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Tom Riley Park


Surfaces: rubber, wood chips.


Opened in 1941, Tom Riley Park was originally called “Etobicoke’s Central Park” and was a hub of community activity.


Locomotive meets were held regularly, and a huge model railway track carried scale model trains, likely to the delight of wide-eyed children. Nearby Mimico Creek was dammed, creating a small pond where locals would race model boats – one even clocked a top speed of 129 km/h.


Image: etobicokehistorical.com

Today, standing in the quiet green corridor that is Tom Riley park, running diagonally from Bloor to Islington, tucked behind condos and office towers, it’s hard to imagine that such a busy park could now feel so hidden.


Hurricane Hazel is partly to blame; when the storm came through in 1954, several casualties were people stranded in their cars as the floodwaters rose. By-laws were changed to prohibit cars from entering the park, and that contributed to its decline as a meeting place. The dam was dismantled, the model railway taken out, and people found other places to go.


But with a freshly-rejuvenated playground and proximity to parking and the subway, Tom Riley Park (renamed in 1998 after the Parks & Rec commissioner who was instrumental in getting Etobicoke’s Centennial Park built) is definitely worth a visit.


The highlight is the wonderful Earthscape beaver, with a slide for a tail and some stray logs in front of its teeth, as if you’ve caught it having a snack. But there are some other great elements here too: the saucer swing which sits mostly in shade, a sandbox, a spinner which sits flush to the ground to accommodate wheelchairs, and a “Bamboo Forest” by Trekfit – a challenging element that’s quickly becoming a favourite for my kids.


Later, we strolled south along the path, eventually finding a wooded area that offered some good fort-building, and a soccer field that offered some good energy-burning. Every few minutes, a subway would glide by behind our fort, in a quiet salute to the model trains that used to grace the park many decades ago.


Note: most of this information comes from this great Etobicoke history website. If you're an Etobicokian (is that even a word?) and you're into local history, definitely take a look.



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