I’m on a mass mailing from one of the Toronto City Counsellors (Anthony Peruzza) and I noticed that I’d received an email from him the other day with the Subject: “Help Save Elia Middle School’s Field“. Now I’m used to emails about subjects in Toronto referring to events or parts of the city that are far away from me. Those generally get filed quickly. But this is local. Very local.
“Elia Middle School” would have been, I believe, “Elia Junior High” back in my day, and it is the school across the street from my High School: where many of my friends attended grades 7-9. Yes, that would have been in the late 70s, but schools live on when students graduate. It is about two km from where I currently live. Although I did not attend there, I heard a lot about it. Now they are apparently thinking of chopping off a section of the school’s fields, then selling it to developers for conversion to residential units of some kind.
There is a petition online: you can go there to read the comments (and to sign!). It refers to “the value of keeping public green spaces for children, families and the neighborhood” [sic… you see the need for education? It disturbs me when Canadians use American spelling). But this is more than that. This would be lopping off the school’s playground and the area designated for team sports: soccer and football and field hockey. Imagine a middle school that has insufficient space for such things. That would be a tragedy. The ages when children are in middle school, are exactly when they need to refine their capacities and attitudes toward team sports.
Now: I will say that when you look at the map in Google Maps you can see that Elia’s green area looks pretty large. But that’s because half of the apparent field space is actually “Sentinel Park: A 7.7 hectare park… featuring two lighted ball diamonds and one unlit ball diamond, three bocce courts, two tennis courts, a splash pad and a children’s playground.” Very nice, and useful for the kids, but still not a field. The proposed selling would slash half the amount of field space available directly to the school.
One of the things I thought most fascinating about this story is that I could find no reference to this plan on the web. No news, no references. Not a blip. There was so little, in fact, that I thought it might be spam or an urban legend: except for the source. Usually I find out about these kinds of things when the decisions have been effectively been made; like when the strip mall on the other side of Sentinel Park was sold and converted to townhouses. (The empty lot on Google Maps around “Mantello Drive” is now dozens of townhouses.) So my high school memories of the pool hall, the grocery store and the drug store (the rip-off-shop) are now gone. Not a big deal; things change. It is one thing to lose the old “mom ‘n pop” stores of my youth; I cannot control others’ desire for profits. But when it comes to public areas and green space, we can protest that.
Of course the other issue is economics, and this is typical of our current city administrators, Mayor on down. They were elected on a “promise” to “respect the taxpayer”; which meant, in a familiar American style, to keep tax money in the pockets of the rich: to cut city revenue until public operations, like schools, don’t have enough money to fulfil their needs, and then sell their assets to make up the shortfall. Less taxes… and less green space. So I guess I do have to say: this ward voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Ford in the last election. Hope you’re happy with the results.