Updated: Aug 23
Surfaces: wood chips, sand.
After a long rejuvenation and much anticipation, the Riverdale Park playground re-opened in winter 2018.
The playground itself was under a blanket of snow, of course; the opening was mostly to celebrate the landscaped skating rink and hockey rink adjacent to the park that would finally allow hockey games and pleasure skates to happen simultaneously.
So we had to wait until the spring to see what improvements had been made to the playground, which had been one of the most dilapidated in the neighbourhood. I was so excited: Riverdale Park is one of Toronto’s biggest, most beautiful green spaces, and it deserved a playground on par with those in High Park, or the recently opened Grange Park behind the AGO.
Well, the new playground is so massively disappointing, such a horrible missed opportunity, that it would almost have been better if they hadn’t done it at all. At least the old equipment would have carried some nostalgic appeal for parents.
The biggest problem here is how sparse the equipment is. A small climber over here, a smattering of swings over there…it reminds me of the grocery store on a Sunday night, when all the produce has been picked clean, and all that’s left is a couple of sad-looking pieces of overripe broccoli. Pair the disappointing equipment with the complete lack of shade, and you've got a lemon of a playground on your hands.
The big log climber, a specialty of Earthscape that has appeared at several playgrounds around the city recently, is okay, but without any good climbers to explore, kids will get disinterested pretty quickly. Ten minutes into our visit, my son said to me: “This playground is not big enough for me.” He’s three. When a three-year-old says that about a playground that’s supposedly designed for five-to-twelve-year-olds, you know it’s pretty bad.
One nice piece of equipment was the glockenspiel, but one of the mallets was gone within the first six months, and at last check hadn’t been replaced. So you’re left to try and find a stick big enough to give it a good whack. (Update, August 2020: All that's left now is the metal stump that used to hold the glockenspiel, but which now hosts a bustling community of wasps.)
The park itself is still great. The pool is wonderful. There are seven (seven!) public tennis courts. The hill provides one of the best views of the skyline, and probably the city's best toboggan hill in winter. The valley below plays host to weekend baseball, ultimate, and soccer tournaments.
It’s a massively magnificent park with a heartbreakingly mediocre playground.