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Gamble Park

Updated: Jul 12, 2019

Surfaces: sand, grass, concrete.

Pape and Cosburn is an interesting part of East York.

When I was a kid, it was a destination for me because it was home to a little video rental place called “Video Depot,” and my brother and I were on a mission to watch every chapter of the Friday the 13th saga.

At some point in the 90s, local government tried to brand the small retail strip as “East York Village,” a name that was doubly futile, since amalgamation was soon to wipe East York off the map, and the towering apartments on Cosburn didn’t exactly lend a villagey atmosphere.

Until recently, a small and seedy clothing store called “Eleven 11” had a spot right at the corner, and slowly expanded to fill three or four more storefronts in adjacent buildings. It was a weird era of colonization, which I watched with interest from my morning bus stop. Who were the retail minds behind this little clothing empire? How far did they hope to expand? Most importantly, who shopped there? Judging by the clothing on display, it always seemed to me that “2002” would have been a better name than “Eleven 11.”

In any case, they soon closed down, probably crushed under the weight of paying rent in a dozen separate buildings. The corner is now inhabited by an espresso bar and a vape store.

And that’s the curious nature of this area: it seems caught between demographics. Trendy mamas pushing up-market strollers bump shoulders with chain-smoking patrons of the East York Restaurant. Maybe it’s gentrification in process.

Where were we going with all this? Oh right, Gamble Park.

Gamble Park reminds me a bit of Livingstone Park, just a few blocks away. Both are found on quiet East York streets, on plots of land no bigger than a few house lots. It’s as if post-war neighbourhood planners ran out of monopoly-sized houses when designing the area, and just said, “meh, playground.”

The “meh” monosyllable describes this one pretty well. It’s fine if you’re in the area, and it’s the only splash pad within about a kilometre’s radius, but unless you’re killing time before or after your child’s swimming/karate/gymnastics class at nearby East York Community Centre, there isn’t much reason to go here.

Unless, of course, you want to stand at the corner of Pape and Cosburn and contemplate the changing of the neighbourhood, and the economics of cheap fashion.

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