Surfaces: wood chips, sand.
Manor Road United Church was built in 1925, on the edge of a small ravine that was home to Cudmore Creek in the village of Davisville, a suburb of Toronto and a long way from the heart of the city.
Mona Piper was born in 1929, on Guernsey Island in the English Channel, a tiny dot of land barely 10% the size of the city of Toronto.
As unlikely as it may seem, the stories of the church, the creek, and Mona Piper would eventually intersect.
Mona Piper came to Canada as a young woman, and would go on to spend more than 40 years of her life as a crossing guard in the Davisville neighbourhood. She faithfully helped kids cross the street on their way to Maurice Cody Public School, performing the job for so long that by the end of her career she was shepherding the grandchildren of some of the students she had helped out in her early years on the job. She retired as Toronto’s longest-serving crossing guard, and was a low-key local hero.
During her time, she watched as Davisville changed from a northern corner of the city, to a vibrant, condo-strewn midtown of modern Toronto. When the Yonge Street subway line was dug out in the 1960s, the earth was used as fill to bury poor old Cudmore Creek, levelling out the land to make further development easier. Not much evidence of the creek is left, other than the name of this park and the way Forman Avenue winds its way through the otherwise grid-patterned streets of Davisville.
Shortly before Mona Piper passed away, Manor Road United Church sold a piece of its land to the City, which planned a park named after the buried creek. The community, along with local government, joined forces after Piper’s death to plan a playground within the tiny park; a fitting tribute for someone who had been there for generations of neighbourhood kids.
The playground named in her honour is small but cozy, fenced on three sides with plenty of seating, including picnic tables and Muskoka chairs that are bolted to the ground. It’s close to the stores and general bustle of Mount Pleasant, but still feels quiet and very nestled within its neighbourhood.
The equipment is mostly geared towards toddlers; a wooden tunnel by Earthscape, a talk tube and roller slide by Landscape structures, and a generous supply of toys left by local residents. There’s also a large, pile-of-sticks style climber by Earthscape that’s probably too big for toddlers. Given the abundance of big-kid focused playgrounds in the area (June Rowlands, Trace Manes, Neshama, Eglinton Park) it might have been a better idea to focus the Mona Piper playground exclusively on toddler equipment, but hey, nobody asked me.
To the average passerby this playground might not even register. But if you’ve got a younger one in tow it could make for a nice play. Have a seat in one of the Muskoka chairs, watch your kid tootle around in a push car with one busted wheel, and raise a sippy cup out of respect for Toronto’s longest-serving crossing guard, and one of Toronto’s long-forgotten buried creeks.