Updated: Jul 14, 2019
Surfaces: rubber, sand.
East York has a distinct feel to it.
It doesn’t feel suburban in the way that Scarborough does. But it definitely doesn’t feel like downtown. East York has some kind of optimum blandness that makes it neither offensive nor alluring.
And I say that with love. I say it as someone who was born, raised, and educated there.
My house was on a block that straddled the East York-City of Toronto border, and so riding my bike around the block meant crossing a municipal boundary. Most such boundaries are meaningful only on paper, but I can recall clear differences on those childhood bike rides.
The fire hydrants were different colours on either side of the border, and the houses on the Toronto side were, generally, a few decades older and (this might have been my imagination) a bit nicer-looking. The most noticeable difference though was the sudden existence of trees as you entered the City. One moment you're in East York, with nothing between your skin and the blazing summer sun but a thin layer of ozone and the sweet smell of Greek pastries, and the next moment you're shaded by a gorgeous green canopy.
Dieppe Park is in the heart of East York.
Well, kind of.
The mall in Thorncliffe declares itself “East York Town Centre,” but it feels more like Flemingdon Park than East York. Geographically, the centre of the municipality that used to announce itself on street signs as “Canada’s Only Borough!” – a claim to fame that tells you a bit about how much East York has going for it – is probably somewhere on the DVP near Don Mills. But that requires you to include Leaside, which feels more like Rosedale or Lawrence Park with its winding streets, large homes, and entitled sense of superiority. (Just kidding, you guys. You’re good people.)
When I think of East York, I think of the rectangle formed by Pape, Sammon, Woodbine, and O’Connor, which forms an approximately four-square-kilometre chunk of post-war bungalows. It’s not a huge area, but when you’re in it, you get the sense that it might just stretch on into infinity.
So as I was saying, Dieppe Park is in the heart of East York.
As a park, it’s a pleasant neighbourhood hub. Baseball parks and soccer fields are ready for summer activity, and in winter you’re bound to see hockey games happening at the rink, or families slowly circling the nicely landscaped skating rink next to it. The playground itself is pretty small: a minimal splash pad, a couple of swings. The climber is a little ship, bearing the ambitious name, “Adventure Ship.” It’s fun for little ones, but not very challenging for older kids.
Although we visited in the middle of the summer, it was very quiet when we were there. Our son climbed by himself on the ship, had a token turn on the swing, and pressed the button on the splash pad, which yielded a distant gurgle but no water.
It was a bit early in the day I guess, and things probably were in full swing a few hours later. But I couldn’t help feeling like this was a playground in some kind of post-disease-outbreak Pleasantville. The bustling Danforth felt like it was worlds away. The Don Valley was in another universe. Here we were, floating in an abandoned playground in an abandoned park named after Canada’s most famous military defeat.
Our only hope was to climb on that little ship and pray for rescue.