does she bother? What's in it for her? She hesitated. She sized me up. And she said, in a voice tinted with the trace of her native Virginia, "I believe we have a responsibility outside ourselves. First to family, then to community, and to country, and to the world. This is my way to help out."
She gathered up her tools and I put another, harder question to her. "I don't oppose social housing," she said. "The original plans I thought were sensible. They were going to close the south end of Carroll St. and extend the park. Of course, they were also going to put a high-rise over there, up on the corner at Dundas. The people in the neighbourhood didn't want the tower. The developer backed out. Now the city has come up with these new plans. But it's like they flew in from Mars or somewhere. They want to take out this park, and two other small ones, and `consolidate' them."
She thinks consolidate means obliterate. She isn't wrong. I had one more question. An obvious question.
The answer is a painful one.
Joel Weeks was a boy who lived in Don Mount Court. On Easter Sunday, 1982, just around suppertime, he and some friends were playing near an open sewer on Carroll St. There was no manhole cover on the sewer. There should have been. Joel lost his balance. He slipped. He fell in. He drowned. He was 8 years old.
Carol said it was raining the day the little park was dedicated. She said city officials showed up, removed some protective garbage bags from the sign, shook Joel's mother's hand and then drove off, leaving her crying in the rain.
"For a long time afterwards," said Carol, "neighbourhood kids would come here with flowers. I think they thought Joel was buried here." And then she went inside to clean up.
Carol Sutton remembers what the city has forgotten, what the planning department has surely forgotten, and what the TCHC has most shamefully forgotten.
I think this is a good time for all of them to return to the top of this column and read what's written there again." END QUOTE.

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