An artist’s rendering of a fully accessible, inclusive playground that is planned for Shipyards Park in Whitehorse this summer. (Submitted)

A recreation bonanza: Whitehorse council approves plans for Black Street stairs, new playground and skatepark

All three projects were voted on at the March 9th council meeting

Upgrades to the Black Street stairs, a rebuilt skateboard park and a fully accessible, inclusive playground at Shipyards Park are all on the to-do list for the summer after Whitehorse city council’s March 9 meeting.

Recreation was a major focus of the meeting with council approving each proposal in three separate votes.

“In one meeting we’re looking at stairs, a Jumpstart playground and the skateboard park,” Mayor Dan Curtis said.

While the city will be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of all three it is only the upgrades to the Black Street stairs the city is paying directly to renovate with the funding coming from gas tax.

Council voted to add another $150,000 to the original $250,000 budget for work on the stairs that lead up the clay cliffs to the airport path.

It was discovered during design work for the stairs’ rehabilitation project that a more full rebuild would be needed, involving the replacement of several landings, improved lighting and changes to the footings.

The stairs will be shut for about a month when the work is done.

Councillors Laura Cabott and Steve Roddick voiced their support for the project with Roddick describing the spending as “an important investment in active infrastructure.”

Cabott said the stairs are a “good-example of a well-used piece of infrastructure” by commuters, fitness enthusiasts and by those just out for a little leisure time.

Cabott was also quick to voice her support before voting with the rest of council to accept the playground being offered by the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charity.

The project is part of Jumpstart’s effort that began in 2017 to build a fully accessible and inclusive playground in every province and territory.

Charlottetown, Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto, Prince Albert, Sask., Surrey, B.C., and Saint John, N.B. already have Jumpstart playgrounds.

“It is very generous,” Cabott said. “This is not just any old playground.”

The Whitehorse park will be a 9,500-square-foot site within the skating loop, south of the fire pit and shelter area, at Shipyards Park. Among the features would be double-wide ramps allowing those in wheelchairs to maneuver where they want to go; a roller slide which eliminates static electricity thus allowing those with hearing devices to slide; a quiet zone for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and/or sensory processing disorders; and swings with bucket seats harnesses.

Jumpstart will gift the playground to the city, which will then take on the maintenance.

Shipyards Park was selected as it has accessible parking, an asphalt surface, washroom facilities and a water fountain. As such it is the only spot in Whitehorse that meets all the criteria for a Jumpstart playground.

Jumpstart associate vice president Marco Di Buon told Whitehorse city council on March 2 most of the equipment installed in the playground will come with a 15-to-20-year warranty. The equipment is also “not overly engineered,” making it fairly simple to fix when there are issues.

Playground construction will begin this year, wrapping up in the 2021 season. The new play structures will then officially open to the public.

City spokesperson Myles Dolphin said the city will work with park users on “an altered setup for any events to facilitate construction while maintaining smooth execution of any and all bookings.”

Also set to be built this year by the Yukon government is the updated Second Haven Skateboard Park.

Council voted to sign off on a service agreement for the park maintenance once it’s built along with passing the first reading for a rezoning bylaw and a land acquisition bylaw for the city to acquire the land.

The new skateboard park is expected to be about 1.5 times the size of the current park.

Coun. Jan Stick said the park is another recreational piece that’s become integral to the city in a space that’s open, accessible and visible.

For the rebuild to happen and the city to eventually take it over, a portion of the park space will need to be rezoned from a greenbelt zone to a public service zone.

With first reading approved, a public hearing on the change will be held March 30. A report will then come forward April 6. Council would vote on the final two readings April 14.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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