Elk Lake women pushing for inclusive playground

ELK LAKE - A group of dedicated Elk Lake women have raised over $50,000 toward improvements to the community playground.

With the goal of making the Alice's Wonderland Playground on Lake Street inclusive for all children, the women have been reaching out to area businesses, clubs, individuals and other sources and are now well on the way to raising the funds needed to upgrade the playground, estimated at $75,000.

The funds raised so far have all been since June.

Elk Lake librarian Cyndi Stockman stated in an email that during the pandemic she and her daughter-in-law and three-year-old grandson visited other playgrounds in the area, including Charlton, Englehart, Earlton and Temiskaming Shores.

"They all have great playgrounds and I thought, ‘hey, we should try fundraising to improve ours.’"

She approached James Township (Elk Lake) deputy-clerk Teri-Lynn Jibb, and with the council's approval, the two began plans for fundraising.

About the same time, Elk Lake ECO Centre operations manager Michelle Fiset reached out to council with a letter.

In an email, she explained that she became involved when she saw the "need for more inclusive and accommodating playground equipment in our community. My father, Andre Rondeau, had taken my two boys to the park one afternoon and saw a mother trying to push her son on the swings." The child had a physical challenge which made it difficult for him to use the swing set, she explained. Rondeau mentioned his observation to Fiset which led to the letter, and resulted in Fiset joining Stockman and Jibb in pursuing the project.

Jibb stated in an email that the three women began a letter-writing campaign and worked with CRCS Recreation, professional park designers in Sudbury. Interfor mill manager Don Soderlund also came on board with the idea for the upgraded park.

"He felt it was a worthy cause. Interfor ended up giving us $25,000."

Other area businesses, organizations and individuals have been following Interfor's lead with generous sums to help reach the goal.

The playground equipment has now been ordered and is expected to arrive in May with installation in the summer of 2023.

Darlene Wroe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker