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Cawthra Park opens in time for WorldPride

Park was renamed after former mayor Barbara Hall June 10

Workers continue renovations on the newly renamed Barbara Hall Park June 16. Credit: HG Watson

After 10 months of renovations, Cawthra Park is finally opening with a new look — and a new name.

Dave Nosella, the manager of the project, confirmed to Daily Xtra that the park adjacent to the 519 Church Street Community Centre will be open by June 19 at the latest.

“The last major hurdle is to get the power turned on by [Toronto] Hydro,” Nosella says. Workers also need to install LED mesh lighting throughout the park.

And on June 10, Toronto City Council adopted a proposal presented by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam to rename the park after former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall. Hall was the first mayor to march in a gay pride parade in Toronto.

“Her prominent support for LGBTQ2S people helped set a new standard of acceptance for a community that was once shunned,” Wong-Tam wrote about Hall in a letter to city council distributed May 13. Wong-Tam did not respond to requests to comment on this story.

Barbara Hall Park was closed Aug 19 of last year for what was supposed to be a nine-month renovation. But a particularly harsh winter delayed construction and raised concerns that it would not be ready in time for WorldPride, which kicks off June 20.

The first scheduled event in the park was the Queer and Trans Family Pride Party on June 17, hosted by The 519. Matthew Cutler, the director of strategic partnerships initiatives at The 519, explained in an email to Daily Xtra that the party typically takes place in the splash-pad area of the park, which remains unaffected by renovations, allowing the party to go ahead as scheduled.

Barbara Hall Park is also home to The 519’s Green Space, which hosts some of Pride’s biggest parties, and the WorldPride AIDS candlelight vigil, taking place on June 24 this year.

The project is slated to stay within or close to its $1.6 million budget. “We’ve had no serious cost overruns,” Nosella says. Any extra costs incurred will be a result of paying some extra overtime to the contractor, who rushed to get the job done before WorldPride, Nosella adds.

Once the fences around Barbara Hall Park come down, it will be time for WorldPride to take it over. “I hope it’s a great party,” Nosella says.