Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division

The City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division is the largest division of the Toronto municipal government. It is responsible for city-owned parks, forests, and recreation centres. With an gross annual budget in 2018 of C$468 million,[1] the division is responsible for the City's over 3 million trees, 1473 named parks, 839 sports fields, 137 community centres, and about 670 other recreational facilities including: pools, golf courses, ski centres, skating rinks, greenhouses and ferries.[2][3][4] Each year, more than 1.2 million Toronto residents participate in over 54,000 recreation and leisure programs offered by the division.[5]

Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation
City of Toronto PFR logo.png
The logo of the division
Agency overview
MottoA City Within a Park
Employees1,828 full time, 9,000 part time, 1,100 seasonal staff (2007)
Annual budgetC$468 million (gross, 2018)
Agency executive
  • General Manager: Janie Ramoff, Deputy City Manager: Giuliana Carbone
Parent departmentCity of Toronto government



In 1884, an administrative group named the Committee on Public Walks and Gardens, was officially created to oversee the city’s parks and green space. Before then, the city as a whole was responsible for them since the incorporation of Toronto in 1834.[6] In the nineteenth century, the focus of the committee was on the maintenance of green space and the provision of walks and gardens; not much was addressed in terms of recreational activities or recreation facilities. In the early twentieth century, the social conditions of the city changed dramatically, and supervised recreational activities became a subject of interest. The twentieth century also marked the development of playgrounds around the city. In 1912, there were no playgrounds; by 1947 there were 121. Picnic and recreational facilities were also opened up around the city in the parks. In 1945, the department was given the responsibility to oversee the creation and maintenance of community centres. In 1947, the department was renamed as the Department of Parks and Recreation.[6]

Logo of the Old City of Toronto Department of Parks and Recreation (pre-amalgamation, 1997)


Following the city merger in 1998 the former department Metro Toronto Parks and Culture and merged with the counterpart department in each of the former municipalities to former the current department:


In 2005, the Department of Parks and Recreation was split into the Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division and the Toronto Economic Development and Culture Division.

The division reported to a deputy city manager and with the new executive committee it will report to two councillors who are heads of city council standing commott:


The City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division’s vision is for Toronto to be known by the world as a “City within a Park”, a tapestry of parks, open spaces, rivers and streets that will connect their neighbourhoods and join them with their clean, vibrant lakefront.[7]


Currently, the Division is organized into six branches: Community Recreation; Parks; Urban Forestry; Management Services; Parks Development and Capital Projects; and Policy & Strategic Planning.[8]

Community RecreationEdit

The Community Recreation branch is responsible for providing recreational programming. It operates 137 community centres, 48 indoor ice pads, 64 outdoor ice pads, 65 indoor pools, and 59 outdoor pools.[4] The Director is Howie Dayton.[9] Most instructors and program staff are hired on a part time basis.[9] The branch has four service areas, community recreation, aquatics, customer service, and standards and innovation.[10]


The Aquatics Section is responsible for the operation of the City's 65 indoor pools, 59 seasonal outdoor pools, 100 wading pools, 93 splash pads, the Kidstown water park, and providing aquatic instructional programs.[4][11] The Manager is Aydin Sarrafzadeh.[9] The section operates several olympic sized swimming pools, including the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, and the Etobicoke Olympium. Instructional programs include the Learn to Swim program and Ultra levels, which were developed with the Lifesaving Society, SPLASH Swim Team, stroke improvement, Jr. lifeguard courses,[12] and lifesaving courses including National Lifeguard certification.[13] Leisure swim is offered free of charge at all pools operated by the division.[10]

Fun guideEdit

The department releases a semi-annual booklet called the FUN Guide, providing information on programs and services available for people of all ages. There is a booklet produced for each city district: Etobicoke York, North York, Scarborough and Toronto & East York. The booklet is organized by topics such as: Adapted/Integrated Services, Preschool, Registration, Arts, Camps, Fitness and Wellness, Jobs, Leadership, Older Adults, Permits, Skating, Ski & Snowboarding, Sports, Swimming, Youth, and Volunteers.[14] Other recreational activities and services provided by the division are: camping facilities, community centres, cycling, discovery walks, golfing, and tennis.[15]

Welcome PolicyEdit

The City offers a subsidy to help low income individuals and families access recreational programming, provided in the form of a credit on the City's "efun" system. As of 2018, the credit is $537 for children and youth, and $249 for adults and seniors.[16]


The Parks branch's responsibilities include the operation of the division's 1500 parks, providing ferry service to and from the Toronto Islands, managing the two animal farms and High Park Zoo, administrating the community gardens program, and providing plants for the city's gardens and conservatories.[4] The Director is Richard Ubbens.[9] Public parks are governed by City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 608.[17]

Discovery WalksEdit

A series of self-guided trails in various parks in the city along rivers, ravines and beaches that have cultural and historical significance:

Urban ForestryEdit

The Urban Forestry branch is responsible for maintaining the City's urban forest protecting trees and maintaining tree health, and the enforcement and implementation of by-laws, and city policies pertaining to forestry and trees.[4] The Director is Jason Doyle.[9] Trees are governed by City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 813.[18]

Organization and OperationEdit

The division reports directly to a Deputy City Manager, and is led by a General Manager. The division is divided into:

  • Six branches, each led by a Director;
  • various sections responsible for their branches operations in a geographic area of the city, or a specific service area, led by a Manager;
  • sections are further subdivided into regions of the city, or other operations, led by a Supervisor;
  • in the Community Recreation Branch, Supervisors are supported by Community Recreation Programmers, who co-ordinate and lead part-time recreation staff (Instructors, Lifeguards, Camp Counselors etc.).[9]

Formerly, the division organized the city into five districts: North, South, East, West and Central Services and Waterfront. The Central Services and Waterfront District were responsible for cross-city issues as well as specific services such as the ferry services. The North, East, South and West Districts were further divided into three physical areas. Each of these subdivisions had a manager in charge of the operation of recreational programming, facilities and parks; a Technical Services and Urban Forestry Section responsible for the delivery of forestry services, facilities and park maintenance, and janitorial support; and an Operations Support Co-ordinator in charge of overseeing the cohesiveness of their subdivision with others as well as the community.[19]


The Parks, Forestry & Recreation Division is responsible for:

  • city parks, parkettes and gardens - this excludes Rouge Park and those under the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
  • beaches, including those on the Toronto Islands
  • tree planting in parks and roadways;
  • recreation facilities - swimming pools (not attached to schools), athletics fields, splash pads, community centres, tennis courts, skating arenas and rinks;
  • horticulture and forestry programs, park and open space planning and other environmental initiatives;
  • the development and delivery of recreation programs to all ages;
  • facility management and maintenance;
  • community development, parks, horticulture and forestry programs, park and open space planning and environmental initiatives;
  • the operation of specialized services, including the Toronto Island ferries, golf courses, waterfront and regional parks systems;[20]
  • care for animals at High Park Zoo and Riverdale Farm


Some marinas are owned by the city, some are operated by private clubs:

  • Bluffer's Park Marina - City of Toronto
  • Ashbridge's Bay Marina - City of Toronto
  • Aquatic Park Sailing Club - City of Toronto
  • Centre Island Marina
  • Mugg's Island Marina - private
  • South Island Marina
  • Algonquin Island Marina
  • Ontario Place Marina
  • Humber Bay Park Marina - City of Toronto
  • Colonel Samuel Smith Park Marina - City of Toronto


The Parks branch also operates five ferries (four are passenger ferries) that travel to the Toronto Islands (see also Toronto Island ferries)[21]

See alsoEdit


  2. ^ ”Toward a Healthy, Active Future: Toronto Parks & Recreation Strategic Plan” City of Toronto, May 2004. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.
  3. ^ ”Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation Annual Report” City of Toronto, 2007. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.
  4. ^ a b c d e "2016 Operating Budget Notes" (PDF).
  5. ^ "The new Toronto FUN Parks and Recreation Guide has arrived" City of Toronto, 2001-8-15. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.
  6. ^ a b “Parks and Recreation Dept. Publications.” City of Toronto, City of Toronto Archives. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.[0]=&ProcessID=6000_1980(0)&KeyValues=KEY_78873
  7. ^ “Parks, Forestry and Recreation” City of Toronto. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.
  8. ^ “City Divisions – Parks, Forestry & Recreation” City of Toronto. Retrieved on 2014-05-29.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Parks, Forestry and Recreation Phone Directory" (PDF).
  10. ^ a b "PFR_Annual Report07" (PDF).
  11. ^ "Swimming & Pools".
  12. ^ "Curriculum & Prerequisites".
  13. ^ "Aquatic Leadership".
  14. ^ “The FUN Guide” City of Toronto. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.
  15. ^ “Recreation and Facilities” City of Toronto. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.
  16. ^ "Help with the Cost of Recreation".
  17. ^ "Chapter 608" (PDF).
  18. ^ "Chapter 813" (PDF).
  19. ^ ”About Us: Parks and Recreation” City of Toronto. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.
  20. ^ “City Divisions – Parks, Forestry & Recreation” City of Toronto. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.
  21. ^ Partridge, Larry (March 1976). "Toronto Island Ferry History: The Modern Fleet: 1935 - 1960". Retrieved 2003-03-14.

External linksEdit