The $11,600 Adventure Playground at Dufferin Grove Park, Toronto

The story of this playground begins with a description of what could be a city park most anywhere:  14 acres, a soccer field, quite a few trees, and a set of wood-and-metal playground equipment that didn’t get much use from anyone past the age of four.

What happens next is a wonderful story of a how a non-traditional (i.e. not focused on equipment) playground space grew gradually and organically out of what the park users themselves wanted to do and build, not what someone designed on their behalf, until eventually even the underused wood-and-metal equipment became a vital play area once again.  And for all of $11,600!

Central to the space is the 20×40 sandpit in which  a simple $64 water tap facilitates endless water play.  Don’t miss the comparisons to elaborate, engineered water play solutions in the latter half of the presentation…proof, if you readers needed any, that playgrounds don’t need to be expensive for good play to occur.

I’m intrigued, too, to see the role of sympathetic park personnel in this story:  they built the sandpit and donated leftover supplies and installed new fencing in response to users’ needs.  Wherever I go I hear alot of grousing about the maintenance people at parks and schools.  They’re often blamed for the playgrounds not being what they could be, but  I’m not convinced that’s more than a convenient excuse for the designers, at least most of the time. 

Seeing great play happen builds commitment and a desire to help, in the park workers, in the neighbors, in the parents, and even in those icy-hearted city planners, whose command to tear down the swingset was resisted, and reversed.

Thanks to Jutta Mason for sharing her and Nayssam Shujauddin’s inspiring prezi on Dufferin Grove!

5 Responses to “The $11,600 Adventure Playground at Dufferin Grove Park, Toronto”

  1. Paige Johnson said:

    Hey Frode! I understand that Adventure Playground has a very specific meaning historically, but I don’t want to be the ‘word police’ about its use!

    December 06, 2013 at 10:43 am

  2. Frode Svane said:

    It is peculiar how people around the world are using the word: ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND in different ways. I will just remind you that the original meaning is quite the opposite of something produced by adults! ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND !!! RE-Start to use this in the right way, before it is too late!

    December 06, 2013 at 6:00 am

  3. Frode Svane said:

    Adventure Playgrounds: http://www.pinterest.com/frodesvane/adventure-playgrounds/

    December 01, 2013 at 5:21 am

  4. Jutta Mason said:

    The adventure playground started slow but gradually became more and more popular. People come there now from all over the city, and sometimes it’s a bit too crowded. But most of the time it’s a sociable place for the adults — they get to talk to each other because the kids are too busy playing to pay much attention to the adults. So you can imagine that the parents are very loyal to that playground.

    The other important thing is that the artists that helped set the tone in 1993 gradually got some paid hours as part-time city recreation staff. Over the years they were joined by more part-time staff who were curious about the whole park (there’s a lot more that was added to that 14-acre downtown park after the playground: http://dufferinpark.ca). Getting more staff was a struggle, but it’s key to making public spaces work well. Also, we think that’s why we pay taxes — so that there’s a civil service that supports people in cities and towns — including kids and their families, in playgrounds.

    November 30, 2013 at 9:42 pm

  5. Barbara Brem said:

    The park was built in 1993: how has it held up and how is the community support now so many years later? I think that it looks like a lot of fun.

    November 30, 2013 at 8:55 am

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