Friday, 14 July 2017 04:19

Upgrades increase accessibility at Swift Current park

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Nicole Spenst, the recreation and scheduling superintendent for the City of Swift Current's Community Services department, speaks during the grand re-opening of ACT Park, July 7. Nicole Spenst, the recreation and scheduling superintendent for the City of Swift Current's Community Services department, speaks during the grand re-opening of ACT Park, July 7. Matthew Liebenberg

Recent upgrades to ACT Park in Swift Current have made the city’s only fully wheelchair-accessible park even more user friendly to visitors of all abilities.

The grand re-opening of the upgraded park facilities took place in conjunction with the City of Swift Current Parks Play program special Canada 150 event, July 7.
The upgrades at the park were already completed last year, but inclement fall weather resulted in the postponement of the re-opening event to this summer.
According to Nicole Spenst, the recreation and scheduling superintendent for the City’s Community Services department, it is the only completely wheelchair-accessible park in Swift Current.
“We have some other components in the other parks that are featured within our community, but this is definitely our main park that has all the features and components that will allow a safe environment for the whole family to have an enjoyable experience, no matter what your mobility issues,” she said. “It provides accessible washrooms, walking paths to get from park feature to park feature, a nice gradual lip into the spray pad and park, as well as access on the playground and swing structure. So we’re very excited to have this opportunity for families in our community to bring the entire family out to enjoy the park and green space.”
Improvements have been made at the park since 1998 to increase wheelchair accessibility. One of the early changes at the park was the installation of a wheelchair accessible swing and this retrofit incorporates the latest state of the art designs for play structures.
“We’re definitely continuing to look at ways we can better improve all of our parks for that accessibility and each year there’s new play structures that come out and different kinds of swings and designs,” she said.
The cost of such upgrades is the main factor that prevents the City from making all the parks in the community wheelchair accessible.
“Parks to this magnitude, especially the pour and place surfaces, are a lot more expensive than the regular pea gravel or the sand surfaces that you’re used to see in our facilities,” she said. “So that’s where we’re really lucky and fortunate to have some of our funding partners within our community as well as some of the grant opportunities. ... We’re definitely seeing that there is a community need and it’s something that we obviously would like to work towards.”
The total project cost of the ACT Park retrofit was about $575,000. The City received a $25,000 grant from the federal government and the Swift Current ACT/UCT club is contributing $10,000 over 10 years. The upgrades include a new play structure with pour and place rubberized surface, wide concrete sidewalks, a new building with wheelchair accessible washrooms, and a new parking lot to increase the safety for park visitors, who now do not need to park on the street or cross the street to the park.
The upgrades at the park are important to Meaghan Lawrence and her family, because her six-year-old daughter Madison uses a wheelchair.
“There’s a lot of that new structure that she can access with her wheelchair and easy enough too to get out and climb around, like every other kid too,” Meaghan said. “So that’s good, she loves it. I love the pathways from the parking lot to the spray park to the washrooms to the play structure. It’s so easy to get around and it’s a nice place to come visit with our family.”
The new parking area provides the family with additional peace of mind when they visit the park.
“Parking on the street and unloading is not really a great place necessarily to unload with a wheelchair on the street, and so to have the safe place there to unload your kids is really great,” she said.
She feels it is important for every community to give attention to the accessibility of parks, because one in seven Canadians over the age of 15 have a disability.
“Think of how many people in your community that impacts,” she said. “It’s not only the kids, but it’s parents that might have disabilities that want to come and join this park with their kids or people with mobility issues just getting older, the usual kind of things that happen to us. So I think it’s so important for us, for the kids, for families that deal with the challenges of accessibility.”
Swift Current ACT/UCT President Michele White said the club is happy to contribute financially towards these upgrades at the park.
“We’ve been sponsors of this park for many years, and we’re excited to see it now be a fully accessible playground for every child in Swift Current to enjoy,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what time of day or night you come by this park, there’s always people here and that couldn’t make us more happy to see all the children enjoying the park.”
The club’s goal is to use their funds in a way that will make a difference to a variety of residents in the community.
“We like to sponsor where there are things that can help everybody in the community so that you’re not excluding anybody,” she said.

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Matthew Liebenberg


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