In the buildup to the 2015 Pan/Parapan Games, attention has largely been focused on basic infrastructure: sports facilities, an athletes’ village, transit, and other essentials. The appeal of hosting a major sporting event like the Pan Am Games isn’t just gaining a few weeks of flash and international media, though: it also provides the impetus to create developments that can permanently boost a city, enhance things not just for short-term visitors, but for residents on an ongoing basis. There’s a very mixed track record when it comes to these marquee global sports events—Montreal’s Olympic stadium is the nearest disaster, and there are plenty of other examples—and many cities decide against bidding on those events precisely to avoid being saddled with unaffordable and underused vanity projects.
If the scale is right, however, there are real opportunities to use such events to motivate projects that otherwise could take years or decades.
A set of proposed legacy projects for the 2015 Pan Am Games has just been unveiled. Among those proposals: one for an 80-kilometre continuous multi-use trail that would run throughout the city, with hubs along the way to host art, local events, food carts, and just about anything else bordering communities can think of.
“The Pan Am Path is a multi-use path that connects the city from Brampton, down along the Humber River, along to the waterfront, up the Lower Don, and then up to Scarborough through the hydro corridor,” explains James Gen Meers, one of the founders of Friends of the Pan Am Path, the non-profit that’s formed to champion this project. “It is a trail system that already kind of exists in the city of Toronto, but is missing certain pieces that are required to make it a non-stop continuous path, and that’s what the path is about: leveraging some of the political capital in time for the Pan Am Games to invest in the infrastructure required to make a continuous path.”
Five of the six founding members of Friends of the Pan Am Path came out of DiverseCity, a non-partisan project working at improving the diversity in Toronto’s leadership; the sixth is Devon Ostrom, a Toronto artist and community organizer (among other things, he co-founded Manifesto and the Beautiful City billboard campaign). They’ve been holding discussions with City staff, councillors, the mayor’s office, and the Pan Am Games about the project for months, and are optimistic it will find the support it needs at council.
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