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Clairlea Park

Equipment by GameTime.

Surface: sand.

Clairlea is a neighbourhood in Scarborough that I wouldn’t have known existed if it weren’t for the street signs that constantly remind you you’re in Clairlea.

On some streets near Clairlea Park there are even extra signs, below the regular street signs, saying things like, “Home Since 1950” and “Home Since 1949” on them, which strikes me as a bit strange, and possibly the type of thing real estate agents would do to try to give a neighbourhood some validity. The Wikipedia entry for the neighbourhood reads like a brochure written by a realtor desperate to drum up business: “Clairlea is a safe, quiet, middle to upper-middle income neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario, Canada that features well treed streets and detached homes with large backyards.”

Something else the neighbourhood features is a pretty nice park at its centre.

The equipment at the Clairlea Park playground is a bit older and faded from years in the sun, but still in good shape. It features a nice assembly of GameTime’s “XScape” climbers, which offer some varied options for climbing and spinning. The other senior climber can be accessed on one side by a molded plastic rock wall which encouraged my daughter to spend a few minutes pretending to be a mountain goat. When we visited, the shade under this plastic rock wall was providing relief from the heat for a group of toddlers who were staring up at the dinosaur skeleton imprinted into the plastic’s underside, and for a second I think they took my daughter’s thunderous steps above them for dinosaur footsteps.

One climber featured a circular platform that looked a bit like a suspended 45rpm record with a sliding pole down the middle; a cool element that I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else.

But the element that kept my daughter occupied for the longest was something that GameTime calls the “Tilted Sky Runner” – a vaguely mushroom-shaped spinner that you hang from rather than stand on. Its slight tilt means that even a bit of momentum will carry you around for several revolutions thanks to the effect of your own body weight. My daughter had a great time dismounting this thing like a crazed gymnast, and for once I was grateful for a playground with a sandy surface, as it made for a safer landing.

The rest of the park is pretty nice as well: a decent splash pad, a gazebo, and plenty of trees for shade. (Well, they don’t shade the playground or any of the many benches…but they do provide some nice picnic spots just beyond the perimeter of the play area.) Further away are public tennis courts and a large soccer field.

As we ate our picnic lunch, crowds of high school kids began to appear from school at the park’s northeast end, yearbooks in hand, and with the carefree vibe unique to high school kids in their last week of school on a sunny day. It was hot, and some of them stopped near the splash pad, looking at each other hesitantly as if asking unspoken permission to be kids again. A few of them dared each other to stand under the bucket in the splash pad, and within minutes the park was filled with the laughter of young adults who, in all likelihood, had played in this same spot a decade ago.

I watched them play to my right, watched my daughter pretending to be a mountain goat to my left, and shed a tiny tear for the passage of time.

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