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posted December 2001

Removing playground equipment

The playground slide was removed on November 28, after yet another child fell off the unsafe top platform and had to spend an evening at Sick Kids Hospital. The mother of this child said she was afraid to call the city and complain in case they would just remove the slide and leave the playground with no slide at all. And that's exactly what happened. However, Councillor Silva's assistant Ana Bailao called the parks department and was told by the director, Don Boyle, that the playground will get a new slide in the spring.

Although other parents had complained about the slide in the past, the city inspector always said the slide was not a hazard, judged by the new "CSA" rules. So because our slide didn't offend the CSA rules, even if many children fell off it, city staff felt that the city would not have a problem with liability. (Hard to believe, isn't it?) On the other hand, if playground equipment does not meet the "CSA standards," even if there has not been any problem with it, it may be removed. (The CSA is an association of the same manufacturers who are ready to sell us all the replacement equipment.)

That's why, on the same day as our slide was removed, the big trucks went over to Trinity-Bellwoods park and removed their wooden play structure (it was much like ours, which is still in place). According to the playground users there, no one was warned about this beforehand, nor was their citizens' Park Committee told. (Beyond that, the new CSA standards do not apply to any structures built before 1998, but this guideline was not being followed here.) A new plastic-coated metal structure has been installed, again apparently without getting community advice in making a selection from the manufacturer's catalogue.

Playground climber - still there

To make sure that no such unexpected event occurs here at Dufferin Grove Park, playground users and their parents will have several morning meetings at the rink house in early February (with juice, tea, and cookies) to discuss playground issues. Meantime we've asked the city staff to post all playground-related bulletins and plans on the rink house bulletin board WELL IN ADVANCE of any action to clear out the playgrounds. The new parks manager of our area, James Dann, has agreed to this.

One example of problems with "CSA" standards: the rules say that the ground under any equipment should be soft enough so a fall doesn't hurt too much, break bones etc. If a park can't afford the new synthetic rubber playground floorings (very expensive, very hard to maintain, and maybe flammable), the park can use wood mulch. Easy, right? Wrong. Besides putting splinters in little ankles, knees, hands, and all the other exposed skin of active kids, the mulch offers good cover for broken glass, needles, sharp metal, and other trash. Spilled juice and food, concealed in the wood chips, can set up little microcultures of multiplying germs, and the Toronto rats - big and getting bigger - can set up their tunnels under the wood chips, to get to bits of decomposing food.

All this in the name of additional safety. Back to the drawing board?

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