Fatima Kazeva, of Red Deer, lifts her three-year-old daughter Sophia up onto some climbing bars in the playground at Mattie McCullough Elementary School Thursday afternoon. The school has teamed up with Red Deer Rotary Clubs to build Red Deer’s largest barrier-free playground. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Construction moving forward on barrier-free playground

Red Deer children and adults to benefit

Red Deer’s largest barrier-free playground will break ground on its first phase as planned this summer.

Grant Burchnall, chair of Access for All Barrier-Free Playscape, said $377,000 has so far been committed to the $500,000 playground that will be built at Mattie McCullough Elementary School site.

“We’ve been able to connect with people in terms of the importance of the project,” Burchnall said.

The city’s four Rotary Clubs — Rotary Club of Red Deer Sunrise, Rotary Club of Red Deer East, Rotary Club of Red Deer, and Rotaract Club of Red Deer — have been the driving force and found the perfect location when they teamed up with the Red Deer Public elementary school.

Community fundraising began in 2016 and $125,000 came from Alberta Lottery Fund’s Community Facility Enhancement Program.

The playground will be built on city property and the city will play a role as design consultant, during construction and through pathway upgrades to improve accessibility. The city will also maintain the equipment and grounds.

Burchnall said decisions on equipment purchasing will be made in about three weeks for the playground that will be accessible for people of all abilities and ages, including disabled adults.

He said there are already playgrounds with rubberized floors to make them wheelchair accessible.

“We’re also making sure the equipment itself addresses the people with disabilities, so not only can you roll onto the surface with a wheelchair, but you can actually get involved in playing. We’re also trying to address sensory deficits and design in such a way that people on the autism spectrum are able to either get some alone time but also make it easier for them to spend time with other people as well.

“I know we can’t accomplish everything possible, but we’re trying to bite off a big chunk of all of those different needs,” Burchnall said.

Mattie McCullough vice-principal Kim Kirkwood said it was a Grade 2 class at the school that first identified a need for accessible playground equipment for fellow students.

“Through luck and conversations that happen out in the community, we were put in contact with the Rotary Clubs that were looking to do the same thing on a much larger scale, to create a playground where adults and children of all abilities can come together and play,” Kirkwood said.

She said it will also give disabled parents a place where they can join in and play with their able-bodied children.

So far Mattie McCullough students, staff and families have raised $38,536.30 towards the project.

The next fundraiser for the playground, The Playscape Paint Party, hosted by the Access for All committee, will be held on May 13, at 6:30 p.m. at Bo’s Bar & Grill. Tickets are $20 each and will feature eight Central Alberta artists who will create and compete. Tickets are still available at Troubled Monk Brewery and Mattie McCullough school.

For more information on Access for All Barrier-Free Playscape visit www.accessforall.ca

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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