Inclusive park in Grand Falls opens to public with community support

·3 min read
The Intergenerational Inclusive Park opened to the public Sunday.  (Submitted by Marco LeBlanc - image credit)
The Intergenerational Inclusive Park opened to the public Sunday. (Submitted by Marco LeBlanc - image credit)

An inclusive park in Grand Falls, N.B., officially opened to the public Sunday after four years of community effort.

The park, a collaboration between the Association of Community Living and the Victoria Family Resource Centre, is wheelchair accessible and designed to accommodate all age groups.

"We wanted a park made for every person, no matter what their exceptionalities are," said Marco LeBlanc, president of the Association of Community Living in Grand Falls.

"It's about providing a space where everybody feels welcome and safe," he said.

The Intergenerational Inclusive Playground features an area with exercise equipment, targeted toward older people, multi-sensory games that include a voice distorter, a wheel that prompts rainfall noises and a rocking raft for balancing.

It features an isolating egg, which is meant to offer comfort for people with autism, a swing suitable for a parent and child, and traditional park equipment, including a slide and rock climbing wall.

Submitted by Josee Hudon-LeBlanc
Submitted by Josee Hudon-LeBlanc

"These were all the things important for us to meet the needs of all the families in our area," he said.

LeBlanc said the park was in part to support the Dexter Learning Centre, which offers help for adults with developmental challenges, and the family resource centre, which supports new parents.

Both centres are located on the same property as the park.

He said people of all ages and conditions have already started using the park and a large turnout of over 250 people were expected to take part in the grand opening celebrations Sunday.

LeBlanc said the park was made possible with financial support from businesses and organizations in the community.

Submitted by Marco LeBlanc
Submitted by Marco LeBlanc

Josée Hudon-LeBlanc said the park has made a significant impact on the lives of her daughters.

Her 16-year-old daughter, Julianne, uses a wheelchair and her 13-year-old daughter, Joëlle, has difficulties with balance and vision.

Hudon-LeBlanc said most parks aren't suitable for people with special needs, specifically for those with mobility issues.

She said most parks have gravel or rocks, which make it difficult for someone in a wheelchair to use them.

"We can't even enter most parks with my daughter who's in a wheelchair," said Hudon-LeBlanc.

Because of this, her daughters need to be accompanied by two adults. One can look after Julianne and the other can help Joëlle use park equipment.

"It's difficult for these children and even more difficult for the parents of these children, to see that your child is being sidelined because of motor issues," said Hudon-LeBlanc.

Inclusive space took time

Hudon-LeBlanc said the equipment at most parks is usually too difficult for children with special needs.

"My other daughter can enter these parks, but she can't balance or grip… 90 per cent of the equipment is too difficult for her," she said.

Submitted by Marco LeBlanc
Submitted by Marco LeBlanc

"It limits the experiences these children get to live."

Hudon-LeBlanc joined the committee responsible for the park a couple of years ago. She wanted to help provide better options for children like hers and create an inclusive space for all ages and needs.

She said the park's design allows her to bring her daughter using a wheelchair all throughout the park and is far more usable for her other daughter.

"A lot of children are put on the sidelines because parks aren't made for them, but having created a park like this will allow these children to play, live new experiences and feel included," said Hudon-LeBlanc.

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