It looks like Scarborough’s Dentonia Park Golf Course won’t lose nine of its holes to make way for walking trails.
But that doesn't mean Toronto's city-run golf courses won't soon cater to other activities other than golf.
A Toronto City Council meeting last week considered a new report from staff that proposed major changes to Toronto’s five city-run golf courses that would switch up the way the public uses them. The review came at the direction of Toronto council in 2020, when it extended its contracts to operate the golf courses until 2023.
The City of Toronto currently operates five golf courses: Dentonia Park, Scarlett Woods, Don Valley, Humber Valley, and Tam O’Shanter. While all had seen increase in operating costs and dwindling users in recent years, the pandemic brought golf back to life, resulting in heightened popularity of the sport and many new golfers.
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For Toronto’s non-golfers looking for a fresh air fix, however, the report notes that several of the city's courses interrupt walking and hiking trails, which limits the public's ability to use the paths.
"Three of the courses under review -- Tam O'Shanter, Don Valley, and Dentonia Park -- are situated within ravine systems with existing multi-use trails," the report states. "As a result of the limited access to the golf courses, those trail systems divert users onto adjacent roads or terminate as a result of the golf course."
Of the report’s suggestions was a controversial recommendation that Dentonia Park, the smallest and historically least utilized of the public golf courses, cut its current 18 holes in half to nine to make way for parkland and walking trails.
The suggestion wasn't exactly a popular one across the board. Last week's decision came after three local councillors -- Brad Bradford, Paula Fletcher, and Gary Crawford -- drafted a letter to Toronto’s infrastructure and environment committee that criticized the recommendation. They point to the accessibility of the golf course in a sport typically reserved for those with the deepest pockets.
"Dentonia Park Golf Course is a unique and highly appreciated course for residents across the East End and Toronto, providing an affordable entry into the sport of golf. There are few courses in the country as accessible and affordable as Dentonia Park, which is situated on a subway line, in one of the most diverse communities in Toronto," reads the letter. “Enhancing -- not reducing -- access to this special public course is vital for recognizing and building upon the benefits this City asset brings to many communities."
It’s not that the councillors are opposed to things like public walking and nature trails. They just don’t want to see the golf course slashed in half as a result. The committee ultimately agreed and approved a motion crafted by councillors Crawford, Bradford, and Fletcher that asks the City to maintain the existing 18-hole golf course, but also consider other opportunities for year-round recreation, including access for the multi-use public trail.
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“I believe walking trails could be a great addition to the Dentonia Park site -- it's why I've asked Parks staff to explore and develop creative opportunities to improve access and trail connections to Taylor Massey trail ravine from the Course,” says Councillor Brad Bradford. “Much of the work to map that out has already began as part of the Taylor Creek Park Management Plan and the Taylor Creek Watershed Master Plan, which gives us a great sense of the special topography and possibilities that could happen for the course and surrounding area.”
To keep the ball rolling, Bradford says he’s also called for the City to act on opportunities to accelerate implementation, should they receive additional Ravine Strategy funding from the City’s government partners.
In the meantime, Bradford points to current activities offered at GTA golf courses other than golf.
“There are some great examples of year-round, multi-use activities already happening at City courses like Dentonia Park Golf Course, where you can find folks out enjoying alternate uses like disc golf, fling golf, snowshoeing loops, or a leisurely hike,” says Bradford.
“As we keep enhancing this unique community recreation asset, I'd like to keep finding ways to add in more opportunities for different uses, such as more Community Movie Nights, skating loops, trail connections and enhancements, or Learn To Golf Programs for underrepresented groups. My motion at Committee asks for us to that continue looking into those new multi-uses as we also maintain the affordable, informal access to golf this public city course provides.”
Following the discussion at Infrastructure and Environment Committee last week, the item on City-Run Golf Courses now heads to City Council for deliberation and final approvals in the first week of February.