Dufferin Park in Toronto is justifiably well known for its innovative features. The boy on the left (picture, above) is by the spigot that flows water into this large sand lot, complete with oversize logs that seem perfect to stimulate little imaginations while containing the mess and providing bum rests for parents.
Can’t you just hear Ottawa park bureaucrats commenting on the “safety” of that big log bridge? (shown above) Actually, watching the baby crawl up out of the ditch was hilarious and inspiring.
The Dufferin Park neighborhood and adjacent Trinity Bellwoods neighborhoods appear to me to be in the “Glebe” level of affluence. A number of large houses have been converted into small apartments for exorbitant rent, which is how I end up there (visiting my daughter). It is very self-consciously trendy and struts its “progressive” credentials proudly. Olivia Chow was a little ways over, meeting her constituents in an open air tent.
The park has a large public fire pit (that’s right, start your own open-air bonfires — the city supplies the firewood — and attract friends, neighbours, and other passersby). It has a shallow saucer-like wading pool, unlike any I have seen in Ottawa:
A parents association had set up open tents to sell lunches and snacks. Ideal for the urbanista nudist-infant who is a lactose-intolerant-vegan-celiac who likes tofu companions (can’t call them “dogs”). Fortunately, they had cans of coke too, which they sold whilst wincing.
There was also a large outdoor pizza oven that is “on” certain days. You can bake your own bread or pizzas or let the attendant bake your stuff.
In Ottawa, the closest thing I know of to a Dufferin-style waterpark is the Andrew Haydon Waterpark in the far west end:
The water feature is a kit-built structure with very modest water flow. Nonetheless, the little tykes manage to get very wet and very happy playing there**. The structure is now old, and quite leaky; I am surprised it hasn’t been torn down yet and replaced by something smaller and less imaginative and less fun. Hint: a rubber-roc pad floor would eliminate all that pesky sand!
Adjacent the water park is a public washroom, complete with a little outdoor shower for hosing down the little ones that have become weighted down with too much sand in their diapers.
Both parks make amusing spots to stop and watch someone else’s kids get dirty and have fun. Then I can bike off without having to carry the dirty ones home. Parents at both parks socialized a lot and relaxed.
Back in the 80’s, Houff tried to introduce a water park to Ottawans on LeBreton Flats. The park on Primrose has a series of shallow paved “ponds” that were to fill with water draining from adjacent houses via surface channels.
The water would later seep out through a catch-basin. Alas, water testing showed the runoff water was full of cat shit and dog feces; the depth of the pond around the catchbasin regulator panicked city staff who dumped mismatched asphalt into the pond to make it shallower. It now sits in isolation, functionless*.
My previous suggestions to the city that they install spray posts in the big rocks was dismissed as “too expensive”, although the biggest expense (the drain) is already there, as is the surface of the playpad. [The city insisted on “costing” the water supply from Primrose, at the front of the park, the maximum distance away, rather than tapping into the watermain 50′ away at the back of the park].
Alas, the surrounding neighborhood is not affluent enough to shake the funds out of city staff, who instead will probably tear out the perfectly fine wading pool on Elm Street (one block over) in order to put in … a spray pad. Why add facilities when you can replace?
Primrose Park has paid for but disused infrastructure. It could be resurrected and put to good use, economically, either by adding spray posts for kiddies to play in, or by filling the basins with sand and installing a tap so it becomes a creative play waterpark. Wanna bet either of these is high on our parks dept wish list?
When I think about it, I prefer the relaxed, slightly dilapidated and worn appearance of Dufferin to the more pristine Ottawa parks such as the Plant Pool water park or the Hayden waterpark. Less programmed. Less prissy. More genuine fun.
*for the second time its 30+ year life, Primrose Park will be hosting a play. Company of Fools puts on Antony and Cleopatra on August 13th, 7pm, Bring your own lawn chair and a tenner donation.
**there are no kids shown in the Ottawa pic because some parents might find it creepy to have an overweight elderly balding cyclist taking pic of their tykes, such is our paranoid society. So take my word for it, it is a popular playspace. Or better yet, take your kid/grandkid/neighbour’s kid there.