Parks and wrecks: Why Toronto’s playing fields are in such rough shape | Kelly Grant | June 2, 2012 | The Globe and Mail

Increased urban density stresses multi-sport fields, reports @kellygrant1 , as maintenance budgets don’t rise with usage.

… bringing Toronto’s pitches and diamonds up to the standards of the fields of dreams in suburbs such as Richmond Hill and Markham will take more than the $1.5-million a year the new permit fees could raise, assuming they’re resurrected at the originally proposed rates of $5.31 to $10.62 an hour, depending on the quality of the field.

The challenges are legion: Toronto’s fields are old, overused and under-maintained by a parks department that doesn’t have the money or dedicated staff of turf specialists it needs to properly care for any but a handful of premier pitches and diamonds.  [….]

Most of Toronto’s fields are unfenced and located in the midst of heavily used urban green spaces, meaning the turf is trampled down by the feet and paws of every casual park user.

That’s on top of the just under 350,000 hours of permit use time booked for Toronto’s outdoor fields in 2011.

“I don’t actually blame the parks department,” said Karen Pitre, chair of the Toronto Sports Council, an umbrella group for amateur leagues. “We’re increasing the density in the city left, right and centre and we’re not adding any more recreational infrastructure. [The fields]don’t get the proper time to recover after they’ve been used.”

The problem of exhausted fields is particularly acute in places such as Campbell Park, a rare scrap of green in the Dupont and Lansdowne area, a neighourhood young families have flocked to in recent years.  [….]

Of course, more money for aerating, grooming and top-seeding would help even Toronto’s most overused fields.

Extra cash is especially hard to come by in the Rob Ford era, but the parks, forestry and recreation department has always struggled, partly because of a financial hangover from amalgamation.

The old city of Toronto had a practice of charging next-to-nothing for recreation programming and that has carried on with drastically underpriced offerings that don’t come close to covering their costs.

Free access to fields for children and youth is a prime example of that. Mr. Hart said he knows of no other municipality that gives away field permits for kids.

Parks and wrecks: Why Toronto’s playing fields are in such rough shape | Kelly Grant | June 2, 2012 | The Globe and Mail at

Parks and wrecks: Why Toronto's playing fields are in such rough shape - The Globe and Mail