Corp Comm Connects

'Without public spaces, you feel like you’re walking into a ghost town': Newmarket works to create spaces as town grows
Sept. 11, 2023

For longtime resident Nicole Barager, public spaces are the most important amenity that creates a sense of community.

The mother and grandmother love using trails and parks, visiting Riverwalk Commons for concerts and the farmers’ market and going to Fairy Lake.

Barager enjoys learning about new cultures at different festivals.

She is thrilled with trails and greenspaces in her new neighbourhood west of Upper Canada Mall.

And she’s looking forward to the opening of the future Mulock Park at the northwest corner of Yonge Street and Mulock Drive, which will include the Art Gallery of Ontario hosting rotating art exhibits in the historic Mulock House and a wide variety of arts and culture and recreational features.

“Public spaces are the No. 1 thing in a community -- No. 1. I want to live in a community where I can go and be part of more than just my family. I can be part of a bigger group. It’s nice to have a gathering place of different people,” Barager said.

“It’s key to keeping community alive. When a community doesn’t have these spaces, you feel like you’re walking into a ghost town, almost.”

Barager liked taking her grandson to the Riverwalk splash pad when he was little and seeing parents keep an eye on each other’s children, even though they were strangers. Older kids pitched in to help with younger ones, suggesting a new generation of residents is being raised with a sense of community.

As Newmarket grows and intensifies, creating public spaces is a top priority, Mayor John Taylor said.

“In any community, one of the most valued and treasured things to the community is park space and green space. No community can claim to be a great community if it doesn’t have really good park space and recreation space. Over the years, we’ve incorporated and built on many really strong spaces like George Richardson Park, Haskett Park, Fairy Lake, the soon-to-be Mulock Park, Riverwalk Commons. And then there are so many neighbourhood parks. You’ve got to be constantly building and planning for those,” he said.

“But something new occurs when communities start to mature like Newmarket is. We have very little open space, greenfield areas, for the development of single-family homes. So, the future of development in Newmarket is largely intensified or multistorey buildings. Multi-storied buildings don’t have backyards. The people living in multi-storeyed buildings need access to public spaces and parks far more than the average resident.”

The future Hollingsworth Park on the former Hollingsworth Arena site will see Newmarket for the first time a park that serves condo owners along the increasingly intensified Davis Drive corridor, in addition to the surrounding homeowner neighbourhood, Taylor said.

The park will sit behind two future Kingsley Square 15-storey condo towers being built by the Briarwood Development Group at 693 Davis Dr. at Patterson Street.

Briarwood is contributing $500,000 toward the park.

While the town will consult with the community before making any decisions, the park could include amenities such as a splash pad, skating and a playground, Taylor said.

Coun. Jane Twinney, whose ward includes Hollingsworth, is looking forward to seeing plans unfold.

“Hollingsworth Park is planned to be an amazing new urban park. As we have not had a public information centre for the park yet, we don’t have specific details yet. This area has been an area designated for recreational and it is important that we keep it for this and recognize Frank Hollingsworth and his contributions to recreation in Newmarket,” she said.

“We all know the importance of having green spaces in our community. Newmarket has been a leader with our extensive trail systems and the preservation of the Sir William Mulock home and the surrounding property. Even though we do not have a vision design yet, we are looking forward to engaging the public to truly make it something the community will thoroughly enjoy, I am hoping, in all seasons.”