Spotlight: Bringing the community to the ravines

Liam McCurry

InTO the ravines works with community leaders to activate the power and space of Toronto’s ravines. It’s a joint program between parks advocacy organization Park People and the City of Toronto.

Koa Thornhill, the program manager at Park People, says they are “finding ways for folks to joyfully engage in their local ravines or the Toronto ravine system.”

The program educates community leaders, and helps these leaders share their knowledge with the rest of the neighbourhood and then connect their neighbours to nearby ravines. Micro-grants enable these community leaders to host events such as walks, bird watching, scavenger hunts and indigenous knowledge-sharing.

By supporting the city of Toronto’s ravine strategy, this program looks to remove barriers for communities. Obstacles to enjoying Toronto’s ravines include concerns about the safety of the ravine and a lack of knowledge about the space. Sometimes people don’t even know they can go into a ravine, notes Thornhill.

The program is “not just about getting folks there, but the relationship they can cultivate that is essential for their well-being,” Thornhill says.

InTO the ravines is trying to “foster a sense of connection and belonging with the space,” Thornhill says, so “people are more likely to get involved and care over the protection of the space.”

The program is in its third year of running. The goals in the first couple of years, she says, were to see what happens when communities are provided with training and resources to go out into the space and to identify the needs and the barriers.

The program aims to break down these barriers, get people to understand and know these are spaces for the community to engage in and have people realize that going to a conventional park isn’t the only option in this city, she says.    

Rather than a top-down model, the program works by supporting local communities to come up with their own ways to engage with their local environment.

Instead of, “we’re doing something for the community. It’s really the community doing something for the spaces,” Thornhill says.   

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