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St. James Park restored to former splendour following damages from Occupy Toronto protest


February 13, 2012
By Mike Jiggens

One of Toronto’s most treasured greenspaces has been returned to its
former glory, thanks to the generosity of the Ontario turfgrass
industry and more than 150 volunteers.

St. James Park had been the site of the Occupy Toronto protest for 40 days in the fall. Once the demonstrators were ordered to vacate the premises and tear down their makeshift tent city, the once pristine city park had become a mud pit with little turfgrass remaining.jamesweb

Not having budgeted the funds to restore the park, the city turned to the local media to see what could be done. Both Landscape Ontario and the Nursery Sod Growers Association of Ontario took charge, sending out mass emails to its members. In little time, about 50 companies tied to the industry, including sod farms, landscaping firms, lawn care companies and industry suppliers, heeded the call.

In two days—Dec. 7 and 8—the park was restored to its former glory as an army of volunteers aerated the entire area, topdressed about 11,000 square metres and laid about three acres of sod. Additionally 350 yards of new mulch was placed around shrubs and hedge rows.

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Other experts pruned damaged trees and shrubs in the park.

The estimated cost to restore the park property was $60,000. The city had also considered seeding or hydroseeding the area, but preferred the option of sodding if the more expensive proposition was feasible.
Companies which provided the sod cover were Brad Vanderwoude Sod Farms of Breslau, Brayford Sod Farms of Alliston, Brouwer Sod Farms of Keswick, Compact Sod of Cambridge, Fairgreen Sod Farms of Markham, Queensville Sod Farms of Queensville, and Zander Sod Co. Limited of Kettleby.

Between the dismantling of the Occupy Toronto protest and the effort to restore the park, the city had removed 30 loads of waste from the site which totalled 22,000 pounds.

Mary Battaglia, Toronto and East York district parks manager, formally thanked the various companies, organizations and volunteers who stepped forward to restore the park.

“I am not sure I can adequately put into words the extent of appreciation for your members who were responsible for transforming St. James Park from a muddy, trampled mess to a professionally-finished, picture-perfect park,” she said. “I never imagined that such a huge transformation could be undertaken in such a remarkably short time frame. The professionalism, determination and willingness of the number of companies and their staff who came out to support this initiative was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

“I truly felt privileged to be a part of this effort as did our entire staff team. The contribution made was not only to physically and aesthetically restore the park, but most importantly to helping to turn the entire city’s attention to the generosity of giving back. What had been an ugly reminder of the damage done is once again a gem.”

Speaking in January at the Landscape Ontario Awards of Excellence program, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said, “You have established a high standard of giving and demonstrated community spirit for others to follow. I want to thank you for the donation of your time, the materials and your professional talents in restoring a city treasure. Your work will long be remembered and enjoyed by thousands of surrounding businesses, residents and visitors to St. James Park.”