WalkAble Wetaskiwin plans nature playground for By-the-Lake Park

City of Wetaskiwin council supports $50,000 Alberta Blue Cross grant application with letter

WalkAble Wetaskiwin is looking to add a natural playground space and outdoor classroom to the community, connecting it to the City of Wetaskiwin’s walking trails.

WalkAble Wetaskiwin committee representatives Jillian Risto and Kevin Lucas attended county council’s June 12 meeting to provide council with an overview of the project and request a letter of support as the committee applies for a $50,000 Albert Blue Cross grant.

Councillors voted in favour of providing a letter of support from the city.

While seeking grant funding, the WalkAble Wetaskiwin Committee’s next step is Phase 1 of the project, which is scheduled from June 2017 to June 2018. It entails designing a concept plan for the play space. The environment is to address the five key elements of natural playground design; active, gathering, individual, experimental and ecological. Implementation timelines will depend on awarded grant criteria.

The committee’s letter of intent places Phase 2 from June 2018 to June 2019—which will be the construction of the concept plan.

The proposed area is located in the north region of By-the-Lake Park.

“The area out there is kind of a non-official play space already,” said Lucas. The committee is looking to create an official space and improve upon what is already there.

Benefits of natural play spaces and outdoor classrooms include: providing families and visitors opportunity to go off trail and play together with nature, physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, communication and knowledge, increased visitation to By-the-Lake Park, potential economic benefits for local businesses and increased promotion of the City of Wetaskiwin as an area of interest.

“What nature playgrounds do is promote risk taking,” said Risto. She says the play space and outdoor classroom will give children an opportunity for nature play-based learning and problem solving skills.

Risto told council she is already seeing interest in the play space from other communities and being told, “Build it and they will come.”

Coun. June Boyda asked if the committee planned to later approach the city for a financial contribution to the project.

“At this time, no,” said Risto. She added there may be some request for in-kind work from the city.

Lucas says grant money and fundraising will pay for the bulk of the project.