Equipment by Miracle, Nature's Instruments (formerly Bienenstock)
Surfaces: wood chips, rubberized wood chips.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re old enough to remember when Vortex opened at Canada’s Wonderland. As the first suspended roller coaster in the country, the hype was enormous. The ads were ridiculous. The lineups stretched almost to Orangeville. In the summer of 1991, it was on every Toronto teen’s to-do list, along with snagging Blue Jays tickets and watching “In Living Color.”
Well, if you remember the thrill of riding Vortex for the first time, you will understand the excitement of the main attraction at GECo Park. It’s an element called “Gravity Rail” by Miracle Playground Equipment, and it is worth the trip on its own. A single swing, suspended Vortex-like from a rail, follows a circular path from its slightly raised starting point. The speed is just enough to be thrilling, and the first corner will give your youngster their first taste of g-forces. It’s awesome.
Awesome as it is, there are a few problems with this park.
First, the Gravity Rail can only accommodate one rider at a time. If the park is busy, turn-taking will be a real test of patience. Or worse, if that element breaks, there goes your biggest reason to visit the park.
A sign at the entrance will try to convince you to download an app called “Biba,” which offers interactive games you can play at the playground using your phone. (Actually, mostly what it offers are in-app purchases.) Please do NOT download this, unless you enjoy trying to figure out an app while your children tug at your sleeves to get you to, you know, actually play with them.
The other equipment is okay – a climber with a neat interactive element at its base, some mildly diverting balance elements by Nature’s Instruments – but given that this park was built in a blank-slate brand-new subdivision, the lack of other elements is a bit disappointing. No sandbox; no splash pad; no washrooms; no skate park…compare this park to Stanley Greene, another new build in a new neighbourhood, and this feels like a missed opportunity.
There is one other interesting aspect to this park, and it has to do with the name.
GECo (pronounced “jee-ko”) refers to the General Engineering Company, which was a major manufacturer of ammunition for the Canadian government during the Second World War. Its enormous factory, 172 buildings on more than 300 acres, sat on this site during the war. It employed more than 5000 people at its peak, many of whom were women, and a nearby underpass honours those women with a mural.
None of this history is evident in the playground. And while I’m not exactly sure how one would incorporate the theme of “ammunition” into a children’s playground, you’d think that at least a plaque would be in order. You can read more about the GECo plant here.
So while this playground is a bit disappointing, the Gravity Rail is certainly worth your time. Just be sure to go outside of peak hours.