April 4, 2012
Councillor Sarah Doucette
Ward 13 Parkdale High Park 100 Queen Street West
2nd Floor, Suite C46
Thank you for forwarding this message to me. I would just like to take the opportunity to clarify the situation and the steps Parks, Forestry and Recreation are taking to rebuild the playground in High Park as soon as possible. I was able to address most of these issues at the public meeting on April 2 at Swansea Town Hall, but feel free to share this with other members of the community who may not have been able to attend.
First, we are pleased to report that offers of donation have been pouring in since the tragic fire. The day after the fire, Canadian Tire stepped forward with a very generous cash donation that will cover the vast majority of the cost of replacing the play structure. Since then, many others have donated or expressed interest in helping out, including some of the members of Landscape Ontario, who have offered various supports – materials, expertise, and time.
We have had ongoing discussions with the Landscape Ontario members, including Adam Bienenstock of Natural Playgrounds. While there isn’t a lot of detail about the elements of their offer, it is clear that their generous donations would primarily be enhancements to the site, rather than help to reconstruct the playground. It was also clear that many of the donors would have liked the opportunity to utilize the materials they had on display at Canada Blooms. We informed them by e-mail on March 26th that we were grateful for their generous offer, but that we would need to time to plan and consult with the community before commencing work on the site.
With regard to Mr. Bienenstock’s message, we have been clear with him and all potential donors to this project that the City always engages in a process of consulting with the local community and ensuring what we build both meets the needs of the community and complies with environmental regulations.
We have worked with him on another project in one of our parks and have had several discussions with him over the years in order to share information about the City’s partnership requirements and processes. I am confident that the generous donors involved in Landscape Ontario will make a valuable contribution to the rebuild effort, even though the timelines are a bit longer than they originally expected.
Our priority moving forward is to rebuild the playground structure as quickly as possible, starting with developing designs that can be shared with the community for feedback. We will be working in consultation with your office to gather feedback from the community on those designs, and to incorporate as many of the generous donations we’ve received into the project. We also need to address some of the drainage and safety issues the community has raised, while respecting that this is a designated ravine area and sensitive ecosystem. This process will take some time, but we want to get the rebuild right.
Let me know if you have any questions. Sincerely,
Director Forestry, Parks, Forestry & Recreation
c: Graham Mitchell, Manager Public Relations & Issues Management, GM’s Office, PFR Helen Sousa, General Supervisor, Parks, PFR