High Park playground replaces one destroyed by arson
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By Kevin Connor, Toronto Sun
TORONTO - High Park’s Jamie Bell Adventure Playground reopened Friday with a brand new castle after the old one was destroyed by arson.
After the park was torched in March plans to rebuild began immediately spearheaded by HGTV celebrity Mike Holmes with the help of Toronto fire and police and members of the community.
At the opening Holmes was being repaid with hugs from the dozens of kids in attendance.
“I’m just listening to the kids scream as they come down the slide. This is all about the kids. This was a little bit of work and a lot of sweat, but it was well worth it,” Holmes said.
Michael Ogle was one of the 40 Toronto firefighters who volunteered to rebuild the park.
“Our involvement was a perfect fit for us. We responded to this fire so we wanted to be involved in rebuilding the park,” Ogle said.
The Youth Policing Students program for at risk children put some of their kids to work rebuilding the park.
“It was good. It taught me more about what work is and how hard it can be to keep going,” said 15-year-old Remington Latanville.
Kiera Walsh-Lopez, 12, has been coming to the park all her life.
“It was devastating when it burnt down. I am so glad they built it again,” Walsh-Lopez said.
The inspiration for the playground came from the community who designed and built it, said Coun. Sarah Doucette.
“This rebuild is an amazing example of how the public and private sectors can collaborate with the community to create something of value and wonder for everyone in this city,” Doucette said.
The park was able to be rebuilt after $80,000 was raised by the community and corporations.
“That this playground has been rebuilt in less than four months, entirely from the work and donations of sponsors and the community, shows how important this space is,” said Coun. Norm Kelly, chairman of the city’s Parks and Environment Committee.
“Now, due to their efforts, this playground is bigger and better than ever and will continue to inspire people in the future.”
Here's another article from InsideToronto.com:
Children run screaming with delight into new Jaime Bell playground
Children run screaming with delight into new Jaime Bell playground. The childrens Adventure Playground in High Park finally officially opened on Friday after Mike Holmes and volunteers came together to build the new castle. Children await the opening. Staff photo/IAN KELSO
July 13, 2012
Held back behind yellow police tape, a crowd of children waited impatiently for a chance to climb the new castle and to go down the new slides.
They watched as HGTV contractor Mike Holmes and his crew put the finishing touches on the rejuvenated Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in High Park and listened as Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette thanked the long list of people who made its reconstruction possible. Even though Doucette promised to keep her speech much shorter at the second grand re-opening on Friday, July 13 than that of her speech on the community build day, July 7, the children's patience waned.
"When are we allowed in?" several kids were overheard asking.
And then, for the moment they had been waiting for - for the past four months, Holmes asked, "Are you ready?"
To which the crowd cheered and applauded: "Yeah!"
"We're going to have a countdown," he told them.
From five to one they counted - followed by absolute chaos. Children ran screaming in delight as they descended upon the new structure, climbing into the castle and onto the swings and down the two slides.
"I think it's fun when the light shines on the slide making it glow red on the inside," said seven-year-old Sofia moments after she came out of the new winding slide.
Tilden, 5, called the new castle "good".
Even Holmes and his team, wearing their trademark black T-shirts, got a chance to try out the playground they had worked tirelessly on for almost two weeks. Since Tuesday, July 3, they endured sweltering temperatures and 12-hour days to get the playground rebuilt as soon as possible.
Jamie Bell's son, Adam and his niece Margot were given the honours of trying out the slides first. Landscape architect Janet Rosenberg was gifted with her own City of Toronto park plaque in appreciation for her support and talents.
In four months, the City of Toronto, financial donors and the community rallied to get the playground rebuilt.
"I think that's a record," said Doucette.
Doucette thanked Toronto Fire Services for all its support from the firefighters who came to the rescue of several members of Holmes' crew, who collapsed because of the heat a week ago to those who kept the construction site lit so they could work after dark. Firefighters were also instrumental in cutting 500 shields, which were decorated by the community - they will be installed on the playground at a later date.
'Our spirit is fire proof,' reads one of them.
On March 17, around 3 a.m. a vandal set fire to the castle turret. The community rallied, raising money and joining efforts to help rebuild within four short months.
People arrived from across the city to see the new playground.
From Mike's Facebook yesterday:
Thanks to everyone who made the Jamie Bell Playground rebuild happen. My incredible crew, all of the volunteers, Janet Rosenburg, the sponsors, the city and many many more. A special thanks goes out to the community. This was such an inspiring community project. What a great place to live. I hope everyone enjoys a new chapter in Jamie Bell's Adventure Playground.
There's a wall of kids ready to rush the castle!
It's the kids castle now! What a reveal.
The countdown is on! Just a few minutes until the kids get to play!!
And finally, here's some photos and videos from around the web about today's re-opening: