Watch for construction to get underway this spring as Woolwich council this week cleared the way for an accessible playground in Elmira’s Gibson Park. A spot east of the creek that flows through the First Street park will be the new home for the project organized by the Kate’s Kause charity. Councillors needed little prompting Tuesday night following a presentation by director of recreation and facilities Karen Makela that showed overwhelming public support for the playground. An open house was held Feb. 23 to discuss the Gibson Park location, and the township solicited input directly from the public – “95 to 98 per cent of the feedback was supportive.”
For Mayor Todd Cowan, the decision was an easy one. “Let’s move ahead. We’ve done our due diligence on this one.”
With the approvals in place, work can begin in earnest to transform the site. The inclusive playground for kids of all abilities is expected to cost up to $575,000, built in phases as money is raised. Kate’s Kause, which had hoped to raise $250,000 over five years, collected $265,000 in the first 15 months of the campaign. That’s enough to get started, and the group will continue its fundraising efforts.
Headed by Kelly Meissner, the charity is named after her young daughter Kate, who was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome two years ago. Angelman Syndrome is a neurological disease affecting some one in 15,000 people, characterized by a severe global developmental delay. People with AS, or “Angels” as they are sometimes called, can have little or no verbal skills, poor gross and fine motor skills, and possible seizure and sleep disorders. However, Angels do have a unique characteristic: they have a happy, pleasant demeanor with a wonderful smile and contagious laughter.
The goal of the park project is to provide a place where kids like Kate can play without the restrictions of traditional playgrounds. The local group is working with California-based non-profit Shane’s Inspiration, which has helped build a series of universally accessible playgrounds. The idea is to provide a common area for kids of all abilities to do what kids do best: play.
Funding for the project is expected to come entirely from fundraising efforts. The township will provide the land in Gibson Park, as well as in-kind support. There will be some additional expense to upgrade the washroom facilities in the park, Makela explaining, noting some of the improvements are needed regardless of the playground project.
The township is also looking at a splash pad in conjunction with the playground, but is weighing other options, including providing that facility in one of the other communities in Woolwich that, unlike Elmira, does not have a pool, she added.