There is a Seussian aura here. Bright, bold blues, reds and yellows breathe life into the surrounding landscape. Curlicues, spirals and undulating curves are the order of the day. Even the font of the welcoming sign is whimsical and light. This is the École John W. MacLeod Fleming Tower School Playground (map). It's all new and driven by the community with support from a variety of partners (photos).
It must have been like Whoville that day in June when over 200 volunteers came together to build the playground. I can hear the echo of the bezangers and kisplitzers, their brizzling and fesklanking down the Purcells Cove Road. After the dust settled and the sweat subsided – behold a beautiful play area that will fuel laughter, discovery and friendships for years to come.
A boy of 10 or 11 is the sole occupant when we arrive. He's climbing to a high point and sliding down a pole – repeat – climbing, sliding down pole. I lift and place Nellie into an accessible swing. After a couple of attempts trying to lock the clasp, the boy shouts over, "That part's broken". I ask if this is his local playground. It's not. He likes it though because of the pole sliding. It's his favourite activity.
Noah and Nellie haven't advanced to pole sliding yet but there's plenty to keep them busy here. A favourite for both of them is accessing the bridge by the spiralling platter steps. Noah is able to manage this on his own. He has the necessary motor skills, depth of vision and balance. With no guardrails there is a sense of derring-do and accomplishment for him. Though not yet two, Nellie already has a well developed sense of adventure. She sees Noah one time on the spiral ascent and she's next. She requires close supervision climbing up to ensure that she stays on the platforms and there are no tumbles off into space. I help her manoeuvre from the last step onto the safety of the bridge. It's whoosh down the slide and back to the spiral climb – again and again and again.
The main access point onto the modular equipment is a wide-based metal staircase with four steps. At the top on the right is a slide for wee ones. The incline is gentle and the positioning is well designed to allow for hand holding or providing back support for babies from either side of the slide.
The platform at the top of this staircase leads directly into the yawning galoomph. The interior of this upward sloping and narrowing tunnel leads to the bridge. The ridged floor presents a challenge for Nellie and try as she might, she's not able to get the hang of it. She just can't navigate the galoomph tunnel. The close quarters make it impractical for me to try and give her a hand. It's too bad because there are five portholes on either side of the tunnel for little faces to peek out. At the top, a plexiglass bubble hangs into nothing – a great venue for public clowning which Noah discovers much to his delight. It's a little Seuss-like, see-through nest to cozy, goof, or wide-eye in.
There are multiple climbing and swinging opportunities here. Some are linked to accessing the bridge and slides. There is also a climbing wall – composite plastic with metal frames – that can accommodate two kids at a time. There's a zipper and corkscrew monkey bars for skin the cats, or hand over hand with the greatest of ease swinging.
Underneath the elevated components, there is a storefront counter, a scavenger hunt (we didn't try it this time out) and a couple of plastic drums that would be a perfect fit in any Whoville marching band. We take a break and set up our snacks on one of the benches. The kids are red-cheeked, out of breath, thirsty and in need of some healthy food to keep them going. They're not still for long. Now it's off into the schoolyard buzzing around the hopscotch and other sidewalk games. The snack is burned off is less than a quarter of an hour.
It's time for a last pass before we pack up for home. It's the swings then a last scoosh down the big slide with the bend at the top. There are more swings at the back of the school set off a piece from the playground. Up in the woods there seems to be 'play' outdoor classroom – some benches and an old blackboard. Something to explore our next visit.
It's been an enjoyable morning. Both Noah and Nellie say they want to come back. So do I.
There is ample parking at the school on weekends. Check the school website for recess schedules during the school year.
If you're taking public transit, the number 15 bus, in either direction, will drop you very close to the playground.
Note – the playground abuts Purcell's Cove Road. There is only a small copse of trees separating the two. It's a very busy road – exercise caution.
By Alex Smith. – I'm a busy father of four, about to be five. I am a playground aficionado for two key reasons. Playgrounds unfailingly bring smiles of joy to my kids' faces and active play is such an important ingredient in promoting healthy lifestyles. If you see a guy holding a camera balanced precariously on a piece of playground equipment, it's probably me getting shots for PlayGround Chronicles. I'm also the author of CommuterDad, the musings of a working, ferry-hopping father. I hope you enjoy this post and contact me with your ideas of playgrounds that should be covered in PlayGround Chronicles.