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Westwood Parkette / Chester PS

TDSB site. - Chester PS

City of Toronto site. - Westwood Parkette

Equipment: Henderson, Bel-Air (defunct)

Surfaces: Sand, wood chips.

At first glance, this public parkette/public school combination seems to hit the jackpot: three separate play areas, all of varying degrees of difficulty; a large open field to run around in; a loose-parts playground installed just this year.

Unfortunately, although it looks good from afar, it’s far from good.

Let’s start with the climber closest to the school. This one is so old that it pre-dates the Toronto District School Board. In its day it must have been fun – if you read this blog you know how much I love Henderson woodies – but now it just looks tired and sad.

Hey! Wanna play some tic-tac---oh, never mind.

Some of the wood panels have been replaced, but this one really needs to be allowed to retire, or at least die with dignity. Many elements are broken or useless, like the underwhelming tic-tac-toe feature, seen in the photo on the left.

On our first visit here, someone had emptied their stomach onto this climber the night before. When we returned the other day, my son said, “…is this the throw-up playground?”

Adjacent to the old Henderson is the newest addition: a loose-parts play area with wood chips, a low wooden stage, and benches. If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of loose-parts play, try imagining what would happen if you allowed your child to play in a stranger’s garage, and you’ll start to get the idea.

Okay, that’s a bit harsh. But tires, empty milk crates, and lengths of rope are common in these kinds of playgrounds.

The rocks and stumps in the loose-parts area give a certain artisanal appeal, even if they're not, in the traditional sense, 'fun'.

The idea is to give kids things with no clear instructions, allowing them to build and play as they see fit. A neat idea, but during the summer all the loose parts are (understandably) stored away, so the area isn’t much use, unless your family is planning to use the stage for an impromptu game of charades.

Next, halfway between the school and Logan Avenue, there’s a newer Henderson climber (and by newer, I mean probably 20 years old). Looks promising, but with no shade, no slides, and a broken zip-line element, it’s decidedly less fun that you might hope for.

Finally, you’ve got the city-run “Westwood Parkette,” sitting between the school grounds and the sidewalk on Logan. With only a tiny climber and two swings, there isn’t much to do here…but at least it’s shaded, and if your child is two or younger this might actually be your best bet of the three.

So, a disappointing place overall, but with the potential to be a great place with many options, along the lines of RV Burgess in Thorncliffe.

It still scores a 70, simply because of the volume and variety of equipment. But unless Chester PS gets a sudden influx of cash from somewhere, you’re better off heading south on Logan until you get to Withrow. Or Frankland. Or Tiverton. Or anywhere, really.

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