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New park officially opens in downtown Markdale

The site has a unique history, with buildings once on the site being destroyed by fire in 1941 and 1991

Grey Highlands community members and representatives from the municipality gathered on June 7 at the newly revitalized Hillis Burnside Memorial Park in Markdale to celebrate the official opening of the new community space.

Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen brought opening remarks, discussed the park’s unique history and led the official ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The park is located in the heart of downtown Markdale on a site that had fallen into disrepair in recent years. The site links a rear parking lot to the main street commercial district, but it was extremely underutilized due to its poor condition and not being fully accessible. 

“Today the community has embraced this space,” said McQueen. “This community space is very valuable for all of us. Keep an eye on it, it’s so important for our community.

The revitalization of the parkette was made possible by funding support from the federal government’s Canada Community Revitalization Fund (through FedDev Ontario) and funds from the Markdale Hydro Reserve.

As part of its commitment to revitalizing downtown Markdale, Grey Highlands undertook the rehabilitation of the parkette into a green, sustainable, vibrant community space. Staff from the municipality’s economic development and parks and recreation departments were tasked with creating a space accessible for everyone, and that enhanced the urban environment through thoughtful design choices such as high-quality materials, lighting, and seating areas.

The project included:

  • Anexcavation of the site to make it fully accessible.
  • The addition of electrical infrastructure.
  • An accessible walkway linking the parking lot with the commercial main street.
  • Outdoor roofing structure with retractable sunshades.
  • Installation of benches, tables, and accessible picnic tables.

The site has been a vital part of downtown Markdale’s history, and interpretative signage in the parkette honours the history of the space and the businesses and community members who were part of that history.

The site has a unique history and saw buildings that occupied the location destroyed by fire in 1941 and 1991. The property was donated to the municipality in 2004.

The project has created a gathering space in Markdale’s downtown core, focusing on well-planned placement of accessible furnishings, green landscaping techniques (including the installation of surfaces that will allow rainwater to seep into the ground naturally rather than runoff into the sewer system). It also features the use of artificial turf instead of grass to curb the use of water, pesticides, and maintenance-related travel costs; carbon emissions from lawnmowers and trimmers will be eliminated, as the flower boxes will all be maintained by hand without the use of motorized tools.   

The result is an accessible, three-season community hub, which can support pop-up markets, performances, and exhibitions and allow opportunities for community gatherings.

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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