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Whitney Public School

Surface: wood chips.

Seen from Rosedale Heights Drive, the schoolyard at Whitney Public School looks pleasant, if unspectacular. A run-down baseball diamond, a four-lane running track, a bit of grass. But a closer look reveals a peaceful, beautifully shaded playground that has become my family’s new favourite picnic spot.

The south end of the yard, not easily seen from the street unless you know to look for it, slopes up gracefully towards the playground, and eventually a fence that prevents you from tumbling down a steep incline towards the Old Bridle Path and the train tracks beyond. This landscaping – sloping upwards towards a drop-off – gives the playground a mildly top-of-a-mountain feel…or at least, as close to top-of-the-mountain as you can get in Toronto.

The centrepiece of the playground is a giant rope climber by Berliner Seilfabrik aptly called a “Jupiter,” from the top of which further exaggerates the feeling of being on top of a mountain. The other equipment isn’t exceptional, but makes for more good climbing. There are in fact two other play structures on the school grounds, but they seemed off-limits when we went; perhaps reserved for daycares as many school playgrounds are.

For train-loving kids, the playground is close enough to the CP freight tracks that you can see the trains from the fence, albeit through a screen of trees. But the trains are often so long that if you hop on your bike and race around the corner to the pedestrian bridge that leads to Summerhill Road, you can easily make it in time to see the trains more closely. (I know this because it happened three times during our visit, and our son insisted on seeing them each time.)

There probably aren’t many people outside the neighbourhood who come to play here, and for that reason, we found ourselves completely alone by noon, when all the other families had evidently gone home for lunch and a nap.

Trains, climbing, bikes, and a picnic. It was a perfectly beautiful afternoon.

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