March 31st 2012
As I’m sure everyone’s heard, on Saturday March 17th, at about 3 a.m., police and fire were called to the High Park Jamie Bell playground – our local “castle”. Unfortunately, by the time the fire was spotted and crews arrived, the playground was completely engulfed and as a result has been destroyed.
| Courtesy of CityNews viewer Daniel Marin
Largely built of wood, I can only imagine that it went up in flames incredibly quickly. There have been some folks who say it should have been built with different materials – certainly metal or stone would have prevented its demise. But where’s the whimsy in that? Jamie Bell was inspired by soft whimsical play structures seen in the U.S. – the designers of these playgrounds, Leathers and Associates from New York came to Toronto and met with our residents, basing the design on what parents and kids wanted. Wood was soft, natural and also largely donated, and so wood it was. Stone makes for a great foundation, excellent for building a playground or house on…but not so much a slide or swing set per say.
|Jamie Bell Playground – photo courtesy of HighParkToronto.com
The Jamie Bell Playground was originally built in 1998, by a huge group of volunteers – almost 3000. It was a true testament of our desire to build up our community – people would volunteer for short shifts and stay for hours longer. So much food was donated by local folks for the working volunteers, that they set up army tents to house it all. And since completion, it has been a place for many magical play days for High Park kids and kids from all across the city.
We all know accidents happen – folks often play with things they shouldn’t – unfortunately investigators have determined that it was arson. Deliberate… Planned… There is something sinister about setting fire to a children’s playground. So not only has our playground been lost, our sense of neighbourhood ‘self’ has been compromised. Playgrounds can be rebuilt – can we rebuild our social foundation of safety and security?
In the nine days since the fire, the community has risen up and come forward to rebuild the playground, standing proudly on the foundation built many years ago. Canadian Tire has committed $50 000 to help with the cost. Local unions, firefighters and construction crews have volunteered with tools, labour and time. The original designers of the playground are rumoured to be committed to helping redesign the structure and add new features if the community wants to. A Facebook Page has already been built to help promote and organize the rebuild.
And Landscape Ontario has promised $300,000 in parts, design, and labour to rebuild the playground. The organization made the announcement at a community meeting last night.
It seems we are determined not to let this crime take away from what we know our community to be – strong and safe. “We’ve built it once and we’ll build it again” and “We can’t let ‘them’ win” are the two phrases I keep hearing over and over again. The playground was built with the strength, love and commitment of this community the first time – and I have no doubt that it will be again — because High Park’s citizens are made of sterner stuff. And our High Park foundation is made of stone.
Good News Updates – “Police have made an arrest in connection with a suspected arson at Toronto’s High Park playground earlier this month. A 19-year-old man is facing charges of arson and obstruction of justice after the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground was destroyed in the early morning hours of March 17.”
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