Walkabout: Jeff Walker January 5th, 2016

By

Excavated? Expropriate it! Let the kids skate it!

As many Leasiders are aware, there is now another gigantic crater in town—the one excavated at Laird and Wicksteed’s northeast corner, behind the auto­body shop that refused to sell out to developers. We missed golden opportunities to better exploit prior craters that became filled in by the Smart Centre and Leaside Village (the Longo’s plaza). Let’s not make that mistake again. The developer has very kindly performed the required excavation; now is the time for the appropriate level of government to expropriate the site. And build something unique to Leaside, rather than a third mega­box shopping plaza that will turn all of Laird East into a retail sprawl that just begs to be airlifted back to Mississauga where surely it came from and belongs, (Longo’s heritage building excepted).

Let’s think outside the boxes for a moment. Back in the 1930s, even amidst a Great Depression, Leasiders had vision, combined with a love of exotic sports and the great outdoors. Leaside’s hinterland—Thorncliffe Park—featured not only a horse­racing track, but one of the largest ski­jump installations in North America. There was even an aerodrome in Leaside proper for adventurous souls with a bit of pocket cash to commandeer a small plane and a medium­sized pilot for an overhead ‘Sunday drive’. (These days we whine whenever we so much as hear a plane making the big turn toward Pearson.)

For a hint of what an adventuresome Leaside could aspire to, drive or stroll over to the Vanderhoof Skate Park, across from the two Dog Hotels (where canines do their boarding) toward the eastern end of Research Road. There you will find what looks like an artfully­ graffiti­ed science ­fiction version of a concrete swimming pool, but in fact sculpted to facilitate all manner of skateboarding maneuvers and acrobatics. There are 19 such facilities in Toronto and skateboard enthusiasts are anticipating a 20th.

Why not let that 20th be the most enormous skateboarding installation on Planet Earth, with slopes so Himalayan that boarders will require back­up jet­packs in case of misjudgments. I recall seeing a report in the National Post a decade ago about an Israeli inventor who was doing a final debugging on his jet­pack model; surely they’re coming off the production line by now. No problem, in any event: skaters do wear helmets, the dent­ repair shop is right next door, and if needed, a handy concussion clinic on Laird is always looking for business. Welcome to The Leaside World ­Skateboard Park at Laird and Wicksteed. It would be so ultra­mega­large that stands for spectators could be built on peninsulas jutting out toward to centre. Once skateboarding is declared a Summer ­Olympics sport, thanks to Leaside the Olympic Committee will be begging Toronto to make a sure­thing bid. In winter, the park could double as the world’s largest artificial ice­surface for pleasure skating.

Then again, the OMB might not approve. Darn. I suppose we could always just fill up the existing muddy crater with water and make it the biggest cat­fish pond around. Better than another friggin’ shopping plaza.