Tree-lined Roseland with its large estate homes and picturesque Tyandaga usually come to mind when the conversation turns to life in Burlington.
Most people forget, however, that 4,000 people live in one square block in the Warwick-Surrey Community, in the one of the highest density neighborhoods in Halton.
The area, just south of the intersection of Plains Road and Francis Road, used to be referred to by trash talkers as ‘Burlington’s ghetto’.
The towering apartment buildings and low-income condominiums were the site of noise disturbances, vandalism, domestic disputes and even a murder.
All that changed when the late George Bolus took charge in building a parkette there on vacant land.
Then in August, 200 volunteers appeared from nowhere on a Sunday morning to erect a new play area for children. Since the Warwick-Surrey Community Association was formed residents have demonstrated time and time again they are interested in making the area a better place to live.
Like drones in a beehive they transported the parts and loads of mulch to the site, where two experts flown in from California, provided by KaBoom! a national non-profit group dedicated to giving all kids the childhood they deserve, supervised the assembly.
The playground equipment was supplied by the Foresters Financial group.
Burlington firefighters, including Capt. Ryan Wheatley, did their share moving wheelbarrows full of mulch. Burlington MP Karina Gould, Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon and Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven, who was there all weekend, set aside their fancy dresses and suits to get their hands dirty for a good cause.
Deanna Allain, a Grade 12 student at Hamilton’s Westmount high school who does co-op work in the office of Hamilton Ward 3 Councillor Matt Green, came to Burlington to pitch in and help make a giant scrabble board.
Some volunteers showed up to do preliminary work on Friday and Saturday. The rest of the gang arrived on Sunday morning at 8, and by 2.30 p.m. the playground was finished.
Craven said some local fundraising was required to meet an obligation to KaBoom! The goal was $11,000, but there was so much enthusiasm that $20,000 was collected and there now will be a few small additions made to the playground park.
KaBoom! was founded in 1996. In 2014 U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle helped build a playground on the National Day of Service.
“The success of the program reflects the effectiveness of the Partnering Aldershot group and the Warwick–Surrey Community Association,” he said. “The result is there now is excellent play equipment within walking distance of more than 1,000 children.”
“City parks and recreation staff were tremendous in support of this community effort.”
New concrete curbs were built, benches provided for parents and landscaping was done to improve aesthetics.
Children from the neighborhood created a design for the play area at a special event held in June.
Foresters has been involved in more than 1,000 similar projects in the U.S., but this was the first in Canada.
“We believe in enriching lives and building strong communities — that’s our purpose,” said Chris Stranahan, the company’s international fraternal president.
“Playgrounds are important because they provide a public space where children can play safely, families can spend quality time and the community can come together. An investment in a playground is an investment in community, and we are happy to provide the Burlington community with a place that families can enjoy for years to come.”