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My Sustainable Day-Cation in Mississauga, Day 4: O’Connor Park

Ok, I have to admit it. After my amazing trip to the Garry W. Morden Centre, seeing fire training facilities and places where they stage major propane explosions, heading to a park seemed a bit ho-hum. But as soon as I showed up to O’Connor park, I knew that it wasn’t just any park I was here to see.

When you first arrive at O’Connor park, the first thing you notice is the parking lot. It’s not paved like a normal parking lot, it is covered in beautiful patterned stone. Now in addition to being aesthetically pleasing, this parking lot is also much better for the surrounding environment due to the fact that this special permeable stone paving allows water to filter down naturally into the water table.  A portion of the parking lot water runoff is collected in the bioswale in the middle and then re-directed toward the wetland to assist its sustainability.  This kind of permeable parking lot greatly reduces stormwater runoff, harvests rainwater and keeps it on site where it can benefit the ecosystem within the park.

The parking lot at O’Connor park, which incorporates permeable paving and stormwater management to ensure that water doesn’t just run off site.

The retaining walls at O’Connor park feature abundant vegetation, which is both beautiful and practical. These plants are drought resistant and hardy, which makes them ideal for growing in places where normally no vegetation would be found. These walls will fill in with plants in a few years.

Speaking of the ecosystem, it’s hard to ignore the chorus of songbirds, crickets and frog calls that permeate the park when I arrive. A quick glance around reveals the source of this beautiful cacophony, a thriving marsh in the middle of the park. In the wetland, birds perch atop tall reeds, turtles soak up some sun on logs scattered in the water, frogs sing their summer songs and I even spot a crayfish burrow on the edge of the water. It’s an absolutely beautiful scene to behold, and a few items provide a hint that all of this beautiful naturalization didn’t just happen on its own.

A native turtle basking log in the Marsh at O’Connor park. it’s hard to believe that immediately behind where this picture was taken, children were playing on a beautiful modern playground.

The first giveaway are the bird boxes. Pristine recycled white homes for birds stand out among the reeds, inviting birds to take off their jackets and stay a while. Less easily noticed, but perhaps even more interesting, are the bat boxes, non-descript brown boxes which play host to small colonies of bats who are only too willing to take advantage of the marsh’s thriving insect population. Along the bottom of the fence, there is also a barrier which I’m told is in place to keep the turtles from trying to move back to their old stomping grounds, where the soccer fields now stand. This barrier will soon train the turtles to adopt their beautiful new habitat, complete with a turtle island in the middle.

Birds were everywhere in the marsh in O’Connor park, and with good reason! Their home looks like it fits right in with the surrounding neighbourhood.

So while the turtles might not be able to relax, romance and repopulate in the area now occupied by a pair of beautiful soccer pitches, they do have those pitches to thank for their luxurious new home. Well, they have the infrastructure under the pitches to thank, more specifically. You see, underneath those beautifully manicured soccer fields lies a network of perforated pipes which allow irrigation water to infiltrate and flow into the marsh, keeping the marsh’s water levels up even when there isn’t much rainfall. With all moisture from the park flowing towards the marsh, it ensures the continued health and sustainability of the wetland.

Now while the wetland is supremely beautiful, it wouldn’t really be all that remarkable on its own. What makes the park impressive is the way that the marsh has been integrated into such a beautiful public facility. Playground equipment, a really fun recycled tire play surface, a large beautiful gazebo, the soccer pitches and a multi-use path running through the entire park all make for a public space that people actually want to use, and all the elements are designed to highlight and complement the wetland at the centre of the park. From the turtle-themed decor on the playground to the play waterway near the marsh, every aspect of the park is designed to remind you of your proximity to the marshland.

Some of the playground at O’Connor Park. The play surface is made of recycled tires, and is very soft (and fun to jump around on!). The park is also designed with a turtle motif throughout to reflect the natural heritage of the site, you’ll notice the turtle-egg play elements here.

From atop the hill, you can clearly see how the playground and the recreational parts of the park directly abut the natural beauty of the marsh.

O’Connor Park is also immediately beside a local elementary school, which frequently uses the marsh as a teaching tool to educate students about the natural landscape. Coupled with the placement of educational plaques throughout the park, it seems as though O’Connor park will become a place known for both education and recreation.

An interpretive sign at O’Connor Park provides residents with all sorts of information about the wildlife that can be spotted in the marsh.

I leave the park pretty amazed, it’s possibly one of the best integrations of the natural and the man-made I’ve ever seen on display in s public place. If this is a microcosm of what Mississauga has in store for the future, then residents have an awful lot to be excited about.

Speaking of being excited, my posts over the next two days are perhaps the most exciting ones I’ve written thus far. I get to see a great Car-Share Pilot Project, zip around in an electric vehicle for the first time ever and also meet with the GTHA’s rock star, Mayor Hazel McCallion. Trust me, these are not posts you want to miss!

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4 Comments on “My Sustainable Day-Cation in Mississauga, Day 4: O’Connor Park”

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  1. My Sustainable Day-Cation in Halton Hills Day 4 – Great, Green downtown Georgetown | Clean Air Partnership - November 22, 2012

    […] speaking of here is, in fact, made up of a permeable surface!  Much like the parking lot in Mississauga’s O’Connor park, Halton Hills’ Edith Street parking lot features permeable paving, which allows water to […]

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