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Assets: Playground Page for vital little plan

The Dufferin Grove playground has four main features: the adventure playground sand pit, the enclosed wooden playground, the wading pool, and the cob courtyard.

The Adventure Playground Sand Pit

The adventure playground sand pit was installed in 1993 to give older children an area to play. A bed of about 20 feet by 40 feet was dug out in an area shaded by Norway maples. It was lined with gravel, and filled with sand. Logs were placed around as borders. Park friends supplied a dozen short-handled garden spades, along with long straight branches, ropes, and large cloths for tents.


shovels

Children were initially very competitive with turf and supplies. However, more cooperative play unfolded when children began diverting a hose intended for gardeners into the sand pit. When adults realized how eager children were to work together building rivers, dams and bridges, they bought a portable water tap at Lee valley for the children’s use.


water meter

The shovels, wood pieces and water tap remain, and children from toddlers to early teens do “engineering” projects and cool off in the water. Schools visit in warm months. In summers the sand pit is filled with children, as numerous day camps and daycares come to the sand pit alongside children with their families.

The sight of a water tap running for hours causes some to be concerned about water usage, but an analysis comparing water use from the sand pit to the adjoining wading pool found the sand pit used 4160L per day, if it were running ten hours a day, versus the wading pool, based on its current use at being filled and drained twice a day, at 43,590L per day.

The Playground

The wooden playground was installed in 1983. In 2007, $79,000 was budgeted to replace this playground, but the Ward 18 councillor thought these funds were insufficient and neighbourhood families liked the playground as it was, so it was left in place. The surface is sand, and the playground has a wooden fence around it. One larger structure has a large slide and a bridge to a smaller slide, with four different gradients and surfaces to climb on (stairs, ramp, ladder, rope net), plus monkey bars at a height suitable for taller children. Beside this structure are three bucket baby swings. Another structure has a “room” with a small table and bench, a roof, another shelf at ground level, and twinned toddler slides. Monkey bars branch off this structure for smaller children, with a single, separate shorter bar for the very small. Children use the structures for imaginative play (“house,” “restaurant”) as well as for climbing, and older children often climb onto the roofs.

A small sandbox about 8’ x 8’ is suitable for babies not ready for the adventure sand pit. North of the structures are long swings with two bucket baby swings and four swings with strap seats. Nearby is an accessibility swing whose harness is missing. There is a toddler-sized spring teeter-totter, a two-person spring teeter-totter, and a four-person teeter-totter. There is also a spider climber. On the northwest corner of the playground is a wooden gazebo with benches, for shelter in the rain. This shelter has a step up to its floor that makes it inaccessible for wheelchairs.

The Wading Pool

Just west of the sand pit is the wading pool, divided from the sandpit by a long row of armour stone. There are a number of tall shade trees around the pool, it as well as newer tree plantings. Half of the pool is surrounded by grass with some picnic tables and a chess table. A long curved concrete base houses the water outlets and sprinkler jets to fill the pool, and this base also functions as a bench. Beside the concrete base for the water outlets is a drinking fountain with taps at three different levels, the lowest used for washing feet and giving dogs a drink.

In 2009 the wading pool was resurfaced with a “cementitious” layer over the concrete. However, this surface was slippery and caused falls, and in a few years it began corroding along the expansion joints of the underlying concrete. The Parks manager said the cementitious layer would be removed in 2017; however, the removal is still pending.

Cob Courtyard

West of the wading pool is the cob courtyard, where park staff sell hot food, snacks, and drinks In the late 1990s, staff began serving food at the playground out of a food cart. However, in 2004 Toronto Public Health required that a fridge and sinks for food preparation had to be installed for playground snacks to continue.

Park friend Georgie Donais suggested a counter for sinks and food backed by a long cob wall. “Cob” is a form of adobe made of a mix of sand, clay and straw. A $2500 grant from Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation was obtained, and Georgie worked with many volunteers of all ages build the cob wall and a prep counter.

Parks and Recreation supported the project, with city plumbers installing the plumbing for the four sinks, and city electricians installing the electric water heater and electricity for the snack bar cooking facilities. The wall is curved at both ends, decorated with mosaics, with a green roof on one section, and cedar shakes tiling the top.


Raspberry and other shrubs hug the side of the cob not used as a kitchen, with a garden west of the cob. The cob courtyard cafe opened in 2005 and has continued to operate to the present. Food is prepared in the rink house and transported to the cob. Hot food like macaroni and cheese and hot dogs is kept warm in crock pots. Snacks typically sold include cookies, muffins, salads, wraps, juice boxes, coffee, and tea.

The fourth sink is available for anyone to wash their hands or fill a water bottle. The courtyard serves food every day through school summer holidays, and on weekends during warm months when school is on. Movable round tables with metal stands are left in the courtyard, and staff put out stools for seating when the cob kitchen is open. The cob, like all public buildings, needs periodic maintenance and graffiti removal. Over the past 6 years, a diminishing number of staff have been trained in how to maintain the cob, with a corresponding irregularity in cob maintenance.

 

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