Surface: rubberized wood chips.
On a beautiful first sunny day of spring, we visited our 199th and 200th Toronto playgrounds. The day got off to a great start with the playground at Cloverdale, where my kids had enjoyed the large supply of equipment and the chance to run around the tennis courts with their faces covered in the temporary tattoos they had gratuitously applied the night before.
But the day got even better after a trip up Dundas Street (that part where it does a brief arc north of Bloor for a while before dipping south again) towards number 200: a park so new it didn’t even have a label on Google Maps yet. In fact, I didn’t know if it had a name at all. I only knew about it because designer Paul Windle, who I’d profiled on Instagram, had told me he’d helped design equipment for a new playground on Brin Drive.
The tiny park was built alongside a row of new townhomes, hidden between the back end of a car wash and the GO train tracks. We parked at a small strip of stores nearby (which includes a Starbucks and a Mastermind Toys) because I wanted to grab lunch at a local favourite burger spot called Magoo’s. A charming family-run business that’s almost as old as I am, Magoo’s welcomed us with friendly smiles, delicious food, and décor – I mean this in the best possible way – that probably hadn’t changed since the 80s. We even indulged in some ice cream in anticipatory celebration of our landmark 200th playground.
As we walked around the corner to the playground, I started to wonder whether this was the right choice for such a milestone. Shouldn’t I have picked something bigger? Something more exciting? More significant?
I needn’t have worried. It was the perfect pick for a few reasons:
1. It’s significant. The first thing we learned on our arrival is that the park does have a name: Joshua Glover Park. A striking statue of Joshua Glover, along with an explanatory plaque, welcomes visitors at the entrance. Glover was an escaped slave whose story became one of the key moments in the eventual abolition of slavery in the United States. After a long and harrowing escape, recapture, imprisonment, and liberation by a crowd of abolitionists who stormed the jail, he ended up in Canada via the Underground Railroad and settled in Etobicoke, not far from the park. Reading the plaque, the railroad tracks just north of the park suddenly felt more fitting.
Here’s a more detailed telling of his story by an American news station:
2. It’s cozy. I’ve always loved small, tucked-away playgrounds, and this one fits the bill. We didn’t see any other kids there, but there was evidence that families in the new townhomes use it and love it. Someone had even set up a safe-for-kids axe throwing set.
3. It’s got some great equipment. The highlight is a very cool piece by the aforementioned Paul Windle – a bit of a variation on the typical geometric rope climber, but with more wood panels to make it more clubhouse-ish, and a nice slide to boot. This is complimented by more equipment from Henderson, along with some Earthscape climbers and some stand-alone bits by Kompan. Kinda perfect that our 200th playground should be such a mix of manufacturers.
As with Cloverdale, there was no sand or water features, (and of course no bathrooms) and because it’s so new it will be a while before the trees provide much shade in the summer. But at least there’s a spot to fill a water bottle, and if you really need to use the bathroom, just head back to Magoo’s for another ice cream.
We had a great play here. Combine it with the also-excellent Humbertown Park just down the street and you’ve got a good chunk of your day taken care of.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some temporary tattoos to remove, and a 201st playground to plan for.