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Playground maintenance 2016

In public space even more than in people's homes, everything needs regular maintenance. When playground maintenance falls off the radar, a few years down the road the playground will be declared sub-standard, and chances are it will be torn down and replaced with a different model. If that newer model doesn't get good maintenance either, ten years down the road it will be torn down and replaced...etc. New playgrounds are funded through Capital Projects, and the City can borrow money to fund them. Maintenance of existing playgrounds (keeping them in good repair) is funded through taxes, and no money can be borrowed to pay the workers. So tearing down and building new is easier than taking good care of what's already there.

But it's also very wasteful. If parents want to preserve the playgrounds their children enjoy, they will have to monitor the city's playground maintenance and remind the Parks supervisor about things that need to be fixed. What follows is a nuts-and-bolts snapshot of e-mails requesting repairs in 2016.

April 18, 2016, email to Lennox Morgan (lmorgan3@toronto.ca), Parks supervisor:

Subject: Four playground issues

Now that the weather has warmed up, the playground is once again full of children.

1. The four-way teeter is still missing a spring on one arm,

2. The posts of the much-used bulletin board need reinforcing.

3. The sandpit water needs to be turned on

4. The sand in the sandpit is very low and several truckloads of sand are needed.

Please give me an idea when all these things can be fixed/done, I want to pass the news on to playground users.

Thank you.

April 19, response from Parks supervisor

Thanks for the report, I will forward your email to Tech Services playground technician to correct the playground issues.

Roman please create a work order to reinforce the bulletin.

April 25, 2016, response from Tech Services supervisor

I will be scheduling crews later in the week to take care of these issues.

April 25, 2016, response to tech supervisor and parks supervisor

Great that you're on it. If you feel like letting the onsite park staff know when your crew is coming, even better. Direct communication between program staff and and tech services crew has often been helpful. If you let me know, I'd come too -- a party.

Clarification re sand: the sandpit needs more sand (the concrete base of the tap extends far above ground now) and also the sand under the monkey bar could use rototilling. But please don't let anybody rototill the entire fenced playground -- it's awful for strollers, impossible for wheelchairs, and unnecessary. (I guess this may be Lennox, not tech services?)

Also the kind of tap that was installed at the playground last year spoils the kids' play. I asked for it to be changed back to a sturdy turn-tap, but no luck so far.

Would a petition help? I can get one going if necessary, please let me know.

Sandpit tap


summer 2015, tap kept running with a piece of wedged wood

Tap replaced May 2 and water turned on
 

New sand for the sandpit


sand too low, tap base exposed

Request April 18, new sand, May 2 2016
 

Teeter-totter spring broken


kids asking for teeter to be fixed, October 2015

spring broken on east arm of teeter
 

No action by May 9

 

Leaning entryway/bulletin board


boys building entryway and bulletin board, 1993

bulletin board repair request
 

No action by May 9

Roto-tilling playground surface

 
May 5, 2016, email from Jutta Mason to park staff

A miscommunication and some insults: Three of us were digging up the earth to loosen it under the monkey bars and at the bottoms of the slides (we started this yesterday). Two park trucks, each with one person in them, were parked at the side of the playground from when we got there (9.25) until 10.30. Then another truck arrived, with a trailer carrying a tractor with a rototill attachment. At that point the two men in the trucks got out and said they were there to rototill the entire playground. That is exactly what playground users have asked NOT to happen (year after year -- mostly Parks agreed) -- because it makes the playground impossible for strollers and wheelchairs and it is not mandated except narrowly around equipment.

Two of us asked for these staff to contact their supervisor but they refused. When I went over and asked one of the two people who were unloading the tractor if he could contact their supervisor he said: 1. I was interfering with them unloading 2. I was yelling (true: I was trying to be heard over the tractor motor) 3. who was I, and was I trying to give them orders? 4. I could contact the supervisor myself.

Then one of the staff who had been in the trucks beside the playground came over and asked: "Is that liquor I'm smelling on your breath?"

Then I left and they all stood around talking.

Since there were other parents watching some of this, and recreation staff were in the park as well, it will probably make the rounds. Maybe it would be good to ask your staff to be more civil to people, even to someone like me, who this particular crew obviously dislike? .....I would appreciate a response.

But there was no response. However, the park staff did not return to rototill.


rototilled 2008: strollers can't move

rototilled 2010: special-needs swing inaccessible
 

2010: tilled everywhere except where needed!

sand needs some digging, but city workers stay in trucks
 

Tetherball

The tetherball gets a lot of use and it often breaks off its rope. More tetherballs are kept in the park rink house and the staff used to climb up their ladder to replace the broken ones. But in 2016 their ladder was removed because the on-site staff had not had their formal ladder training. So staff had to drag over a picnic table to stand on, and often they just didn't bother.


tetherball
 

Steering wheels


there used to be two steering wheels

steering wheels removed -- why?
 

Sand in little sandbox


sandbox too low

students bringing sand from sandpit, 2009
 

May 2016 update


fixing bulletin board

The park staff did not fix the bulletin board, so on May 19 some playground users did. It's good for another season now.

Also, recreation staff and playground users have taken turns loosening up the sand under the monkey bars and at the bottom of the big slide.

 

June 2, 2016

adventure playgrounds need a daily cleanup and sorting of building materials: this rarely happens here
 
June 24, 2016

We're attempting to create some order with labelling of the different sections for different shapes of wood. Who will take the trouble to set it up this way, so the kids can more easily choose their building materials? That remains to be seen.


Sandpit June 24, 2016, 3 pm
 

Water supply

June 27, 2016, 33 celsius and no water

June 27, 2016: school visits, but water turned off all day for unscheduled plumbing maintenance, 33 celsius
 

notice, after the fact

drinking water ran out by late afternoon

Over the last two weeks the playground has often been very full, because so many school classes come and because it's been so hot. Now in the last week of school, the plumbers came this morning to do wading pool pipe maintenance. Nobody at the programming end knew this was happening, so there was suddenly no sandpit water and no drinking fountain either.

Non-communication is somewhat of a city specialty. How remarkable it would be if staff and park friends suddenly began to plan together, openly and without turf struggles.

Later in the day, a plumbing supervisor said the water could be turned on at 5 pm, but it wasn't. The general supervisor of tech services said that they forgot to turn the water on as promised, but the next day he wrote that there was no mistake because the repair had to set for 24 hours. Also he wrote that their timing was no problem because "the repairs that were completed are in line with the timelines for the opening of the wading pool...drinking water should have been accessible in the community centre which is a very short walk away from the playground."

The bigger problem is that "all the water lines are tied together." So the solution would be to separate them for major program areas like the adventure playground versus the wading pool versus the cob cafe.

Email from Peter White (pwhite6@toronto.ca), Parks general supervisor, July 12, 2016

A water supply issues was discussed where there is not sufficient pressure to operate the cob courtyard or the adventure playground while the wading pool is being filled. Tom Feeney proposed that the line feeding the irrigation system could be tapped to provide a separate feed to the playground and cob courtyard. This will be submitted as a request to be added to the 2017 Minor Capital program.


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