The Queens universally designed playground committee is closing in on their fundraising goal.
The committee is looking to raise $450,000 to build a playground that is accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
The group received an unexpected $5,000 donation this week from the South Shore chapter of Autism Nova Scotia.
Chairperson of the Queens universally designed playpark committee Debbie J Wamboldt says she had no idea the money was coming, despite the fact she is a member of the local Autism NS chapter.
“I didn’t have any say in this,” said Wamboldt. “It was something that the chapter wanted to do. They’ve supported the park from the very beginning and of course, our mandate is inclusion.”
The committee has raised $356,000 of the $450,000 needed to build the play park. They’ve received funding from three levels of government totalling $260,000, private donations of $10,000 from Telus and $50,000 from the J and W Murphy Foundation and approximately $36,000 from local community groups and individual donors.
The Region of Queens also donated the land at 72 Old Cobbs Barn Road, which will situate the play park next to the skate park and across from Queens Place.
Wamboldt says because the site is close to amenities but away from traffic and water it’s ideal for autistic children like hers, who may wander off.
It was a drive with her son a few years ago that motivated Wamboldt to push for the inclusive play park.
“When you’re a kid and you see all the other kids playing, we had a moment in the car where we drove by and he was crying in the back seat, asking me why we can’t go and we can’t play at a park with his friends. Because the parks are not safe for children with flight risks or children with disabilities,”said Wamboldt.
She says the group plans to break ground on the park sometime this spring.
They still need to issue a request for proposals, but Wamboldt says once a builder is selected, construction shouldn’t take longer than six weeks.
She admits the group is a bit concerned about starting work on the site without having the full amount in hand but says the support they’ve received to this point gives them confidence the funding will come through.
“You know, we’re throwing a Hail Mary and we’re really going for it,” said Wamboldt. “Behind the scenes we’re pushing, we’re looking at grants, we’re looking at who can we approach, who would be interested in having a hand in building this.”
Wamboldt says as far as she knows, the universally designed playpark will be the only one of its kind in Atlantic Canada, making it a draw for people from all around.
She’s excited the park will serve as an example of what inclusive design can mean.
“Once you make things accessible to people with disabilities, you make them accessible to everybody.”
Reported by Ed Halverson
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