Parents and children upset after city throws toys in Toronto playground

Jean Orava’s two-year-old grandson I loved playing with the buckets and shovels in the sandpit at Cudmore Creek Park in downtown Toronto. Most days, Orava accompanied her grandson to the park near Mt. Pleasant Road and Eglinton Avenue, where they were often joined by dozens of parents and their toddlers from the nearby daycare.

The new park and playground, nestled in a quiet residential area next to a church, has always been a hive of activity. Some children raced the asphalt on mini go-karts, while others created castles in the sandpit with buckets and shovels – some of the toys donated by community members for local children to benefit.

“The playground really turned into a community park with these young toddlers,” Orava said. “The toys given away are the first thing children go for. Toddlers can’t wait to play with them.

At least until last month, when the city emptied the playground of all its toys.

Now mini cars and tricycles are gone. The large sandpit – a favorite among little tykes – is devoid of its shovels and buckets. With the toys removed in one fell swoop, community members like Orava are wondering why the city would remove these seemingly harmless items that have delighted neighborhood children and are commonplace in parks and playgrounds across the city.

“It’s kind of sad that the city has been a bit overzealous when you know that kids are now trying to get out and play,” Orava said. “That sounds a bit grumpy to me.”

Brad Ross, the city’s director of communications, told the Star in an email that staff regularly check playgrounds to make sure items left behind “do not pose a safety hazard.” Toys are only removed if they are broken, rusty or unstable. Some parks with large numbers of toys will also be cleaned, but staff will post notices telling residents where they can pick up undamaged toys, Ross said.

“The city understands and appreciates community-minded toy-sharing gestures and only removes toys and other items from parks that may be hazardous to anyone using a playground,” he added.

Sara Evans, a mother who frequently brings her two-year-old daughter and six-year-old son to the park, said most of the toys were fully functional and safe: “A lot of the toys looked great, and they weren’t broken. So for them to pick them up and throw them away kinda sucks.

Orava noted that caretakers often throw away broken toys themselves. “In all honesty, parents were watching and if anything was broken, I saw broken toys just put through the recycling bins to be thrown away,” she said.

But Shane Gerard, spokesman for parks, forestry and recreation, says the toys were “mostly broken” and says the March 29 clearing was part of “spring cleaning work.”

“Staff posted a notice at the time of the clearing informing the public that they can collect any unbroken toys that have been removed from Sunnybrook Yard,” he said.

Although not a formal policy, toy removal actions are part of the City Department’s long-standing operational practice to ensure that park maintenance and inspections can be carried out and that the area of ​​the park is free of hazards, Gerard said in a statement to the Star.

Local Councilor Jaye Robinson (Ward 15, Don Valley West) said in a statement that she was disappointed to learn of the sudden removal of the donated toys from the park.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of parks and green spaces in our urban communities, and the city should support efforts to make community spaces more usable for families,” she said, noting that she had raised the matter with senior officials of the city’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department.

Jutta Mason, a community activist whose work focuses on public spaces and the value of the “commons”, said modern parks, such as Cudmore Creek Park, are often filled with donated toys because their playgrounds lack things to play with that can be moved. , “which is one of the things children dream about.”

“Unwanted plastic toys are a sad substitute for natural materials, but children clearly experience them as better than nothing,” she said.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of conduct. The Star does not share these opinions.

Harold B. McConnell