North Toronto residents challenge city’s street hockey policy

Officials look the other way for now, pending a report from public works


Published:

Councillor Christin Carmichael Greb (back right) with (front row from left) Charlie, Connor, Jake and Mark Ashcroft (back centre)

Image: CJ Baek

The battle over street hockey is not over, but city officials have called for a brief intermission. Nearly 20 residents in the Cricket Club area recently challenged the City of Toronto’s right to issue them fines if they did not remove the hockey and basketball nets from their street. Now, the city has decided to temporarily waive the $90 penalty pending other complaints or problems.

Ward 16 councillor Christin Carmichael Greb is fighting to amend the bylaw that prevents homeowners from keeping nets at the end of their driveways — also considered city property. 

On Nov. 12 Toronto’s public works and infrastructure committee voted to have staff report on the feasibility of allowing the nets to remain on the public right of way.

Mark Ashcroft, local resident and father of three, said he could not be happier about Coun. Carmichael Greb’s support.

Within a week of receiving the notice, Ashcroft said the councillor arranged an on-site inspection with Jacqueline White, the director of transportation for North York. 

Both were satisfied that Ashcroft’s nets did not pose a risk to the neighbourhood. 

“They don’t impede traffic, garbage pickup or snow clearing. So yes, they’re on the public right of way, but they’re not going to cause a problem,” said Coun. Carmichael Greb. 

Although White admitted some of the nets are fine where they are, she said those found on the road in front of the curb could become a problem into the winter season.

However, Coun. Carmichael Greb said she recognizes the difficulty parents have lugging the nets out from their garage every day and hopes an exception can be made for areas without sidewalks. 

The exception would also be applicable to other neighbourhoods lacking sidewalks across the city, such as Lawrence Park and Hogg’s Hollow. 

Ashcroft and Coun. Carmichael Greb agree that further enforcement of the bylaw would only punish the children in the neighbourhood.

“A lot of times it’s younger kids, eight to nine years old, who can’t roll a basketball net down the driveway because it’s filled with water or sand,” she said. 

As for safety concerns for kids playing hockey on the street, White said that too will have to be addressed in the report.

But Ashcroft hopes the city will take the area’s lack of green space into consideration.

“We need to ensure that our children have areas they can play in. If that calls for our children to play sports in residential areas, then that’s what’s going to happen,” he said. 

Ashcroft, whose eldest son, Jake, 9, sits on the neighbourhood’s safe streets panel, said the city’s priorities should instead lie with speed limit and stop sign enforcement to ensure safe streets for kids who have nowhere else to play. 

The report is expected to be released by the spring, although White said she doubts it will be a carte blanche decision. 

“If a bylaw amendment is approved, there will likely be conditions,” she said.

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