A child’s early playtime experiences play an important role in their physical and cognitive development. One of the unique resources available in Crowsnest Pass is Alberta’s first natural learning playspace, built outside the MDM Community Centre in Bellevue in 2018.
The Nature Learning Playspace group has collected over $10,000 in donations and hundreds of volunteer hours to make the natural playground a reality. Volunteers operate and maintain the grounds, and the playspace is open Monday to Friday for kids aged zero to six.
Kids Kollege regularly uses the playground, as do Brighter Futures and the Boys and Girls Club.
Issues over insurance coverage, however, have recently jeopardized the playspace’s operation.
Since the NLPS isn’t owned or operated by the municipality, the municipality’s insurance plan does not cover the group. The insurance plan also requires the space to meet the Canadian Standards Association’s safety standards, though the playspace needs to meet only Alberta Health Services guidelines to operate since it doesn’t use regular playground equipment.
The NLPS has never missed or failed an AHS inspection.
Members of NLPS attended the June 15 Crowsnest Pass council meeting to ask for municipal support in solving insurance concerns so the natural playground could continue to serve the youngest members of the community.
“Council’s support and the municipality’s support of this project all along has been instrumental in its success,” said Beth Pounder, “and we just ask for that continued support.”
With a public hearing scheduled for the proposed rezoning of Dairy Road Park, Coun. Lisa Sygutek said municipal support for NLPS was something Bellevue residents deserved.
“A program like this is absolutely imperative in Bellevue and we need to be bending over backwards to do everything we can to keep it going,” she said. “I expect administration to go above and beyond helping this group find a way for insurance and funding.”
Council directed administration to work with NLPS to find a community group that is independent of the municipality to take over the playspace.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze