Over the past 20 years, High Park-Roncesvalles resident Alison Crouch has watched her corner of Toronto blossom into something beyond a collection of insular dwellings in the cold city. It has become the epitome of the term community: A supportive cooperative determined to benefit all.
“This area really is a village,” she beams. “People talk about how Toronto is a city comprised of villages and small towns. That’s what this area thrives on. Even if you’re not a part of it yourself, you’re enveloped by the community here. Everyone smiles and nods at each other. I’ve never run into the ‘head-down, don’t-smile’ mentality Toronto is accused of having.”
“I feel comfortable allowing my children to walk around and navigate independently because they know everyone from the crossing guard to the corner bakery and greasy spoon,” she adds, discussing how residents embrace familiarity in order to ensure High Park-Roncesvalles fosters the safety and self-confidence essential to any thriving locality. “Everyone knows each other and that’s an important part of being vested in your neighbourhood: Knowing who makes it up. That’s easier when you’re a part of this small town inside the big city.”
To that extent, Crouch points out some of her favourite businesses, illustrating their extended reach into fostering local pride over simply mongering goods/services. From the Cherry Bomb coffee shop and Home Hardware — with its consistent charitable support — to the Village Healing Centre (offering accessible alternative health-care services at or below rate) and A Good Read’s encouraging warmth, she is fond of the commercial contingent’s spirit and enthusiasm.
“We’ve got the chains but we’re comprised of independent businesses making personal connections with the people in their neighbourhood. These people are committed because a lot of these owners live here. They don’t just drive in. You see them around. You know the shopkeepers, everybody talks to one another; they’re your neighbours on the street.”
Utilizing the area’s ample green spaces as axes for bolstering such relationships, High Park-Roncesvalles regularly features events for all seasons, with highlights including the annual Pumpkin Parade at Halloween and Sorauren Park’s impromptu skating rink. As for High Park, its vastness and beauty — currently blooming with cherry blossoms — is a converging point for that sense of welcome and support Crouch sees as inherent of the ward.
“You might not know the other parents hanging out at the park but you don’t need to,” she invites. “We know (one another’s) kids, we all share snacks. Just bring your family, hang out and conversations will start.”