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Mallow Park

Equipment by Henderson.

Surface: wood chips.

When the Don Mills neighbourhood – famously Canada’s first planned neighbourhood – was built in the 1950s, it was centred around the intersection of Lawrence and Don Mills. Orbiting that intersection was the Donway, the not-quite-circular road that split the neighbourhood into quadrants. Each of those quadrants was treated as its own sub-neighbhourhood.

The project’s chief planner Macklin Hancock (still a Harvard student at the time) wrote in 1954 that “…the physical plan developed locates the school at the centre of each neighbourhood, the residential street system focusing toward the school with its related playground and open space. Residents will then be conscious of their neighbourhood identity in the overall scheme of the town.”

Three of the four quadrants still have schools at their centres. The Mallow Park playground, and the modest green space around it, is all that remains the northeast quadrant’s school yard.

Standing here, you can kind of feel the absence, too. The park seems smaller than it should be, and the townhouses that flank it are noticeably out of place; tightly packed, three-storey towns in a forest of midcentury bungalows.

Perhaps I’m being a bit overly sensitive because the school that used to stand here was where I had my first real grown-up job. But I do think Mattamy Homes could have done something better than plunking down townhouses so generic they could be anywhere.

Bitterness and nostalgia aside, let’s talk about the playground.

It’s fine. It’s a very similar structure to the one we visited recently at the rejuvenated Gledhill Park; a nice two-level Henderson piece that cleverly tucks a toddler climber underneath a big kid one. Rounding out the equipment are some swings, a sit-and-wobble dog, monkey bars, and one of those weird swinging things that’s not quite a hammock and not quite a swing.

It was okay for a quick play on the way home from school, but it’s a bit sad that there isn’t more to it, especially given that generations of kids used to played in this spot before the school was taken down. There’s a little hill just to the side of the equipment (which I remember being there when the school was around) that seems like it would have been the perfect spot for one end of a zip line. That would have been fun, right? Or at least a sandbox?

Oh well. I’m not a playground planner, or a Harvard-educated city planner. All I’m qualified to plan is an afternoon stop at the park, and for that purpose, this playground does the job.

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