During these heady days of electioneering for provincial candidates and perpetual budget issues at city hall, we lament another summertime gone. It was filled with more sun than we’ve seen in recent summers so we had more opportunity to enjoy our city, its changing neighbourhoods and its public places.
One of the best new public places in midtown is the redesigned, fully accessible playground in Oriole Park, known as Neshama. It’s my son’s favourite playground. The relocated/rebuilt bathroom building with the awning against the resurfaced tennis courts leads into the experience and fun area that has many water features and interesting play structures for all ages and physical and mental abilities. All the surfaces are smoothly transitioned together so wheelchairs and sidewalk-scooters can go everywhere. No matter what age, disabled or not, all kids and caregivers can use this playground to learn and have lots of fun — together.
The first time I was there with Jack, I witnessed kids all over, gleefully engrossed and pulling their parents, grandparents, siblings or nannies around by the hand to the next activity centre. Although, I remember the city’s public consultation process included its staunch opponents as well as supporters, the new playground is definitely a boost to the beautiful, mature, local neighbourhoods of Deer Park, Oriole Park and Chaplin Estates.
My congratulations to the many local residents, city representatives, playground experts, disabled children’s schools and organizations who worked together to seize this opportunity to renew a tired, but classic, traditional playground. And, of course, the idea — along with half of the $1.3 million in funding — was generated by the philanthropic fund-raising Neshama Playground Foundation, led by a group of local residents. Thank you. I hope the public playgrounds across the city receive this renewed treatment well before the provincial laws force the city to make the improvements within the decade.
Another bright new public-private partnership is the redesign of Montclair Parkette at the corner of Spadina Road and Montclair Avenue. The Forest Hill Village Business Improvement Area shared the cost of giving a facelift to this humble greenspace. Benches and tables, retaining walls with a paved path, plantings, energy efficient lighting and the neighbourhood entrance sign will make this corner a village destination for years to come.
Yonge and Eglinton has a couple of new public places close to it too. Funding from the adjacent landowner is finally transforming the private greenspace at Soudan and Dunfield avenues into a public park, complete with a playground. The Dunfield Parkette will be another new public place in our local neighbourhoods that will enrich our city for years to come. A public naming process will be held by the city in the near future.
And lastly, kudos to city councillor Karen Stintz, local residents and businesses for achieving a road closure on Orchard View Boulevard at Yonge Street, leaving it open for pedestrians only, allowing the café tables and conversations to take over since July. Traffic has adapted and the Apple Tree Farmers’ Market thrives in this new public space every Thursday.
Community is building all around us, improving our quality of life. In a city growing as dense as ours, we will only increase our need for more great public places as time goes on.
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