Nature vs Artifice: Authenticity in UofT’s Heritage Landscapes

As many will have heard, the UofT Governing Council has voted to renovate 10,000 square metres of existing turfgrass at the “back campus” North of University College to make way for a professional field hockey surface.  The area is earmarked for use at the 2015 Pan Am Games, and the project will reach a total cost of $9.5 million, half of which will be taken up by the University.

Students, faculty and notable alumni including Margaret Atwood have voiced their opposition to this project, citing its historic significance and reduced public accessibility as concerns.  Another major point of contention is the environmental and health consequences of the proposition: apparently the new surface will require periodic watering, and herbicidal treatments to prevent the growth of algae.  The project may also endanger certain existing Ash and Elm stands, which may soon be officially designated as heritage trees.

Renderings of the proposed space are available onlineImage.

Questions raised by the controversy:

1) What type of decision making processes should be invoked in situations affecting public and student use of large spaces?

2) What is the relative value of professional sports venues, vs public space?

3) How else might value be added to the back campus area?  Might it be valuable as a space for hyper-local, on campus food production?  Native habitat reclamation?

4) What do YOU think?

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