The community of Liverpool, N.S., and surrounding areas have joined forces to raise thousands of dollars for a new universally-designed play park for children and seniors of all ages.
The play place will come fully equipped with features that include wheelchair-accessible sandboxes and picnic tables, dual-facing swings, as well as audio and brail components — all in a fenced-in area to make sure everyone stays safe.
“It’s not just for a child with autism, it’s not just for a child in a wheelchair, this is for everybody,” said Elise Johnston, accessibility coordinator for the Region of Queen’s Municipality.
The idea came to life back in 2016 ahead of the area’s municipal election, when Debbie Wamboldt — a mother from the area with a son on the autism spectrum — asked the mayoral candidates what they would do to address accessibility concerns.
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“I think the reason why we decided that was because it opens up a broader area of accessibility,” said Wamboldt. “It’s not just a program where you might have to pay money. It’s a free place to go where you could meet other parents.
“And it would be relaxed, because it would be safe.”
Organizers say the park won’t only be for children since the wheelchair-accessible picnic tables allow for a perfect outing for those living at the local long-term care home.
“We can go and have lunches there, perhaps enjoy some music there, and I’d like to see us do some intergenerational programming there with youth in the community,” said Jill Cole, director of recreation at Queens Manor in Liverpool.
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The anticipated cost of the play park would be around $450,000. To date, organizers have raised more than $356,000, with at least $86,000 coming from the community through donations and fundraising efforts.
The rest has been raised through government funding, as well as support from Autism Nova Scotia.
“It really has been a group of dedicated people — the community, professionals and organizations — that have come together to make this a reality. So we’re really happy to be a part of it,” said Cynthia Carroll, executive director of Autism Nova Scotia.
Both Johnston and Wamboldt agree, saying they wouldn’t be at the place they’re at today without buy-in from the community.
“A little girl donated her birthday money and her Christmas money,” said Johnston. “The bible school at the Anglican church gave us hundreds of dollars. It’s been really incredible.”
“Every fundraiser we have has incredible participation and incredible support too,” said Wamboldt. “We have families that do fundraisers on their own to raise funds for us … and you can see that the kids are really behind this.”
Organizers say they’re facing a crunch for time, as the price tag keeps getting larger as the pandemic progresses. They’re hoping a string of spring fundraisers will get them to their goal.
Johnston says they will be applying for a new federal health communities initiative that may help them secure additional funds.
“We’re sort of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Wamboldt hopes once all is said and done, the play place will become a focal point of Liverpool.
“I see this as being a place for our community to come together.”
“For everybody to have a place to come together and to play, and be relaxed, and meet each other and just have fun, and bring joy back into our lives,” she said.
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