Adi Astl had been watching people struggle and fall trying to climb down from the parking lot of his local park for 8 years. The retired mechanic is a bit of a handyman himself, and decided to take matters into his own hands.
The 73-year-old, along with his wife and neighbors, regularly used the community garden in Toronto's Tom Riley Park. But the quickest way into the park involved holding onto a rope and walking over slippery rocks and dirt.
Astl asked the city about building a staircase, but the city told him the project would take time, and cost anywhere from $65,000 to $150,000. “I thought they were talking about an escalator,” Astl said about first hearing these prices.
“To me, the safety of people is more important than money,” Astl said. “So if the city is not willing to do it, I have to do it myself.” In just one day, with the help of a homeless man he hired, Astle built a wooden 8-step staircase leading into the park.
The cost, which his neighbors chipped in to cover, was only $550. But the city didn't appreciate Astl's project, and they told him to tear it down.
Find out why the city says these stairs have to go on the next page!
The staircase was a hit with everyone who uses the park, including the gardening club, soccer teams and mothers who have an easier way to get their strollers down from the parking lot.
But the city told Astl the steps would have to come down, and even told him he might be charged for building "illegal stairs" under the city's bylaws. The city's parks department put caution tape and warning signs around the steps, and seemed to actually prefer that people go back to sliding down the steep hill instead of walking down the staircase.
As one spokesman for the park department said: "Climbing up and down a hill on their own” is different from stairs “that invites people to climb it. The expectation of safety is different between a hill and a staircase." Finally, after public backlash, the city is willing to work with Astl to find a solution.
Mayor John Tory admits that the huge estimate was “completely out of whack with reality," but insists that "we just can’t have people decide to go out to Home Depot and build a staircase in a park because that’s what they would like to have.”
The city complains that the stairs are uneven, not accessible, that the railing is unsafe, the incline is uneven, there are screws sticking out and the stairs have no foundation. But locals seem to like the staircase just fine, and they're happy to use it.
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