Parents rally against city for removing toys from Gledhill Park

WATCH ABOVE: Toronto parks and recreation staff are being criticized by parents for clearing a local park of secondhand toys. Mark McAllister reports.

TORONTO — Parents in East York are criticizing the city’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department after a local park was cleared of secondhand toys.

Families and caregivers were gathered at Gledhill Park Wednesday morning when city staff showed up and started gathering toys that weren’t being used by children there at the time.

“I had one little guy that was very upset,” nanny Sonya Grant said. “He was crying, ‘the toys, the toys,’ so I tried to explain to him that they were taken.”

Grant said that the children were left to fight over the few toys that were left at the park.

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The explanation from city staff at the time was that some of the toys were broken and dangerous.

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Others were considered to be contaminated after being left there and animals had urinated on them.

“Unfortunately, we have to take this sort of draconian action but we certainly don’t intend harm to the kids,” Parks, Forestry and Recreation manager Ray Stukas said.

Members of the community immediately took to social media to air their grievances with city councillor Janet Davis.

“I agree that we should have been warned before the toys were removed,” said Davis, who is away on vacation but responded on Twitter. “There were complaints about the toys but I know many enjoyed them too.”

Some parents were concerned with the amount of clutter that was gathering as a result of the toys.

“It was hard for them to run around because he would have to watch them and say be careful there’s something in your way,” Olya Korolchuk said.

Ninety three toys in total were removed but without any consultation with the community.

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“I think a compromise could have been made,” Jennifer Otley said.

“There could’ve been some discussion around this versus coming in and just removing all of the toys.”

It’s common practice for families to leave playthings in Toronto playgrounds for others to play with but then the city has to determine which ones should stay.

“We have the toys,” Stukas said. “We have sorted them between those we feel are unacceptable, dangerous or broken and we are cleaning the ones that are safe.”

Some of the toys are now expected to be returned by the city with an agreement from the community to maintain them.

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