2019 PRO Award of Excellence: Park or Facility Design (Over 30,000)

Snakes & Ladders Park, Town of Richmond Hill

In 2009, the Town of Richmond Hill embarked on a strategic planning process that focussed on creating a collective vision of what the community could be and outlining the necessary steps to implement it. One of the Town’s strategic goals is to provide a more vibrant and interesting community that has a unique sense of place and identity. Parks can play a vital role in this.  Through public consultations, the community expressed a need for more opportunities for recreation that moved beyond standard play equipment. In this context, town representatives began work to design a park that met the needs of the community while establishing a sense of place for the neighbourhood.

Completed in 2015, Snakes & Ladders Park goes above and beyond in providing an interesting and vibrant community hub. Its engaging theme quickly established a unique identity for this neighbourhood. The play area is part of the game and provides a variety of play elements that maximize value in a small area, including swings, a track ride, slither slide, snaky tunnel, ladder, spiral climber, and a serpentine seesaw. These thematic elements and motifs collectively reinforce the park’s theme and establish a sense of place. The planting layout includes native tree species, which integrates species from within the adjacent woodland and reinforces the sinuosity of the “snake” path and circular play area.

This park not only provides the community with a place to play and gather, but marries art and function through the use of motifs, signage, and play elements that make the park  more distinctive than the average neighbourhood park.

2019 PRO Award of Excellence: Operations (Over 30,000)

David Dunlap Observatory: Astronomy and Science Programming
Town of Richmond Hill

The David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) property is a 189-acre site in the heart of Richmond Hill. Jessie Dunlap purchased the site as a gift to the University of Toronto as a memorial to her husband, David Alexander Dunlap. At the time, the new observatory contained the second largest telescope in the and it remains the largest in Canada to this day. Following the sale of the property in 2008 and appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), the developer agreed to transfer half of the property to the Town for public use.  

To ensure that the space would be designed, restored, programmed and operated in a manner that reflected the needs of the community, the Town developed a Master Plan for the property and embarked upon a public process to partner with organizations that could offer technical experience in the areas of astronomy and science programming. During the OMB hearings, the developer allowed non-profit, astronomical groups to develop and implement programs on the site. This included lectures, star gaxing theme nights, and school board curriculum programs. The community became accustomed to this and following the transfer of the property to the town, requested the continuation of these programs.  To do this, the Town made capital investments on the property, sought out partners with technical expertise for program delivery, developed exhibits displayed at the site, and implemented a permitting process for private parties and events.  

The picturesque site, historical buildings and specialized equipment provide a unique opportunity to ensure public access to the key cultural heritage elements within the park. The Astronomy and science programs offered at the DDO are high quality and unique from the traditional programs offered by Recreation & Culture Departments in Ontario. The programs and facilities at the DDO have been a resounding success. The site is home to the only municipally owned and operated observatory and has become a destination for star gazers from across the province.

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