A beautiful, historic Milton park is reopening this week, and we think that’s something to celebrate! Here’s everything you need to know about the park via the Town of Milton. And we’ve even got photos.
Victoria Park, in Old Milton, was originally part of the County Buildings site and was named in 1909 for Victoria (1819 – 1901), Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 to 1901.
The park area prior to that was a common grazing ground and sports field. The naming of the park coincided with the erection of the first bandstand in the park by Milton businesses with the approval of the County. It was purchased from the Region of Halton at the time the Town purchased the County Buildings for restoration as a Town Hall.
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Victoria Park upgrades were meant to improve the function of existing park features; protect and enhance the park’s heritage, identity and character; and provide upgrades to ensure the continued enjoyment of the park. Members of the public provided feedback at two public consultations in spring 2015, which the Town used to develop the preferred concept plan.
The contract was awarded for $607,925 (exclusive of HST) as expressed in a report to council on March 21, 2016. Council previously approved the budget as part of the 2017 capital budget process and then funding for the project was included in the 2016 capital budget forecast. In addition, the Town was successful in obtaining a grant for $25,000 from Veterans Affairs Canada to make improvements to the Cenotaph.
Play space: The play area is now further from the roadway and more central to the park. Earthy colours and the design complement the quieter and more passive nature of this park, yet provide active play for children in the neighbourhood. Play features and swings have many accessible features, making this park enjoyable for all ages and abilities!
Seating: The design for the park focuses on central seating areas and a space for quiet, reflective seating areas. Picnic tables are scattered under trees throughout the park and a new seating area has been designed around the play area, fountain and gazebo, which is more central to the park. Fencing has been strategically placed to prevent too much activity around the root base of the trees, which will avoid compacting of the tree roots and prevent decline in the health of the tree. This will allow for more shade in the summer in this central area as the tree canopy develops over time. Unique commemorative benches have been added to the area around the field gun for quiet reflection or enjoying a cool, refreshing ice cream cone!
Cenotaph gathering space: An expanded gathering space will improve the function of the Cenotaph area for Remembrance Day and other commemorative ceremonies. An additional secondary walkway is being added to link the main pathway to the WWI German gun and the Cenotaph. Space has been maintained for seasonal floral displays with annual flowers. A unique metal fence has been incorporated to separate the new paved plaza around the Cenotaph from the street. Masonry columns and walls at all entry points were designed to blend in and complement the look of Town Hall. The name “Victoria Park” has been embedded into the ironwork of the fence, in keeping with the heritage look and feel of the park.
Pedestrian entrances: All pedestrian entrances were designed to control vehicle access into the park and to accent the prominent park entry points, including the intersections of Brown/Mary Street, and King/Bell Street, and the entrance off King Street. Bollards (metal posts to prevent cars from entering the park) are removable with added temporary locations allocated for ease of event set-up.
Historic Brown Street: This park walkway in Milton is still officially called “Brown Street,” and served as the original entrance into Town Hall (formerly the County Buildings). It has been re-furbished with new and re-used interlock brick (pavers). About 60% of Brown Street is re-used brick. All the uneven brick surfaces have been smoothed out for ease of access and maintenance.
Pedestrian activity and accessibility: The diagonal walkway was widened to better accommodate all pedestrian activity and to provide improved access to the feature areas of the park. All walkways connect to a new plaza around the Cenotaph, which is better suited for large gatherings and those using mobility devices, such as wheelchairs and walkers. (The former playground and the Cenotaph were surrounded by grass with no formal paths leading to this area.)
Electricity and lighting: Electrical devices have been upgraded to better service the festivals and group gatherings that are held in the park. New and more energy efficient LED lights have been installed (in keeping with the previous style) on the existing cast iron light poles (donated by Milton Hydro 1989).
Fountain (still under construction): A new raised granite fountain functions more efficiently and will continue to be a tranquil complement to the central area of the park.
HERITAGE, IDENTITY, CHARACTER
Cenotaph/repairs: Earlier in 2016, the Town was successful in obtaining a grant from Veterans Affairs Canada to make improvements to the monument and the area surrounding it. The words “Lest we Forget” and “We Will Remember” are etched into the concrete design of the pathway. A symbolic poppy paving design, for the pavement around the Cenotaph, is a nod to the symbol of remembrance in the wars that the monument commemorates. Repairs are being completed by professionals who specialize in monument work. Repairs include general stone cleaning, chipped corner repair and sealing of cracks to prevent further separation.
WWI German Field Gun: This existing historical feature was incorporated into a seating area with interpretive signage that tells the history of the Cenotaph and field gun. With a map etched in the pavement beneath the field gun to mark the location where the gun was retrieved in France, the remarkable story of the field gun is now revealed.
Commemorative features: All commemorative trees and benches have been carefully retained and/or reinstalled.
Bell: The historic bell in the park, that is rung every New Year’s Eve to usher in the New Year, is in its usual place in the park, with newly exposed plaques thanks to some shrubbery work. The bell is on its original mounting of stone from earlier demolished buildings. It served as the Town bell, which was hung in the original Town Hall, from 1893 to 1985. It was used as the fire alarm, and was sounded every day at the same morning, noon and evening hours; on Sunday it rang out at church times. It was the Town’s third bell, cast by Blimer Bell Co. of Cincinnati.
Gazebo: Minor repairs and painting are being completed to refresh the gazebo. This “bandstand” as it was called, was originally built in 1974 and was moved from Halton Centennial Manor to the park in the early 1980s. Its style reflects the look of the original Victoria Park gazebo, which was removed earlier.
Tree protection: Trees that were dead or beyond saving were removed from the park (victims of Emerald Ash Borer or old age). Fifteen new coniferous trees (evergreen) and deciduous trees (lose their leaves in the fall) have been planted to help ensure healthy canopy growth into the park’s future. The new tree species include horse chestnut, maple, flowering crabapple, serviceberry, honey locust and Colorado spruce. These species won’t be impacted by the Emerald Ash Borer, a pest which caused some of the ash trees to be removed earlier from the park. Two large ash trees that have been able to withstand the Emerald Ash Borer and still remain in the park have been injected with a natural insecticide that may help to prolong their life. Safety hoarding was added for the protection of existing trees throughout the construction.
Soil information: “Because the soil in Victoria Park is rich, we wanted to preserve the soil for re-use in the park,” said town spokesperson Sofia Stanidis. All excavated material was fed into a soil shredder and what came back out was a fine organic, well-mixed soil. This re-purposed soil is once again an integral part of the park. “The shredder and process helped us reduce the amount of unwanted fill that would have to be trucked away from the park site,” she said.