Accessible playground in Prince Albert excites community, but draws some parental concern

Prince Albert is the smallest community in Canada to get a Jumpstart-sponsored playground, in part thanks to a local businessman who made a big donation to ensure the city got the 10,000 square foot play area.

The fun park is part of a University of Toronto study looking at how safe — and how fun — the project really is. So far, the community is thrilled, for the most part.

"The park opened toward the end of May this year and I'll tell you, it's been one of the highlights of the city of Prince Albert," said Tim Yeaman, the city's parks manager.

Malcolm Jenkins, the owner of the local Canadian Tire, helped sponsor the project. He has a passion for helping young people in the city.

The fenced-in park attracts between 80 to 100 children each day.

Truly accessible?

Now, a few months into the project, U of T researcher Denver Brown has paid a visit to the new gem of Prince Albert.

He's assessing what works, what doesn't and how Jumpstart can better design playgrounds to meet the needs of every child.

The charity hopes to build one giant accessible playground in each province and territory by 2020.

Submitted/ City of Prince Albert

Brown has spoken to parents, children, and education and rehabilitation professionals in the city to get to find out what's happening inside the fence.

"We're really asking questions about what they like and don't like about it so that we can shape the design of these playgrounds as they get rolled out over the next number of years across Canada."

Most of the feedback has been positive, but some parents have concerns.

Laura Uvery's son has autism and uses a wheelchair. He's non verbal ,but Uvery was able to gauge his reaction the first time they went to the playground.

"He loves the sensory stuff there," she said. "But when he looked at the swings he couldn't get on them."

It was heartbreaking for Uvery, who can't lift her son from his chair to place him in the swing. He pulled at the buckle on his chair, she said, and wanted to swing like the other kids.

"When we're in Saskatoon, they have a chair sent from Australia and a wheelchair goes right on it. It's like a ramp and the kids with the wheelchairs can actually swing."

Her son isn't able to use the slides, either.

Pond close by

Submitted/ City of Prince Albert

Some parents on social media are also concerned about a nearby pond. It's fenced, but there's an opening where children could enter. 

There's an opening in the playground fence, too.

Uvery finds this worrisome.

She and her son are meeting with Denver Brown in a few days. She looks forward to asking some questions and hopefully, getting some answers.

Brown has some ideas that might quell the fears of parents, like putting a latch on the playground gate.

"You rely on what you've been hearing," he said.

He has found informal conversations with parents and caregivers especially helpful.

"They walk through the playground while a parent is watching and they can actually comment on things their child likes as they see them doing it."

Park manager Yeaman and the city have tried to make the playground as safe as possible, but he recognizes there might be a better solution.

This is part of why he welcomes the U of T researchers.

"We're going to really rely on the experts here to help give us some direction."

He said he takes the criticism as constructive