Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division

Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation (PFR) is the division of Toronto's municipal government responsible for maintaining the municipal park system and natural spaces, regulation of and provision of urban forestry services, and the delivery of recreational programming in city-operated facilities.

Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation
Toronto PFR logo with motto.svg
Agency overview
Preceding agency
  • Department of Parks and Recreation
JurisdictionCity of Toronto
MottoA city within a park
Employees1,828 full time, 9,000 part time, 1,100 seasonal staff (2007)
Annual budgetC$459.4 million (2020)
Agency executive
  • Janie Romoff, General Manager
WebsiteOfficial website

With a gross annual budget in 2020 of C$459.4 million,[1] the division operates 1473 named parks, 839 sports fields, 137 community centres, and about 670 other recreational facilities. The division is also responsible for the city's over 3 million trees.[2][3][4]


1884 to 1997Edit

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.[5] 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.[5]

1998 to 2004Edit

Former logo of the pre-amalgamated division in the pre-amalgamation City of Toronto.

Following the 1998 amalgamation of Toronto, the former department Metro Toronto Parks and Culture and merged with the counterpart department in each of the former municipalities to former the present department:

2005 to presentEdit

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

The division reports to a deputy city manager and with the new executive committee its role will be overseen by two councillors who are heads of city council standing committees:


The Parks, Forestry & Recreation Division is responsible for:


Parks, Forestry and Recreation’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]

Organization and operationEdit

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

Community Recreation 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] 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 branch organizes itself into five districts, modeled on the former municipalities: Etobicoke/York (West), North York (North), Scarborough (East), Toronto/East York (South), and West Toronto/York (split from Etobicoke/York and Toronto/East York in 2018).[11]


Aquatics is part of Community Recreation and 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][12] PFR 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, junior lifeguard courses,[13] and lifesaving courses including National Lifeguard certification.[14] Leisure swim is offered free of charge at all pools operated by the division.[10]

The City also employees lifeguards along the waterfront during the summer months.[15] The waterfront supervision program was formerly under the Toronto police as the Toronto Police Lifeguard Service, but was transferred to PFR following a 2017 modernization initiative.[16]

Fun guideEdit

The division 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, Toronto & East York, and West Toronto 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.[17] Other recreational activities and services provided by the division are: camping facilities, community centres, cycling, discovery walks, golfing, and tennis.[18]

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.[19]


Harbour Square Park West is a park maintained by the division

Parks' responsibilities include the operation of approximately 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] Public parks are governed by Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 608.[20]

Parks Ambassadors programEdit

In 2003, Parks introduced mobile outreach crews which aim to connect the homeless population in the parks system with agencies and other City divisions that provide support. The program conducts park visits and safety visits across the city.[21][22]

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

Urban Forestry 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] Trees are governed by Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 813.[23]

The division reports to a deputy city manager, and is led by a general manager. PFR 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, provision of services are managed 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.[24]


The trucks can be identified with the City's wordmark on the front and passenger-side body, with 'Call 311' below it. Some trucks are retrofitted with amber lights.

The Parks branch also operates five ferries (four are passenger ferries) that travel to the Toronto Islands (see also Toronto Island ferries)[25]


Homelessness in parksEdit

In September 2020, the City estimated that 350 to 400 people living in homeless encampments in the park system.[26] During the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in encampments in parks, as residents feel public health measures at shelters is inadequate.[27] In October 2020, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that the City did not comply with physical distancing measures in the shelter system.[28] The by-law which prohibits camping and setting up camps in parks was challenged by a group of homeless residents in 2020 on the grounds that it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A court rejected the motion, ruling that the Charter does not grant the right to live in parks.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "2020 Program Summary Parks, Forestry & Recreation" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  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. ^ 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
  6. ^ “City Divisions – Parks, Forestry & Recreation” City of Toronto. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.
  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 "Parks, Forestry and Recreation Phone Directory" (PDF).
  10. ^ a b "PFR_Annual Report07" (PDF).
  11. ^ "Registration for City of Toronto spring and summer recreation programs and summer camps begins this weekend". City of Toronto. 2019-02-26. Retrieved 2020-12-28.
  12. ^ "Swimming & Pools".
  13. ^ "Curriculum & Prerequisites".
  14. ^ "Aquatic Leadership".
  15. ^ Wilson, Codi (2020-06-22). "Lifeguards have now returned to six Toronto beaches". Toronto. Retrieved 2020-12-28.
  16. ^ "Toronto police modernization faces pushback from the front line". 2018-07-13. Retrieved 2020-12-28.
  17. ^ “The FUN Guide” City of Toronto. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.
  18. ^ “Recreation and Facilities” City of Toronto. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.
  19. ^ "Help with the Cost of Recreation".
  20. ^ "Chapter 608" (PDF).
  21. ^ "Parks Ambassador Service Level" (PDF). City of Toronto. December 19, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ "Parks Ambassador Program" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. ^ "Chapter 813" (PDF).
  24. ^ ”About Us: Parks and Recreation” City of Toronto. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.
  25. ^ Partridge, Larry (March 1976). "Toronto Island Ferry History: The Modern Fleet: 1935 - 1960". Retrieved 2003-03-14.
  26. ^ "LEVY: Tent cities out of control in Toronto parks". torontosun. Retrieved 2021-02-03.
  27. ^ "Encampments have become the shelter of choice for many during the pandemic". 2021-01-15. Retrieved 2021-02-03.
  28. ^ "Toronto didn't comply with shelter physical distancing measures it agreed to, judge says". Global News. Retrieved 2021-02-03.

External linksEdit