“Park! Park!” my daughter, not yet two, used to chirp every morning.
She wanted to hit the playground at Oxford Park, which sat a couple of blocks away from our recently-purchased lower NDG duplex.
I knew Oxford Park for its weak baseball teams and its perennially underused outdoor rink.
But my baby daughter - and her subsequent three siblings - sold me on the charms of Oxford Park as I watched them daily, joyously prancing among other kids from baby slide to hobby horse then begging for a turn on the swings.
When we saw a rundown triplex on sale just a few feet from the playground, it seemed like getting a ticket to heaven, we pounced and have been here since.
From my office I can hear magical booming of pucks in the winter and tiny children laughing in the summer.
But with time the park has been progressively diminished, as construction crews move to pour cement, erect fences and build on the last bits remaining.
In recent years they’ve killed much of the last bits of green space with a public building, bocce and basketball courts and a fenced-off soccer field.
Oxford Park was settled in the 1800s by the Scottish Brodie clan and sold to the city in 1949. The city agreed to maintain the ancient stone farmhouse as a library or community centre. They promptly demolished it.
In the 90s a small group convinced local council to rename the park in honour of a local bank manager, a name I’ve never heard any local use.
Soon after that, about half the park was fenced off and made off-limits for fear of damaging the plastic soccer turf.
And then a large corner full of trees was paved over and turned into a two-storey building. The field hosted a rowdy group of up to 500 fans, a crowd that included people blatantly drinking and smoking marijuana. Someone tried to shoot another guy as I walked by a few feet away.
Neighbours eventually convinced the borough to transfer that soccer league out but only after some bitter resistance and hurtful name calling.
My longtime best friend was then elected city councillor. He too had lived directly across for many years.
But perhaps in a moment of lapsed judgement he agreed to allow a big chunk of the little remaining green space – 14,000 square feet – to be paved and fenced for expanded basketball facilities which has not proven more popular than its more compact predecessor.
The playground where I spent countless magical days with my kids is still there but the space around it has been chipped away.
I feel like I’ve failed it and them as the heritage has been used as a poker-chip for dealmaking politicians, who have fenced, paved and given it away.
I now understand the indifference people feel towards their urban surroundings.
Caring about such things is dangerous, it hurts too much when they get ruined.
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