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Mike Holmes to rebuild High Park playground's wooden castle

A child looks at the charred Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in Toronto's High Park that was suspected to have been deliberately set ablaze early Saturday morning.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail/Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

A High Park playground's wooden castle that was set ablaze two months ago will be rebuilt in July using state-of-the-art technologies, design expertise and community input.

The rebuild will also be filmed as part of a Mike Holmes television series.

"Believe it or not, Sarah [Doucette] the councillor, she had sent in a video: 'Mike, we need your help.' And it was boom – overnight – we just said 'Yes, we're comin,'" said Mr. Holmes, host of HGTV Canada's Holmes Makes it Right, said at Friday's ground-breaking ceremony.

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Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette said she has been gathering input since March 17, mostly through Facebook and e-mails. At a public meeting Thursday, suggestions from children included a bigger castle, a moat, more slides, and water features. Parents want to be able to see their kids (the park has little visibility due to the thick surrounding brush).

Landscape architect Janet Rosenberg and Mr. Holmes will take community input and run with it to create the final structure. But, said Mr. Holmes, "We want to keep the memory of what Jamie Bell first started."

"I want to bring in new technology of an underground water treatment system. Collect the water, stop it from puddling and mudding and then clean that water and turn it into a waterfall," said Mr. Holmes.

An underground water treatment system, RainXchange, would capture the runoff rainwater that would come down the hills of the playground, said Ernest Williams, a company sales manager. The water would then be re-circulated into the water feature, he said.

Ms. Doucette, Mr. Holmes and Ms. Rosenberg all agree that the park will be environmentally friendly and accessible.

"We want to make sure that we have wheelchair accessibility - who knows - children that can't see and can't hear - we also want to play with that, too," said Mr. Holmes.

The material used for rebuilding the burnt castle will be white pine with a metal roof. LED state-of-the-art solar solar courtyard lamps will be provided by electronics engineer and designer David Aggerholm of Free-Light, a solar lighting company based out of Burlington.

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Two "ugly" buildings near the back of the park will be incorporated into the design whether it's murals or a climbing wall, Ms. Doucette said.

Whether the ground will be rubber chips, rubber carpeting, or wood chips, is still up for debate, she said.

The new part of the playground has to meet safety standards – be CSA approved, said Ms. Doucette.

The project will culminate in a "community build" on July 7 when people can contribute to finishing touches like painting and moving mulch.

The park will not receive city insurance coverage, she said. "This is going to be funded by corporations, by organizations, and by the community."

She struggled to put a dollar value on the rebuild, noting that many members of the community have offered to contribute free labour and volunteer in-kind. Corporate donors include Canadian Tire ($60,000); Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse ($10,000 in materials), and the TD Bank Group ($10,000). The Sprott Foundation has offered to match up to $30,000 of personal donations made to Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation until the end of June.

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