West Shore Parks and Recreation, in partnership with Colwood Rotary, is raising funds to build an inclusive playground at the recreation centre.
“The key (to universal playgrounds) is to present opportunities for all abilities,” said Gene Mazza, a senior landscape architect at Associated Engineering, whose services in designing the park are being offered for free.
Of the $244,000 required to build the playground, more than half has yet to be raised.
“We saw an opportunity and a need in the community,” said current president Russell Lazaruk.
Members of the public are invited to sponsor bricks that will make up the playground’s retaining wall. Sponsors’ names will be engraved on the bricks, with small ones going for $100, medium ones for $150 and large ones for $200.
People can also sponsor a piece of equipment, and have their name inscribed on a buck-a-bout (a four-way seesaw) for $2,500, on a bigga-dou-disk (a pair of large, circular swings) for $14,000 or on a high tower slide-o-rama (a large piece of climbing and sliding apparatus) for $21,000.
Colwood Rotary has also been running 50/50 draws at Rugby Canada fixtures taking place at Langford’s City Centre Park.
Other efforts include an art and wine festival planned for June 23, and a golf tournament planned tentatively for September.
“Historically people thought of handicapped playgrounds for people with disabilities and regular playgrounds for more able-bodied children,” Mazza explained.
That meant that kids of different abilities had to use different playgrounds. The idea of inclusive playgrounds is to provide a space where kids of all abilities can play together.
“That’s the real spirit of an inclusive playground,” said Mazza.
“The idea’s been around for a long time, but there’s been a push for it in the last five to 10 years,” said Mary Lou Wilmott, a sales consultant with RecTec, a Vancouver-based firm that designs and sells inclusive play equipment.
The new playground at West Shore recreation will be located on the far east side, between the existing Colwood Rotary Picnic Shelter and the baseball diamonds. It will have one set of equipment designed for preschoolers, and another to accommodate older children, with a path leading up to the picnic area winding through the middle.
Common features of inclusive playgrounds are big swings that are accessible from a wheelchair, allowing helpers to board as necessary and getting kids of all abilities playing closely together.
“The idea isn’t just building for kids in wheelchairs,” said Wilmott. “You’ve got to consider kids who are blind, kids with autism.”
Braille inscribed toys for the visually impaired and spinning toys that have been shown to help autistic children are in the plans.
“We hope to break ground in September,” said West Shore Parks and Recreation co-ordinator Bobbi Neal.
“There’s talk of putting a water park in there at some point,” said Mazza. “It could become a centre of playground excellence down there.”
For more information about the planned playground and to make a donation visit www.westshorerecreation.ca/facilities/playground.
A donation box and information sheets have also been placed at reception at the Juan de Fuca Rec Centre.