City Quoted $65k to Build Tiny Staircase in Park. Private Citizen Does it for $550, Now He Might be Charged

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A do-it-yourself project in a Toronto park has got opponents of government spending up in arms. A local resident built a staircase in a community park. The city of Toronto, though, claims the stairs aren’t safe. They’ve gotten quotes to replace the stairs, and the cost is staggering: $65,000 on the low end.

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Retired mechanic Adi Astl was tired of watching his neighbors hurt themselves on the make-shift short cut down to the community garden in his neighborhood park. So he took donations from friends and built a staircase himself.

The short-cut was not an official walkway in the Tom Riley Park, in Etobicoke, Ont. Yet is was heavily trafficked. And there had been several falls on the steep rocky path and one woman even broke her wrist in a fall.

So Astl built a staircase. The total cost was $550. Friends and neighbors celebrated the staircase and Astl’s DIY spirit.

But we live in a litigious world, and the city can’t abide by vigilante walkway construction. Astl’s staircase is not up to code. The landings are unsupported on both ends. The rail wobbles. The whole thing is built on the ground, with no foundation. The city had no choice but to tape it off.

Yet costs for the replacement staircase are ludicrous. The bids the city received ranged from $65,000 to $150,000.

“I thought they were talking about an escalator,” Astl told CTV News.

Gail Rutherford, Astl’s wife, spoke lovingly of her husband’s contribution to the park. “I’ve seen so many people fall over that rocky path that was there to begin with,” she said. “It’s a huge improvement over what was there.”

“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.”

Mayor John Tory has gotten involved, too. The estimates, he says, are “completely out of whack with reality.”

Yet he supports the decision to close the stairs. “I think everyone will understand that it will be more than $550,” he said. “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.”

Troy also noted that this argument is about a shortcut. There’s a safe path down to the garden just 200 feet away from where the stairs were built. In the end, that’s where this might settle out. An unsafe staircase replaced an unsafe shortcut. And it is not worth the expense for the city to fix it.

As of now, no charges have been filed against anyone involved in the renegade staircase construction, but it isn’t out of the question.