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< Tri Van Huynh Court case | Problems 2006 | Building composting toilet at playground >

Description: Requirement for regular maintenance of sand; drainage issue. See Problems2006.SimonWookeyProjects.
Status: Open
Sandpit Maintenance
Request date: May 16, 2006

The sandpit gets so much use (hundreds of kids do adventure-playground "construction" there every week) that it needs regular machine maintenance, at least once a month. That is, we need a backhoe to go in there. All the sand that's been pushed out by water or shoveled out by kids needs to be replaced back in the log enclosure. Also, the hills and valleys created by the kids surrounding the sand pit need to be flattened at least once a month to make the ground even.

This maintenance needs to have a recreation staff person present to clear toys/logs from the sandpit and also to make sure that the operator has assistance in knowing where the sand needs to be pushed, logs, replaced, etc.

Please let us know when this can be scheduled.

Repeat request, May 21, 2006

Please let us know when this can be scheduled, and please note that it needs to be done when Mayssan is in attendance.

Site meeting June 2 2006

A site meeting was held at the park, with Park manager Sandy Straw, Park supervisor Peter Leiss, recreation staff Mayssan Shuja, and park friends Geogrie Donais and Jutta Mason. Peter Leiss said their backhoe operator is ill but the sandpit could be maintained when he has returned to work.

Site meeting photo June 2 2006

Request from Simon Wookey, June 13 2006, directed to park web site

This is to do with flooding of the back of the children's play area that abuts all the Havelock properties in Dufferin PArk.

The problem has not been a serious problem in the past as the tap was always sufficiently monitored by a responsible adult while the children played. Unfortunately this is no longer the case as somebody or some older children have found a hi pressure valve and turn it on and leave it flowing for hours.

This is causing massive erosion and flooding of peoples property and the silting up of the storm sewer which if untreated will overflow and potentially cause serious property damage.

Secondly the children leave a tremendous amount of garbage and toys behind that I'm getting tired of cleaning up. As you can see there are now pots and pans buried in the mud. The place is starting to look like an open sewer rather than a children's play area


1) Close and seal valve cover to prevent unauthorised use

2) Have sand pit faucet supervised at all times to prevent flooding

a) If not possible develop a way to lock tap to prevent unsupervised use

3) Have city works clean up silt in storm drain and volunteers clean up abandoned toys and detritus

4) All parties come together to discuss long term landscaping solution of which I am more than happy to contribute financially along with the city

I hope we can find a solution to this problem as if left untreated could lead to damage and health risks as there was a rat infestation last year in the same area along with the increased risk of mosquitos and west nile.

Response from Jutta Mason to Simon Wookey, June 13 2006

I agree with you that the sandpit area, having become way more popular than we anticipated, needs urgent attention. Let's make common cause.

Last year we requested that the city find a way for rec staff to lock up the water outlet by the bulletin board at night and that they inactivate (cap) the water outlet that's closer to your laneway. Neither of these things were done. Last year's maintenance supervisor also said his workers would create a French drain north of the sewer but they did not get around to it.

This year I have been asking the city to put in a regular sandpit care routine because when the sand is pushed back into the enclosure (sandpit), the water doesn't run over the edge so readily. At a site meeting a week ago I showed the manager and supervisor the situation. But this year's new maintenance supervisor said that his backhoe driver is ill and it's not easy to get a driver from another part of his division.

But he said he would try. With your photos and mine (I just took some more pictures on Sunday), we might get this moved up on the agenda.

As for the area looking slummy -- indeed it does. An adventure playground that gets such intensive use is bound to look less groomed than a garden but it doesn't need to be this bad.

Shall we meet at the site? Do you have time?

P.s. on-site rec staff have taken turns every night to check that the water's off and the shovels are hung up. I thought that whoever is turning on the tap full force at night has slowed down, but from your report it sounds like we're not seeing it all. It drives me crazy -- that's why we need a way to lock the water outlet. Also, someone in the neighbourhood is currently leaving new cheap plastic toys in the park every week or so (we don't know who). Cheap plastic toys are not good in a park -- they break quickly, their broken edges at sharp, and they look awful. I throw them away as often as I get down there. Anytime you throw away plastic toys down there, it's a service to the park.

repeat request to Park supervsior Peter Leiss, June 23, 2006

I'm hoping that you're making progress on the sandpit maintenance issues raise at our meeting three weeks ago -- no doubt that issue will also come up for discussion on Sunday. We did solve some problems with the help of the City plumbers, but the backhoe is needed.

response from Peter Leiss, June 23, 2006

I am still working on getting the sand pit taken care of. I have had an equipment break down and I am in the process of acquiring an alternative. I apologize for the delay on this issue. Hopefully I can have this addressed next week.

response from Tino DeCastro, June 29, 2006

we are having some difficulties that should be resolved shortly. Our equipment is in for repair and we are dealing with some staffing issues. This is a priority. I appreciate your patience at this time.

Question from Simon Lepik-Wookey to Jutta Mason, July 2 2006

just wondering if you had some time next week to have a little chat about the French drain for the water run off from the children's digging area. Also I don't know if you noticed but Rebecca and I have been doing a little gardening in the back there. We have established a good violet patch along with some day lilies and other flowers to hide that steel car barrier. We plan to transplant some irises in the fall along with some other hearty annuals that we have in our garden.

I was wondering what your and other grovers thoughts are towards establishing a nice little shade garden with a bench in that back corner. It could be a good project for children to learn about gardening... or just a nice place for parents to sit and rest in the shade while watching their little monsters having fun and getting very dirty.... just an idea. :-)

request from Jutta Mason, July 20, 2006

After just over three months we were glad to see your operator with a tractor at the sandpit this morning. But he and the playground staff agreed that this small machine is not suited for the job. Putting the sand back in the sandpit has always been done by Mark with the Case-loader before.

I gather that the Case is not "yours" anymore, since its High Park home has been moved to West District. But since it's still Parks and Rec and still the City of Toronto, I hope that you can "borrow" it.

The basic question remains: when a playground is as well-used as Dufferin, is there a time (say, after ten years) when new provisions could be made for maintenance? (The sandpit was put in in 1993).

Response from Parks manager Peter Leiss, July 20, 2006

I have had Mark come out once this season already to replace the sand in the pit. Unfortunately no recreation staff were on site at the time so any other work could not be accomplished. We have a loader in our area to use that was damaged and is for repairs currently. I do not know when this loader will be available again.

I will contact High Park and Parks West to make arrangements for Mark and the Case loader to appear once again. I will let staff know when this will occur. I hope this addresses your concerns.

Response from Jutta Mason, July 21, 2006

Peter, do you mean that the sand dumped in one corner of the sand pit a couple of weeks ago was done by Mark? Was there prior notice to Mayssan so she could arrange to be there?

From Parks manager Sandy Straw, July 21, 2006

Will check out with Peter on details of this. I am off for two weeks vacation after today returning Aug 9. Dave Chapman will be covering for me

Response from Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, July 21, 2006

That work was done by Mark. There was not time to notify Mayssan as this was re-scheduled a number of times and finally arranged at the last minute.

Sandpit task list for loader, from Dufferin Recreation lead staff Mayssan Shuja, July 25 2006

-flatten sand in sandpit

-push logs in a little

-take surplus sand from outside and dump inside

-fill trenches between sandpit and south end of park

-level ground a little between sandpit and south end of park

-create a little hollow type thing between sandpit and pool (so sand less likely to flow to pool)

From Jutta Mason to Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, July 27, 2006

Thanks for setting up the sandpit cleaning. Mark did a great job. Maybe we can have the little meeting you suggested, around the middle of August, to figure out a regular sandpit maintenance schedule? Once a month in summer (June, July, August) would be good, plus once more in the fall, I think that would do it. Four times a year for the sand replacement -- the rest of the time the rec staff can maintain it, as they do already. If other parks add sandpits and that takes some of the pressure of this playground, of course our maintenance dates can be reduced.

Sandpit after Mark put the sand back in July 26, 2006

Response from Parks supevisor Peter Leiss to Jutta Mason, July 28, 2006

As I have borrow staff and equipment to provide sand pit maintenance I am not certain that I could facilitate monthly maintenance. I will provide maintenance when I can.

Site meeting at the sandpit, Parks Supervisor Peter Leiss and Jutta Mason, July 28, 2006

Peter Leiss said that his problem is that although he has a front-end loader at his disposal, it is badly damaged and needs major repairs. However, it has not been possible to find out how the damage occurred and so the repairs have not gone ahead.

Peter Leiss also said that he had noted a very small wetland garden at the south end of the adventure playground area, planted by a resident. He said that such any such project would need a written agreement with the City.

Jutta Mason suggested that if other parks are going to include adventure playgrounds of the sand-pit type, there ought to be a meeting to examine what kind of maintenance such playgrounds need. They are very cheap to put in but they need proper maintenance so they don't turn into a mess.

From Parks supervisor Peter Leiss to Jutta Mason, July 28, 2006

1 We will structure a meeting over the next month to try to set a maintenance schedule for the sand pit. You indicated that you like Sandy to attend if possible.

2 We will also discuss at that time ways to resolve the drainage issue

Follow up comments from Jutta Mason to Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, July 31 2006

push logs in a little worked well

take surplus sand from outside and dump inside worked well

fill trenches between sandpit and south end of park problem because water now puddles in a dangerous way -- (1) mosquitoes and (2) drowning danger if the puddle gets too high, totally opaque so no one would see until too late -staff are digging the channel out again

level ground a little between sandpit and south end of park worked okay

create a little hollow type thing between sandpit and pool (so sand less likely to flow to pool) worked badly -- big, dangerous puddle, too deep in the middle -- rec staff had to fill in the hollow right away

Back to the drawing board. A French drain might be a good solution, but for now, running the water to the drain in the laneway is better than drowning a kid. Would Gus be able to help us divert the water, just using a little "cat"? This needs a bit of finesse.....

Response from Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, July 31, 2006

I will ask Gus if his guys could help with the drainage although we were asked to eliminate the drainage to the laneway just last week.

Response from Jutta Mason, July 31, 2006

yes Peter, I know Mayssan asked you to eliminate the drainage to the laneway (responding to Simon).

The thing is, this is trial and error (most things are, aren't they?) It's a project we're all engaged in together, all the park staff including your section, and me and Simon etc. I hope you agree we're all doing our best to respond to problems and figure this out together, and some attempts will work better than others.

I'm glad that Gus can help us with his experience too -- he knows so much by now, but this may be a new one....

The MOST important thing is to let Mayssan know when Gus is coming. Please, please, give advance notice, so that they can collaborate. (Strength in numbers!)

Request from Recreation staff Mayssan Shuja, August 2, 2006

Two of the logs that contain the sand in the sandpit - east side - have rolled out. Now there is no barrier any longer. Will Gus be able to push them back with the CAT?

Response from Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, August 3, 2006

We wil do this early next week. We are behind on preparing for two large events and can not spare anyone this week. I hope this is alright.

From Jutta Mason to Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, Aug.14, 2006

Is Gus coming sometime in the next few days, with the little machine? If so, could we have notice so we can show him where to move the sand? That would be a big help.

Response from Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, Aug.14 2006

He will be coming with Tom and the loader. I will try to co-ordinate this early this week.

Compliments from Jutta Mason to Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, Aug.16 2006

Tom did really well fixing up the sandpit and I think the kids are safer now and there's no more muddy water running down toward the wading pool. Plus they've got sand heaven.

Now all we need is to figure out some kind of French drain or dry sink, for the long term. But for now, things are good.

new sand barrier -- no more muddy water into wading pool

sand heaven

From Simon Wookey to Jutta Mason Aug.19, 2006:

Just to let you know we should have a french drain in by end of Sunday. Also we've cleaned up along the back and put in new plantings. Mostly Ornamental grasses and flowers.

We will see how the drain we put in works and find out if we need another one.

From Simon Wookey to Jutta Mason Aug.21, 2006:

the first on is in and filled with aprox 120kg of river stone and looks like it is draining very well. The second hole has been dug but we ran out of stone... :-(

Will be going back to Rona and picking up some more to fill it by end of today.

From Simon Wookey to Jutta Mason Aug.21, 2006 (later):

Well I had a chance to see how they are working and it is doing as well as can be expected. The drain is very good at drying up standing water, thus preventing mosquitos and west Nile. Unfortunately it is not designed to handle the almost constant water flow from the sandpit, a tremendous amount of water is released from 9am till 6-7pm.

One could trench a large pit a fill with stone but this would be inadvisable as it would introduce a large volume of water into the ground potentially causing possible problems such as undermining house foundations close to the park.

The solution that we have now, with the introduction of one or two more French drains to help with the drying out of the mud after the day is done, should proceed. For that we will need a donation of gravel aprox 250kg. After which we should start a dialogue with the park dept for a long term solution. This would entail a real sewer grate and drain.

From Jutta Mason to Simon Wookey Aug.21 2006:

Hi Simon, are you interested in meeting with Peter Leiss, the Parks supervisor? If so, his e-mail address is I imagine he'd want to talk before you do any more work on the drains.

Upate, Sept.18 2006:

would a French drain help?

The drainage problem never really got fixed. And blocking the water by heaping up a dirt barrier only made dangerous pools where kids might drown. So the staff reopened the "river" and let it drain down to the sewer. Would a French drain help?

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