News / Toronto

Cabbagetown residents up-in-arms over new 'garish' splash pad

A new splash pad being built in Cabbagetown has residents upset.

The city recently began work on a new, colourful splash pad in Cabbagetown's Wellesley Park – and some residents are up-in-arms because it doesn’t match the heritage character of the neighbourhood. A blue tent that shades the splash pad has caused the most trouble.

Cabbagetown's Stephen Poulin describes the splash pad as: “a Las Vegas waterworks park,” “brash,” “loud,” “Cirque-de-Soleil lite,” “over the deep end,” “overdone” and “sort of like the water equivalent of a mini-putt.”

Poulin said many residents spend a lot of time maintaining the Victorian character of Cabbagetown and value its heritage designation. They were upset to see the modern, colourful splash pad being built – especially under the bright blue tent that offers shade over the splash pad.

So, he expressed his concerns to the city’s heritage staff. “I went off the deep-end and wrote a ranting letter to Heritage Toronto,” he said.

He describes the letter as a “rant, in all its glorious bitter vetch and outrage.”

Introducing himself as “a VERY disappointed and indeed OUTRAGED Cabbagetown resident,” he wrote, “I am puzzled by how such a totally garish and inappropriate structure could even be contemplated never mind actually approved and erected!”

Stephen O'Bright, supervisor of capital projects with parks forestry recreation, said he’s aware that residents are upset, and circulating a petition over the new splash pad. However, he said it is being built at the community’s request to replace “the tired old worn wading pool” in the park.

“We’re not building a theme park,” O'Bright said. “This is a local little community park.”

The shade structure was also a request from the community, which includes many artists, he said. “Originally, it was a custom large butterfly, but it was just cost prohibitive.”

The city has been working with the neighbourhood on plans for the splash pad for over two years, but not everyone participated in the planning.

Many of those who did, asked for a custom design on the floor of the splash pad, and the city is granting their wish – a bird and fish design in the style of artist Norval Morrisseau.

Because of the controversy, the city is changing the colour of the shade structure from an “aquatic blue” that city staff had thought was a good fit, to a green that will blend with the trees, because the residents found the blue “too alarming,” O'Bright said.

However, as there weren’t any splash pads in the Victorian era, O'Bright said it would have been difficult to build the Wellesley Park splash pad in the heritage style of Cabbagetown.

“If it was, it would be a very industrial amenity,” he said.

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