As officials spoke of the benefits of an accessible and inclusive playground during a press conference at Shipyards Park on Aug. 16, children took to the swings and slides at the Jumpstart Inclusive Playground, marking the official grand opening of the facility.
Many youngsters in Whitehorse are already quite familiar with the 9,500-square-foot space with the playground having actually opened to the public in October 2021, following significant delays due to COVID-19.
The official opening highlighted the facility as the city’s first all-inclusive, fully accessible playground space.
The playground itself was provided by the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities with the City of Whitehorse providing the land in the park, site preparation and ongoing maintenance.
It features a rubberized surface, play structures with double wide ramps and entry points for those with mobility devices, roller slides that eliminate static for those with hearing devices, a dome for those with sensory processing challenges and more.
Simply put, as many officials said, it’s a place where all children can play.
“All children deserve the opportunity to play without limitations or barriers to build confidence, self-esteem and nurture their creativity,” said Yukon MP Brendan Hanley.
“This inclusive playground is a great addition to the community and will help ensure all children have these opportunities for generations to come.”
A total of $330,000 of Whitehorse’s portion of the federal Canada community-building fund (formerly the gas tax) was used for the project.
The fund is administered by the Yukon government. Yukon MLA John Streicker noted the benefits of the project, noting Shipyards Park is a special place in Whitehorse as a gathering place for the community. He highlighted features such as the we-go-round — a merry-go-round type of spinning feature that can accommodate wheelchairs — roller slide, braille lettering and other parts of the playground.
“It’s super inclusive and [it’s] the future of where we want sport and recreation to go,” Streicker said.
Whitehorse city councillor Michelle Friesen noted the important role playgrounds have taken on in recent years “as free, safe and healthy spaces for families and children to get outdoors during long months of isolation.”
She also highlighted a number of features of the park, among them education panels that encourage inclusive communication practises, such as sign language and braille.
“It’s a great place to have endless fun, create lifelong friendships and learn from others,” she said.
“I believe this park really shines a light on what the future of the city could look like, as we continue to work towards creating that community as well.”
Friesen pointed to one of the rules of the playground: encouraging those who use it to be imaginative.
“So good luck to all those children who let their imaginations run wild, and dodge lava, fend off pirates and explore the limits of space in this incredible area,” she said.
“We look forward to all of your future adventures.”
This is one of 30 Jumpstart playgrounds to be installed across the country before the end of this year. In an interview following the press conference, Jumpstart president Scott Fraser said the organization will see at least one playground in every province and territory.
Kids of all abilities need to learn to play together, he said, noting that sport and play also help build resiliency skills.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “Let’s keep it going.”
Fraser went on to highlight the project as a team effort, noting local Canadian Tire dealers Michael Varley and former dealer Dan Charlebois in making the playground a reality.
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