We live next door to a park. And by next door, I mean that the park literally wraps around my house on two sides, separated only by a tall chain link fence and some cheap lattice. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that we live in the park.
“Oh, how nice!,” people say when they find out, “You’re so lucky to be so close to the park.” I mostly smile and agree, but the real answer to this statement is a bit more complicated.
First, it is mostly nice living next to the park. We love the park and the neighbourhood. My son will never need a swing set, we are able to just pop over to the park for a minute without a tonne of gear and it is really sweet to hear adorable kid conversations about my dog through the fence. Plus there is a splash pad right next door for those hot summer days – score!
However, living in the park has it’s challenges too. Here are 6 reasons that it is not so always so nice living next to the park:
Before other parents get defensive, I am not the crazy neighbour who expects kids to make no noise. Kids go to a park to play and obviously kids are noisy. I am a music teacher, remember, so I have a higher noise tolerance than most. So general playing noises are not what I am referring to here.
What I mean is really excessive noise, like children playing in the splash pad who scream so loud that I rush to my window thinking someone has been hurt. Nope, just slightly damp. Cool, let me get my heart rate back down and clear the 9-1 that I dialled into my phone just in case.
Our fence and the side of our house are also often used as soccer nets, meaning we hear loud thumps for several hours a day during soccer season. This also leads to a lot of doorbell ringing, as kids come looking for the soccer balls they kicked over the fence…again. This brings us to…
The flying objects
Without exaggeration, 40-50 balls or toys come over the fence every year. This is kind of impressive because it is as high as our 1 1/2 storey house. These kids are way more athletic than I am!
We used to wait for the kids to come claim them and if they never arrived, we would save the soccer balls, baseballs and Frisbees. After 2 years we had 2 Rubbermaid containers of them. Ain’t nobody got space for that in Toronto! Now we just throw them back in the park. These are the lucky toys. A few unfortunate toys get destroyed by the dog, some get stuck in our grapevines and some seem to vanish into thin air.
It’s not just balls or Frisbees either. We have also had trucks, shoes, shovels and a Barbie thrown over the fence. The Barbie was stuck, spread eagle, in our grapevine for weeks until we could get her down. Try explaining that one to guests.
The food and garbage:
In any public space, there is a risk of people behaving in a disrespectful manner. People leave their garbage, assuming a city worker will clean it up.
There was a while when some lovely person was buying take-out Indian food and leaving it, apparently untouched behind a tree next to our house. I can only assume that they bought it and then realized that they actually hated Indian food, and left it in the park in hopes that someone with a craving for Indian would stroll by. This person would be drawn to the smell and rejoice in finding a delicious meal free of charge under a tree. In reality? The raccoons loved it. Us? Not so much. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen often in our park. At least not as often as…
These generally fall into two categories:
- People who like to peek into our yard. We see them peeking through the holes in our lattice fence. These people are irresistibly drawn to our back yard and MUST see what we are hiding with this crappy fence. Is it a fountain? A hot tub time machine? Nope, just a neglected lawn and garden. Oh, and dog poop. Lots of dog poop.
- People who think we are purposefully keeping their kids missing balls and want to know where they are. For the record, not every ball that comes over the fence finds itself in our yard. We have neighbours and sometimes the ball is there. (I refuse to get them from the neighbours for you, sorry.) We have zero interest in keeping the toys that land in our yard. We have zero interest in “punishing” your kids by keeping their stuff. We are not just too lazy to get it from our yard. We just don’t have your soccer ball. You know who does? Canadian Tire.
The dog issues
Dogs are not allowed in our park and we respect that. Usually there are no issues, but there are some neighbourhood parents who have made it their life’s mission to ensure no dogs go anywhere near the park. I have I have been repeatedly told that dogs are not allowed in the park while walking by, and sometimes blamed me for dog poo found in the park, despite the fact that Hazel has never been in the park. Once someone in the park wanted me to take my dog inside because she was looking into the park – through 2 fences – and this bothered her. However, just when I find myself raging about these things, a cute kid will bring my dog a stick and hand it to her through the fence and my faith in humanity is restored.
It never closes:
Though it is mostly a very quiet place, there are many people and dogs who use the park at night. There are teenagers who hang out on the swings until their curfew. There are several senior citizens who do Tai Chi way too early in the morning and the odd drunk screaming in the middle of the night. Actually anyone there at night is not nearly as quiet as they think. We have heard all your conversations and if you don’t shut up we will tell everyone. Go to bed. (Yes, I am aware that it is 9pm. That is past my bedtime now.)
So what’s it like to live next to the park?
The park has seen fireworks, Easter egg hunts, birthday parties and picnics. There have been times it sounded like the whole neighbourhood was in my house and times the sound of children singing floats gently through an open window and makes me smile.
And you know what? Despite all my complaining, I really do love the park.Though the flow of traffic is pretty constant, it also means that the space is a place where the community gathers. As our son grows we look forward to joining the community.
But we still don’t have your soccer ball.