Jaws hit the floor when consultants took Newmarket councillors on a tour of their latest design for the proposed Mulock Arboretum.
After months of work and consultations, PLANT Architect Inc. has boiled down the many ideas for the arboretum's design to a proposal ready to be costed-out and go to public consultations next month.
Councillors were quite impressed with what they saw at a special council meeting Tuesday.
"Metaphorically, of course, my jaw is on the ground. Truly, I am not exaggerating," said Mayor John Taylor. "I am very impressed with what has been presented. This project is becoming more real."
Councillor Kelly Broome agreed.
"This was an absolutely jaw-dropping and emotionally overwhelming presentation. It is very nice to see all the details being real and understanding which each of the details are going to be. I know this property very well, and it's nice to know exactly where each piece you showed us today will be."
The park is proposed to be built at the large manor house property on the corner of Yonge Street and Mulock Drive, once owned by Sir William Mulock. The project is still years away from being completed, but on Tuesday, PLANT founder Lisa Rapoport gave the town the first glimpse at what it might be like to walk through the completed Mulock Arboretum.
Image 1: Yonge and Mulock Entrance
The main walking entrance for the arboretum will be from the sidewalk on the corner of Yonge and Mulock. A large public art installation will mark the entrance and will be visible from the road.
One issue with having a walking entrance from this side of the property is that there is a large ditch with a wet marshy area at the bottom. To get around this, Rapoport and her team are proposing a raised walkway that will go over the ditch. They are also proposing to turn the ditch itself into an engineered wetland with rocks for sitting nearby.
The walkway will split and either lead to the Great Lawn, which can be used as a venue for large public events, or up to the north toward the riverine water feature.
There will also be a parking lot at the southern end of the property.
Image 2: The Riverine
The riverine is a large water feature that is like an artificial creek. It would run along the eastern edge of the property by Yonge.
According to Rapoport, the inspiration behind the look of the riverine is the Oak Ridges Moraine, which is a natural feature created by the last ice age. Scraped natural rock and glacial streams are a motif that has been incorporated into the overall design for the park.
The riverine itself will have a stream that will flow down into wading pools with accessible rock features for people to walk or sit on. Eventually, the water will collect in a main pool at the bottom before being pumped up to the top again.
"This water does not meet or mix with the water of the engineered wetland," said Rapoport.
Image 3: The House and Cafe
As visitors head west from the walking entrance or north from the parking lot, they will arrive at the Mulock family residence, which Rapoport said is the centrepiece of the property. The house itself could have a cafe or other amenities.
When the house was occupied, the family grew out their hedges to create a privacy screen from the increasingly busy Yonge Street. After some debate, Rapoport's team decided that a section of these hedges should be cut down to open up the view of the house.
Image 4: The Skate Trail
Immediately north of the house is the skating trail, which would form a half-kilometre loop through the park's northern part. During the winter, people can skate on it through the forest. Rapoport said that a walking trail and benches would be built along the sides of the trail to allow people to watch or walk alongside the skaters.
A sound wall has been added to the design to protect nearby homes.
Image 5: Splash Pad and Skate Pavilion
Also next to the house is an area that will serve separate functions during the warm and cold months of the year. During winter, this area will serve as a small skating area attached to the main skating trail. Rapoport said this is where people will be expected to get on the ice and then head out onto the main skating trail.
"You can't just get on the highway, so to speak. This is the place where you can find your sea legs, or for little kids who don't want to go very far," she said.
The buildings on either side of this area will house a skating rental shop and the ice maintenance equipment, such as a Zamboni.
In the summer, however, this area will be transformed into a splash pad where kids can beat the heat. Parents will be able to sit at nearby tables or on the natural rock features and dip their toes in the water.
Image 6: Conservatory and Diversity Gardens
Nestled in a grove of trees west of the manor house will be the conservatory, which will have gardens out front with plants representing the many diverse communities in Newmarket.
The conservatory itself will be retrofitted from the former garage and stable buildings. Two glass roofs will be added to the buildings, with a space big enough inside for class field trips. It will also have washrooms.
"This is a place for growing (plants) but also for education. This started off as a small element (of the overall design), but there were discussions about having school groups, and now it has turned into a large conservatory that is still quite modest. The gardens outside are something that would be developed in conjunction with diverse groups," said Rapoport.
Image 7: The Historic Gardens and Artist Residency
To the south of the conservatory, near the parking lot entrance, will be the historic gardens and fountain that are original to the house. These gardens would get be redesigned, with the surviving peony plants replanted around the perimeter of the garden. The design calls for additional water features to be added to the original fountains and more natural rock features.
The green space in front of the gardens will contain the gathering tree, which will be a landmark to meet at when arriving at the park, and a public fire pit.
Where the former pool house currently stands, a studio space will be built for an artist-in-residence to use for his or her work and interactions with the public. During the summer months, the studio's glass wall can be opened to allow for greater access.
Image 8: The Jim Bond Park Natural Playground
The existing Jim Bond Park at the far northwest edge of the property will be incorporated into the arboretum as well, with the design calling for a natural playground there. Laid out in the shape of a tree, the playground will have wooden play features, much of which will be reclaimed materials from the park's construction.
"A central element would be constructed in concrete to look like a log that kids can inhabit," said Rapoport.
Image 9: Lighting
Plans for how to light the property were also discussed at length during the meeting. The goal, said Rapoport, is to make the arboretum a safe and comfortable space to enjoy at night, while also keeping light pollution to a minimum.
The plan is to incorporate downward-facing fixtures that will illuminate particular spots instead of flooding the area with light the way street lamps do. Some of these lights may even have stencils to project patterns for added whimsy, said Rapoport. There will also be waist-high, vandalism-resistant bollard lights on some of the paths and string lights over the skating path.
The house will be illuminated to serve as a "beacon" in the centre of the park, and consultants have already done experiments on how best to do this.
With this phase of the design work done, Rapoport told council that the next steps will be to meet will to meet with the town's task force overseeing the project at the end of the month and to get an estimate of what building this design would cost.
Public consultation on these plans is expected in early March.