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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.


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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