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St. Luke's Park might not look like much if you're walking by on Elgin Street, but it certainly is worth checking out.
For kids and parents, the layout of the main area is nearly perfect. The park has a wading pool in the centre, which can be its own play area for hockey / soccer / random ball games for ten months of the year (though a concrete, uneven one, so toddlers might need some watching), and a well-supervised swimming area while the public schools are out. For some reason, swimming season ends near the middle of August, so try to get the most out of July that you can. As of summer 2009 many of the lifeguards there have been working for several seasons, are well-known among the parents, and are excellent with the kids.
There are some trees providing shade, but sight lines are still great within the main area. There are two play structures on the south side, a smaller one for kids aged 2 to 5, and a larger one for 5 to 12-year olds. On a busy day, try to count the two- and three-year olds flinging themselves down the twisty slide on the larger structure.
Both play structures are exceptionally well-designed, with plenty of climbing surfaces and slides. They're easily my favourite play structures of all the parks we visit.
The surface on the south side of the park is sand, which allows for castles, soft falls, and moats made with swimming pool water, for the really motivated.
The west side has three swing sets, for babies, mediums, and big kids. The small and medium swings are old school, facing in just one direction, and set low to the ground to maximize the swinging arc and parental back pain. The swings have great shade from nearby trees, and the St. Louis Bar and Grill right behind will torture you with smells of fried food. The Second Cup is right next door for quick caffeine hits.
The north side of the park is a large grassy area, with a picnic table. The city quietly and quickly hacked down a beautiful old growth tree in the summer of 2009, so the area isn't nearly as shaded as it once was. We'll give the city the benefit of the doubt as to why it had to go, but that tree is sorely missed, and its scrawny replacement is probably something your great-grandkids will enjoy. The grass tends to be under-used, except when the pool is open, when finding a free patch of grass for your beach towel becomes challenging.
The east half of the park is taken up with a basketball court, field house, and then another grassy space between the field house and some tennis courts. Kids who aren't paying attention, or who want to use the field house bathroom (open when the swimming pool is open), might dart into the middle of a game, so keep an eye out.
The grassy area in the east half of the park is a blessing and a curse. It's an old bowling green, and it's nice to have a dog-free, relatively level play area. You can see Frisbee, soccer, football, yoga, and boot camp fitness classes being held there, but bigger kids can also dart behind the field house and out of a parent's view with remarkable speed.
Overall, St. Luke's is an excellent park, and the number of parents and kids there on a nice day (and even less nice days) speaks to its well-deserved popularity.
Zach is the dad of a 3.5 year daughter "the girl" and eighteen month old son "the boy". Zach doesn't have his own blog but he is blogged about at Capital Mom.