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News 2014

News 2014

From the October 2014 Newsletter:

The special gray-and-orange swings in playgrounds

Dufferin Grove, like many other parks, has a heavy-duty plastic swing that’s intended for use by children who are physically disabled. But you hardly ever see those swings being used that way – more often there are a few teenagers on them, sitting on top of each other and laughing their heads off. Part of the reason there are not more disabled kids on the special swings is that soft straps that are needed to keep the kids buckled in, and those straps are usually not there. When the straps are left on the swings, they can be vandalized, or just twisted around awkwardly by people who don’t know how they work. So nowadays those playgrounds that have the proper straps on site (not many) usually protect them by keeping them locked up until someone asks to use them.

Park users who know a family with a disabled child, please tell them that Dufferin Grove staff have the right straps and are eager to bring them out. If a parent calls or emails ahead, the staff will make sure they come down with the straps. Swings are a great pleasure for almost all children, including those who need the straps. Here’s a recent email from park friends Christina Serra and Dan Watson, about their son:

“We were there today, collected the straps and he was on cloud nine! Dan was swinging him so high, I was starting to get motion sickness.  Our son, however, was laughing so hard that he was losing his breath.”  

Fun! In spring, park staff will put up a sign to let parents know about the straps. To contact staff and arrange for the straps to be brought out, email staff at: or call the park at 416 392-0913 and leave a message. Any such request will get the highest priority.

The adventure playground sand-pit and water

For some years there has been a discussion between park friends, local program staff and city management about of making a better drainage bed for the water that’s such an important part of play at Dufferin Grove. The kids spend hours making river channels and bridges, dams and forest landscapes. It would be good to disperse the “river water” throughout the adjacent park area for irrigation instead of sending it straight down the storm sewer. In some other city parks there are more sophisticated drainage systems (e.g. Trinity, Earl Bales, Woburn Park, John Tabor Park). Dufferin Grove program staff and friends have invited management to restart the discussion here: can there be a working water-system for the park’s adventure playground?

A good water dispersion system will cost some money to build. Sadly, it’s possible that all the available “capital improvements” money in the park budget is already allocated – for building a second zamboni garage. The reason for building a second garage in addition to the one we already have is unknown -- maybe so the zamboni drivers won’t have to share the ample existing garage space with puppets and other park programs? But that’s just a guess. More information was said to be forthcoming last January but it never arrived. The cost of the garage is also undisclosed. CELOS has now written again to the Park supervisor asking him to confirm the garage plan and also the cost, and to give an idea of the feasibility of addressing the water drainage issue as well.

Playground maintenance

The main section of the present-day Dufferin Grove playground structure was bought from a Peterborough company called “Children’s Playgrounds” in the early 1980s. The company used high-quality materials, and the cheaper plastic competition eventually drove them out of business. Over the years at Dufferin Grove, so many little feet have gone up and down the wooden stairs and run along the platforms that the wood looks beautifully wavy and smooth – a bit like what you see in traditional Japanese wooden houses that are many hundreds of years old. Only the bridge that leads to the bigger slide is splintery, because cheaper wood was used to replace the jiggly bridge during the city’s last safety purge. The rest of the climber, though, is an art form.

In the past four years, the city has spent over $18 million to replace playgrounds across the city with new plastic structures, and it plans to spend another $24 million in the next four years. But at Dufferin Grove, instead of tearing down the fine older wooden playground, the city technical-services staff have been doing good maintenance. In the wave of citywide playground replacements, the Dufferin Grove playground has been spared so long that it might soon enter the Guinness Book of Records for playground preservation – and for "the most kids playing on a play structure at one time."

From the May 2014 Newsletter:

The playground needs building materials for the kids!

For years now, staff have had to warn parents and caregivers to bring some good reading materials when they bring their kids to play at the Dufferin Grove sandpit. The kids are so busy making rivers and dams and forts and gardens that they never want to leave. BUT: over time, the building materials get used up. This year there are very few poles, almost no A-frames, rocks, tree branches or stumps. Many playgrounds are swamped with plastic cast-off toys, just to give the children some loose parts to play with. But wood and natural materials work better at our adventure playground. Please help – bring left-over building materials to the park!

The strange story of Public Health and their citywide wading pool regulations

Soon it will be summer and the wading pools will open – and close and re-open, close and reopen, every two or three hours. Since Public Health got much more involved with the wading pools a few years ago, these once well-used neighborhood play pools have become a lot less enjoyable for families. Public Health inspectors require higher levels of (possibly toxic) added chlorine. They require constant draining and refilling, which never allows the water to warm up at all. They say that during the long slow periods of draining, no one is allowed in the pools because the force of the draining water might maim or kill the children. Inquiries about the evidence backing the frustrating new regulations have been ignored up to now. But as of May 1 2014, there is a revised Public Health Standard, which now says that Public Health officials “...shall foster community and citizen engagement in the evaluation of programs and services.” This ought to be an opportunity. A full report is coming in the June newsletter, with some constructive suggestions to help the bureaucracy reconnect to the real world of happy – and healthy – splashing children.

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