Jeff helps rebuild Jamie Bell Adventure Park in High Park

Blogger Jeff -  Awesome dad and professional engineer 
volunteers to help rebuild Jamie Bell Park in High Park
Being a regular visitor to High Park since moving to the west end of Toronto ten years ago, it broke my heart – and more specifically the heart of my seven year-old daughter – when I learned of the arson andpartial destruction of the castle park,better known as Jamie Bell Adventure Playground.  

I never feel more connected to the City and its associated denizens as when my family takes a stroll through the park and make use of the many amenities, so when I noted that volunteers were sought to help rebuild the park, I gladly signed up. 

That was some time ago and so it struck me like a bolt of lightning from a clear blue sky when Ward 13 Councilor Sarah Doucette’s email showed up in my inbox delineating the date & time of the re-building efforts.  Once other conflicting plans fell apart in a timely fashion, I was able to confirm my attendance and was told to show up as part of the “Building Site Crew” at 8.30am.
Mike Holmes at Jamie Bell Park in High Park
(photo credit: of Toronto Star)
Looking back, it seems odd that I would have expected to be actually building.  I had visions of labouring side-by-side with Mike Holmes, boosting my street cred as a total big-time handyman.

In the summer of 2008 my wife asked me to build a deck off of the side entrance to our house.  Demolition, design, re-design and construction ultimately took four months to complete, so it really was foolhardy to think that the Holmes Do It Right crew would be looking for my brand of contribution.

When I arrived in the torrential downpour on Saturday morning, I signed in, procured my t-shirt, and then commenced milling around looking for work – I felt a fleeting connection to depression-era men looking in vain for some kind of meaningful work to do, but there were simply so many of us (there had to be 100 people waiting around at this time) that it was not easy to come by.  That said, I managed to make myself moderately useful as follows:
  • 1.     Help unload rakes, wheelbarrows and shovels from a small delivery truck
  • 2.     Load and move pre-cut shields – to be adorned by kid volunteers – from the firemen’s work area over to the kids’ craft pavilion (at the time it was under construction)

Thanks to my hearty enthusiasm with my barrowing efforts with the firemen, I managed to secure arguably the most glamorous position available: jigsaw operator.  It was suggested that “we don’t have enough of these shields” so more shields were to be produced.  Bring on the jigsaw!

Jeff & a huge crew help with the
rebuild of Jamie Bell Park in High Park
Over the next 1.5h, six of us (myself, three other volunteers and two members of the Toronto Fire Department) worked on cutting out and sanding additional shields, which would be painted by youths and then affixed to the playground in strategic locales.  I believe we probably turned out ~100 shield and I managed to snap two jigsaw blades, much to the amusement of my fireman overlords.  The vast majority of the hundreds of volunteers - both young & old - were set to task moving mulch, manning booths, helping to paint shields (yes!) and moving security fences.  It was a rather impressive sight to behold and it was a morning I will long cherish.

The park, when I left it prior to painting being undertaken, looked great, so one can only guess at how impressive it will be once it is complete this coming weekend.  Moreover, it has all kinds of kooky features that should age nicely for years to come.  It’s always great to see a community come together for a common purpose and succeed so remarkably well, though I will say that it is a bit sad that it often takes an act of destruction to stimulate such generosity of time, energy and resources.  Hopefully there is no reason other than wear & tear to have to rebuild it any time soon.  



Photo Credit: Photopia 

Many thanks to Jeff Reitsma for not only helping out on the High Park Rebuild but also graciously agreeing to write this post for us.

More about Jeff: Jeff is a engineer, father of 2, long time Toronto West Resident and all around awesome guy (and interestingly enough, not a dream crusher although he'd like to say he is).

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