“It’s accessible, but it’s not just about that. It’s about every child and teenager – and even adult – coming and playing in an inclusive space.”
Lindsay Joseph, manager of inclusive play at Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart charity, praised Yellowknife’s newest playground on Wednesday at a formal ceremony for the facility, a year after it opened.
As students from the city’s Mildred Hall and Weledeh schools played, even Mayor Rebecca Alty acknowledged the occasional desire to join them – the playground is within sight of City Hall and the mayor’s office.
Jumpstart, which works to remove barriers to children’s sport and play, met almost the whole cost of installing the playground and its gently sloped double-wide ramps, barrier-free merry-go-round, and dome in which kids can quietly self-regulate.
All of the features are designed so children of all abilities can play independently.
“It’s amazing how kids can figure it out for themselves,” said Joseph.
“They can learn balance and core strength, or are able to roll themselves onto features by themselves, and it gives them the independence they might not get at other playgrounds.”
Jason and Karen Butorac, owners of Yellowknife’s Canadian Tire, made a personal contribution of $100,000 toward the building of the playground.
To see children playing on Wednesday – an opening ceremony delayed by one year because of Covid-19 – brought tears to their eyes.
“It’s a super special moment,” said Jason.
“It’s so nice that the kids are having fun, but it can also be used by adults and even seniors, and it’s just really special.”
The challenge for the city and Jumpstart is to keep the playground in its current condition: restored to health after a summer of vandalism.
Obscenities and other phrases have been sprayed across or etched into equipment, among other damage.
Alty told Cabin Radio the city now sends a staff member each morning to check for vandalism and clean up anything they may find. She said other playgrounds and city trails are also being targeted.
“This one is a challenge compared to other areas, where we’ve focused on lighting and visibility,” she explained.
“This was happening when there were 24 hours of daylight, and there aren’t a lot of trees around it versus other locations, so we’ll continue to monitor and look at what other municipalities are doing to try to address graffiti.”
Aside from providing 24-hour security – which she said was not a viable option – Alty said everything the city can do to prevent vandalism is being done.
In the meantime, the facility is being used with gratitude by students and teachers.
Maggie Davies, an academic support teacher at Mildred Hall, said the new playground provided an important gathering-place for kids to play and experience independence outdoors.
“It’s really interactive compared to other playgrounds, which makes it really fun for the kids,” Davies said.
“As a teacher and a new mother, I come all the time. It’s so nice to see the kids play and learn how to do things on their own.”