By Scott Costen
An inclusive, wheelchair-accessible playground for users of all abilities could be in place as early as next spring.
Autism Nova Scotia (ANS) pitched the idea to Region of Queens council this morning, supported by a large contingent in the public gallery.
If the group’s dream becomes reality, Liverpool would be home to the only fully inclusive playground on the South Shore. “I can see people coming from anywhere in the region,” said Barbara Cochrane, one of the presenters.
The playground would be designed to meet the needs of those living with Autism, a neurological condition affecting social communication and sensory processing. But it would be open to people of all ages and abilities, said ANS executive director Cynthia Carroll.
Playground features could include splash pads, wheelchair-accessible swings and low-incline slides.
The project is expected to cost $462,000 to complete and fundraising has already begun, Carroll said. ANS is requesting Region of Queens Municipality provide ongoing use of municipal land, grant-writing and fundraising assistance, as well as insurance, maintenance, services and utilities.
All councillors who spoke after the presentation indicated support for the playground. However, several questioned the proposed location, 72 Old Cobb’s Barn Rd. near the Mersey Skatepark.
Heather Kelly (District 2) and Brian Fralic (District 3) both suggested a downtown location would better align with the municipality’s strategic objectives. Jack Fancy (District 5) asked whether the grounds of the former Mount Pleasant School might be more suitable.
Carroll said the group’s preferred location near Queens Place Emera Centre is away from water and traffic, which are both hazards for those living with Autism. It is also near Hwy. 103, providing easy access to those from neighbouring communities, she said.
During her presentation, Carroll thanked Queens resident Debbie Wamboldt for her local leadership on the playground project. “She’s put a lot of time and commitment into working within a bigger team and getting us where we are today,” Carroll said.
The group has set an aggressive timeline for the project. “Our goal is to have the park built within a year,” she said.
Mayor David Dagley indicated staff will review the group’s proposal and report back to council for further discussion.