Plans are moving ahead to build Blackfalds’ first inclusive playground.
They are now selecting the equipment which includes a 35-foot long zipline, a wheelchair accessible merry-go-round and a quiet area for anyone who experiences sensory overload, a common problem for autistic children.
As construction is set to begin shortly, the only issue is pulling $60,000 worth of funds and in-kind donations for the project, said Larry Horeczy, co-managing director for Alberta children’s charity Variety.
“We decided to take a little leap of faith and move forward with the plan. We still need additional funds for this project,” Horeczy said. “Of course, if we have more money then that allows us to add extra inclusive pieces.”
The inclusive playground project started about 18 months ago when the Town of Blackfalds approached Variety at a municipal conference to discuss the potential of building a park that was not only accessible, but would also accommodate all children regardless of cognitive or physical abilities.
Horeczy said children with disabilities are three times more likely to be isolated, bullied and have secondary health issues from not being included in active and social spaces.
“We value everyone in our community…so whatever your unique differences are, they are celebrated for being part of our community and can be in this space together to be able to play together and interact together,” he said.
The project is a three-way partnership with Variety, the town, and the Blackfalds Optimist Club. On Aug. 10, the Blackfalds Optimist Club raised $3,500 at their pub night, which had had music from Super Trucker and silent auction items. A total of about 75 people were in attendance.
“We regularly work with the [town] on building playgrounds and facilities so that they can meet the needs of the community a little bit better,” said Robert McMillan, president of the Blackfalds Optimist Club. “When the opportunity came around, we jumped on it.”
They are still looking for in-kind donations, specifically for gravel and services to operate equipment as a way to cut back on costs.
The playground will be located on the corner of Westbrooke Road and Vista Trail in a 2,205 square-metre space. The whole project will cost $457,000 and should last 17 to 20 years, on-par with other types of playgrounds.
Construction will be starting soon and is planned for completion in early October.