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High Park playground reconstruction stalled

The castle at the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in High Park before it was destroyed by fire. Courtesy of Highparktoronto.com

An effort to rush the reconstruction of Jamie Bell Adventure Playground, which was destroyed in a fire earlier this month, has been stalled  by city hall.

The timelines provided by Landscape Ontario “were incredibly tight,” a city spokesperson told CityNews.ca

“We have to consult with the community and other stakeholders in the neighbourhood. We certainly haven’t said no to anybody,” Graham Mitchell, a spokesman for the city’s parks department, said in a phone interview.

However, Mitchell said, efforts to rebuild the park must be co-ordinated.

“We’re hoping to do it as quickly as possible.”

Landscape Ontario had promised $300,000 in parts, design and labour to rebuild the park, and Canadian Tire had pledged $50,000 for the project.

Parkdale-High Park Coun. Sarah Doucette has said that numerous other groups, including the local fire department and local unions, have come forward with offers to help.

“The city has informed us that they are unable at this time to accept our offer of help to rebuild Jamie Bell Adventure Playground,” Adam Bienenstock, whose company Natural Playgrounds is working with Landscape Ontario, wrote on Facebook on Friday.

“I am so sorry that we were unable to figure out a way to make this happen for the community before the summer hits,” Bienenstock added.

The wood playground castle was originally built in 1998, largely by volunteers. Mitchell said that, like the original, the new structure must also have community input. Mitchell said the city can’t rebuild from its own blueprints, because the design was made by the community nearly 15 years ago.

“One of the constraints in that site is that it’s a natural heritage site, a relative rare black oak savannah, so we have to ensure it’s protected,” Mitchell said.

The High Park Residents’ Association scheduled a community meeting for April 2 at Swansea Town Hall.

The organization did not immediately return calls for comment.

Christian Kupiecki, 19, has been arrested and charged with arson and attempting to obstruct justice in the March 17 fire.