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Dr. Lillian McGregor Park

Equipment by Kompan.

Surface: rubber.

Named for one of Toronto’s most prominent and accomplished First Nations women in recent memory, Dr. Lillian McGregor Park sits right downtown in a forest of condo towers, several of which helped fund its creation.

The park itself is quite beautiful, with huge sculptures of birds and feathers scattered around the space, and entrances to the underground parking lots fairly well-hidden by the landscaping. The park’s main paved area includes the iconic circle symbol associated with many aspects of aboriginal culture. A quick glance west and you can catch a glimpse of the U of T campus, where Dr. Lilian McGregor served as Elder-in-Residence of First Nations House.

Despite fairly obviously being a section 42 playground, the playground here isn’t bad, and in fact it’s pretty good for 5-and-unders. A bit of rope climbing, a rubberized hill leading to a pretty high slide, and two cozy tunnels built into the ground that my daughter pretended were bear caves. There’s also one of Kompan’s Bloqx climbers that provides a bit of variety.

But considering who the park was named for, and considering how thoughtfully the rest of the space has been designed, it is a bit disappointing that the playground itself contains no traces of First Nations symbolism. A couple of years ago we visited a skatepark and playground in the Tyendinaga Territory just east of Belleville, and it had subtle design features that acknowledged First Nations culture. It seems to me that the playground at Dr. Lilian McGregor Park would have been the perfect spot to familiarize Toronto kids with some of Canada’s First Nations’ iconography.

I mean, think of those panels you’ve probably seen at playgrounds: panels showing each letter of the alphabet in ASL; panels showing the capital cities of each province and territory. Might it be possible to create a panel showing the names of each of the First Nations groups who have lived on this land? Or a pronunciation guide for simple phrases in a variety of First Nations languages? After all, the earlier kids become familiar with something, the more it becomes an inseparable part of the place they call home. I’m sure that Kompan, in consultation with First Nations groups from the GTA, could have come up with something suitable.

Anyway, I’m obviously not a playground planner or a playground designer. Just a playground reviewer. And while it’s nice to have another playground pop up right downtown, there isn’t enough here (no sand, no swings, no water play) to make it a real destination.

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