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Vine Avenue Playground

Equipment by Little Tikes.

Surfaces: wood chips, sand, concrete.

In a lot of ways, Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood is the west-end equivalent of Leslieville.

Both areas grew up fast in the late-1800s, filled with factories and manufacturing, and both areas have railways cutting through them, a diagonal exclamation point disrupting the grid of streets that make up the rest of the neighbourhood.

Like Leslieville, the Junction has experienced a relatively quick gentrifying over the last quarter-century, and while the grit of previous generations still hangs in the air, there is also the growing and unmistakable hipness of craft breweries, yoga studios, and independent coffee shops.

But what the Junction seems to produce in even greater quantities than any of those things listed above is young families.

The Vine Avenue Playground was alive and busy well before 10am when my daughter and I arrived to meet up with an old friend and her new baby. This is clearly a well-loved and well-used playground, with little Junction children buzzing around on the equipment, which was varied and in good shape.

The sandboxes were covered, which is rarer than you might think, and the wading pool was fitted with splash pad elements, which meant that the kids didn’t need to wait for the lanky, teenaged City employee to come and fill the pool in order for them to get in a bit of water play.

The train tracks run right along the north end of the park, and a freight train lumbered by, catching the eyes of a few kids as they splashed merrily in the wading pool. At the park's other end, a group of older kids played basketball on a small court - another rare feature for a park of this small size.

My daughter, almost two at the time, played happily on one of the park’s two climbers, while I held my friend’s new baby, marveling at how tiny it was, and how my own daughter was ludicrously huge by comparison. I watched my daughter’s suddenly long legs stretch as she made her way up the climber, and then I looked down at the chubby limbs on this new baby, and had a moment of sheer wonder at how fast this stage of my life is going by.

Then the baby spat up, quite generously, all over my shirt, and I was quickly brought back to the present.

If the Junction is the mirror image of Leslieville, the Vine Avenue Playground is perhaps its version of the park at Leslie Grove – an evolving place that hints at what the neighbourhood used to be, but reminds us that, much like our quickly-growing children, nothing in this city stays the same for long.

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