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Lions propose accessible play area in Wellesley

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Renderings of what an accessible playground may look like, including accessible swings and rubber matting, by Recreation Playsystems of St. Clements. [submitted]
Renderings of what an accessible playground may look like, including accessible swings and rubber matting, by Recreation Playsystems of St. Clements. [submitted]
A play area in Wellesley Village would be more welcoming to children with accessibility issues under a plan presented to township council this week by the Wellesley and District Lions Club.

The current playground does not meet the needs of the area’s disabled children. The community’s splash park, offers some accessibility but along with being inaccessible to kids with certain mobility devices, it’s a seasonal facility, representatives told councillors in a delegation Tuesday night.

“As a club we went forward to investigate this need. We went out and spoke to parents of children who were experiencing barriers within Wellesley and moved forward to create a subcommittee … it has good club support, but we’ve also drawn in five or six community members who have an interest in being part of this project,” said accessible playground committee member Jennifer Kays Sommer.

At least three Wellesley families have children who are unable to use most of the play equipment available to them in the village due to physical or developmental disabilities, Kays Sommer added. Letters from the families, asking for consideration of the Lions’ proposal were given to councillors with suggestions for the addition of ‘quiet corners,’ sensory stations and safe swings.

The project is still in its early stages, with the committee looking for endorsement in principle of the project from council. The Lions also asked for permission to pursue fundraising efforts in coordination with township staff. Once the facility is built, the club would like the municipality to accept it as a donation.

Councillors were shown artistic renderings of what an accessible playground may look like near the village’s existing play area at the downtown community centre park. They were subsequently asked to comment on the direction the Lions are taking.

“I certainly support the concept,” said Coun. Jim Olender. “Where I maybe have a problem is the soccer fields there. We may have to move it around.”

“Certainly soccer teams use that area to stretch out and warm up, so absolutely, whether the path takes a different [route], whether there’s path around the existing structure with features along it; we’re certainly open to meeting whatever needs are there with all of the different groups,” said Kays Sommer.

Coun. Herb Neher suggested creating an inclusive, fluid design that perhaps incorporates or builds around existing equipment.

“Do you not want to integrate as much as possible as opposed to keeping things apart? If you were to proceed with this, to integrate them more?” said Neher.

Kays Sommer seemed receptive to that idea. “Yes … everybody is going to use these structures; all of the kids are going to pile onto that big disc swing – and I think that’s one swing that we for sure want in there. I agree with you.”

Suggestions for the design include paths that will weave through new and existing play equipment. Kays Sommer also referenced Elmira’s Kate’s Kause playground for its accessible rubber matting. A costlier if more wheelchair accessible option than gravel or mulch, the material may be incorporated as part of accessible paths of for the base of the play equipment.

Mayor Ross Kelterborn wanted to know the scope of financial contributions the township would be asked for. With the 2014 budget passed there are no public funds available for the project. However, the club asked to be considered for donations in the future as the approximately two-year project continues in 2015. Several club members also provided input on the new playground for the township’s new recreation master plan, said Kays Sommer.

The majority of the building funds will likely come from grants, with fundraising efforts similar to those undertaken for the slash park project. It’s still early to talk about exact amounts, Kays Sommer said.

Councillors were unanimous in their support for the project’s concept, recommending that the club work with the Wellesley recreation committee on future plans. Discussions on municipal donations may be revisited in the future, council agreed.

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