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David Crombie Park (east)

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

Equipment by Henderson.

Surfaces: wood chips, brick.

My earliest memory of municipal politics is hearing my mother complaining about various tomfoolery at City Hall, and speaking wistfully about someone named David Crombie.

“If only Crombie were still mayor,” she would say, her voice rich with nostalgia, tinged with a depth affection that my dad may not have appreciated.

“Who’s Crombie?” I would ask.

“He was our tiny, perfect mayor,” she would say, speaking to me but staring well beyond me, towards a distant point somewhere between the living room and Scarborough.

Although his reign as mayor wasn’t the longest in the city’s history, it was a productive and definitive one for Toronto. The effects of his time in office can be felt today, and not just by my dear mother.

His approach to managing a city, it seems to me, was less like managing a business, and closer to managing an extended family. With no disrespect to his predecessors, they may have been caught up in the development fever of the post-war period, a fever whose main symptom was to put expressways everywhere. David Crombie was instrumental in slowing that momentum, and keeping the experience of residents in the foreground when it came to policy. In other words, he was the first of the Jane Jacobs mayors.

The park that bears his name cuts a lengthy east-west path through the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, an area developed during his time in office, and one of the first in the city to leave behind the blind demolition tactics of previous attempts at urban renewal. Low-rise apartments flank the park on both sides, and from the westernmost edge, provide a nice frame for the CN Tower in the middle distance.

The playground isn’t spectacular, but the climber is one of a dying breed: the classic wooden Henderson climbers of my childhood. Everything about these old playgrounds screams 1970s – the tires and chains, the brown wood, the orange slides – it’s like an Instagram filter that you can climb on. Visit while you can: a redesign is in the works, and the old climber will likely be replaced by an Earthscape playground.

There are no shared toys, no water features, and the closest bathroom is in a rec centre across the street…but I can’t help it. I love this one.

I think maybe the dense urban setting combined with the old wooden play structure allows me to imagine that I’m on Sesame Street. Was that a truck that just lumbered past, or was it Mr. Snuffleupagus? Is that a raccoon going through the garbage, or is it Oscar the Grouch? Is that a happy hipster couple over there, or is it Maria and Luis on their honeymoon?

Sorry, this was supposed to be a review, not a nostalgia session. I tend to get nostalgic sometimes. I think I get it from my mother.

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