Back in 2012 I showed you the picture below. The first apartments on the current rebuild of LeBreton Flats (Claridgeland) had been occupied for a year or so, and baby toys were starting to appear in windows. I asked, how prepared is the area for kids? Much of the site looked like bombed out Beruit, evolving to a simulated Aleppo.
A City goal is to repopulate the downtown neighbourhoods with families and kids. City officials were (and still are) quick to point their fingers at other levels of government (the Feds, school boards, for example) but reluctant to do anything themselves. One councillor was adamant that the city owned NOTHING to the folks buying or renting apartments there because they must be RICH.
Since then, Claridge has built many more family sized apartments and townhouses. There are apartments with front yard patios:
Two-storey street-facing apartment/towns, and lots of two bedroom+den apartments, and brownstones.
There is evidence all around that the developer has delivered family friendly and child friendly environments, as the development includes indoor and outdoor swimming pools, gyms, and wonerfs (ultra low traffic or vehicle free streets suitable for playing), courtyards, and plazas:
There are plenty of green roofs too, but these aren’t really play environments for kids:
Some of the balconies/decks are generous enough to keep a very small child entertained. After all, children all around the world are raised in apartments.
But at ground level, there is no tot lot or climbing structure. Maybe we don’t need one. But conventional wisdom says we do.
When I took the City’s park planning module (admittedly a few years ago) the park folks were adamant that parks were large, city-owned parcels of land, preferably rectangular, fenced, including a parking lot for cars. Small “pocket parks” in older neighbourhoods were strictly “make do”, they sniffed. Doing anything outside of fenced area was inconceivable … liability, you know. Someone might sue us.
Maybe this is the bureaucrat’s ideal play space, no trees, no dirt, no unevenness, it’s just like playing indoors, except it’s outside:
Of course, in Claridgeland on the Flats there is no — at least not yet — largish parcel for a conventional city park. When the Firefighters monument was proposed, I suggested the gathering courtyard could double as a spray pad park, in that way the site would get used more than once a year. You know, firefighters, water spraying, seemed a natural fit to me. Ah, the horrors !
Along the aqueduct, however, there is a pathway. The lot line follows the 12″ wall set in the grass to the right:
Between the lot line and the pathway, there is lots of room to drop in a small play structure module, then move on 100′ and plop down another. There’s already a fence to prevent tykes from swimming in the aqueduct and gumming up the pumping plant.
I see no reason why the play structures couldn’t be spread out along the long linear pathway. Mind the pathway is used by dog walkers and the occasional elderly 65 year old cyclist, but then I haven’t hit a kid (yet). After all, this isn’t Nepean.
And it’s not like the tot lot sized structures would be heavily used day and night, so I don’t see a bother for residents. Maybe we would need to prototype it first, just drop down two or three portable play modules and see how it works out. One might even plant a short row of shrubs between the structure and the path.
(that’s the resident’s outdoor pool nestled up against the building, towards the left)
Other City-owned and maintained parts of the path edge seem to be
Playgrounds on a cushioned sand base, fenced in, have a limited attraction to kids. They look for challenges. This is the play structure in front of my son’s grade school (don’t worry, he’s safely escaped home by now). It had some appeal.
Much more attractive was the stone wall in the distance, especially with those gaps that had to be jumped. Of course, they weren’t “allowed” on the wall, so they went out to the farthest part of the yard where the yard duty teacher was reluctant to go. Eventually, teacher would wander in that direction, hoping the kids would get down before she had to walk all the way. Which they did. In a finely choreographed ballet. Stay far enough ahead that you “didn’t hear” them call you by name.
Is Claridgeland an attractive place to have kids? With or without a tot lot? Are plazas and paved walkways through the ravines enough? Is the temporary park out in front of the site, designed as a “bold, drive by experience” a suitable substitute? (the Portland inspiration park for this had toboggan hills and slopes, but this NCC version is very “look at me” passive style).
Could a string of tot lot structures along a pathway work? If so, who would put them in and maintain them? (Remember, a linear pathway isn’t the Parks Dept cup of tea, or any departments, these are orphan spaces.)