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Cost to refurbish 'Tetanus Park': $150,000
By Sue-Ann Levy
Aug. 9, 2017

Scarborough resident Cathy Baillie first noticed the decrepit shape of the playground in her local park when she was on maternity leave with her daughter Lily.

It was when Lily started to walk that her mom became worried that her now rambunctious two-year-old would scrape or cut herself on the corroded rust bucket the city’s parks, forestry and recreation department passes off as a jungle gym at Natal Park.

The 2.3-hectare park lies nestled off of a cul-de-sac in southern Scarborough, near Midland and St. Clair Aves., bordering tracks used by GO and VIA Rail.

I visited the park Tuesday, along with photographer Stan Behal, to view the antiquated equipment - built some 25-30 years ago. I saw spots that were poorly soldered together, plastic parts with cigarette burns, jagged edges and rust everywhere kids climb.

There are also four overgrown horseshoe pits - which present an accident waiting to happen.

Baillie, who works in purchasing for the provincial Treasury Board, said she has affectionately come to call the park “Tetanus Park” because they’re “just waiting for someone to need to go to the hospital and get a tetanus shot from cutting themselves on some of the rusted out parts.”

When she connected with her local councillor and city budget chief, Gary Crawford, he kindly came out to see the equipment on a Saturday morning two months ago.

Crawford subsequently put her in touch with parks staff, who told Baillie the refurbishment of Natal Park was on the list to be designed in 2019 and built in 2020.

She also learned it would cost $150,000 to refurbish the park, an amount she understood to be dedicated to replacing the jungle gym only!

That amount and the timeline was confirmed by city spokesman Wynna Brown Wednesday, who said the “scope of work” will be discussed in 2019 through the design and community consultation process.

Baillie, who reached out to me after my story on Stepgate (which detailed an original estimate of $65,000-$150,000 for eight steps in Tom Riley Park), said when she heard the price, she did her own research.

She discovered that - based on similar equipment installed in other Toronto parks - the cost should be closer to a maximum of $50,000.

I also found a Gorilla Metropolis Premium Play set from Costco - far more elaborate and made of pine (which is resistant to rot and decay) - at a cost of $23,999.99.

“I really think something is going on with procurement practices at City Hall,” Baillie said, noting the city’s vendors of record “know they are dealing with government” and inflate their quotes.

“Often they’ll overquote just knowing the city has deep pockets,” she adds.

Baillie says like with the Tom Riley Park stairs, city officials could be sharpening their pencils “on so many different issues.”

Crawford contended there are other parks in “worse shape” across the city than this one - and only equipment at 15 to 20 are replaced each year.

Asked about the exorbitant price of the replacement, he said it’s not the infrastructure, it’s the cost of the installation - conceding union labour drives up the cost.

How about closed shop tendering which only allows a select number of unions to bid on city projects, driving up the costs by 30%?

Asked about the potential liability issue, Brown contended the playground meets CSA standards and is “inspected regularly” - there are monthly proactive safety inspections.

If the playground is indeed inspected monthly, and I don’t believe it is, why would they not at least paint the antiquated jungle gym to cover the rust spots?

Baillie said she hasn’t seen anyone from the parks department there in the past two years and certainly no one has painted the structure.

“I don’t think it’s seen as a priority park but it’s a pretty busy park especially with the trains going by,” she said. “It’s a completely forgotten park.”