Wetaskiwin’s Recreation Services suggests closure of two playgrounds

All 16 of Wetaskiwin's playgrounds require some level of attention and some may need to be closed, a report to the council detailed on June 24.

A comprehensive playground inspection was conducted in 2023 and the council presented those results on March 25, 2024. In a summary of those results, several concerns were raised.

"There are three primary areas of concern - the quantity and quality of the protective surfacing or ground cover; the curbing around the playground equipment; and the materials, integrity, and age of the equipment," read part of the report presented on June 24.

"Due to the number of playgrounds in the City's inventory and their current state, it is unrealistic to expect that all 16 playgrounds could be repaired, retrofitted, or replaced in one year. Significant funding is required to bring many of the playgrounds up to standard."

On Monday, Wetaskiwin City’s Recreation Services Manager Zanette Frost told the council that the administration is now recommending the closure of two playgrounds due to safety concerns.

Those include Peace Hills Park and a small pocket park in a green space behind Maple and Elm Crescents. The Peace Hills Park closure means the removal of the playground equipment, not the closure of the park itself.

It is also recommended the removal of "old metal climbing apparatus" that presents a high risk of injury.

The report also details a multiyear capital charter that can be created to phase in the repair, retrofitting, and replacement of the 16 playgrounds. The last recommendation is that a playground reserve be created to "support the City's contribution to the maintenance, re-development (existing playgrounds), and development (new) of playground spaces."

"The intention behind this is not to remove all the pieces and not go back. It's just acknowledging that standards have changed significantly since pieces were put in in 1970 or 1969," Frost told the council on Monday.

"One of the apparatus of concern is a metal apparatus that is over 80 inches high and is a severe fall risk. Depending on how a child falls, they could break something or have life-altering injuries. So those are the priorities that I have identified that need to be removed. As well as anything that has a strangulation or fall through rate, depending what is on the bottom of it."

Frost said she hopes to see some of the potentially dangerous equipment be removed by the end of the summer. Nothing will be removed without council's awareness, Frost added.

After some discussion and the defeat of an amendment, Mayor Tyler Gandam shared his thoughts about how to move forward.

"Because I brought all of this forward, in creating a more family friendly community– I think that's a great attraction that we could have. I've seen some pretty impressive playgrounds across the province," Gandam said, adding he hopes that removing and adding playground equipment can be brought forward as a business case at budget time.

"I feel like it's important that we invest in playgrounds like that. And so, if we were going to be removing a playground, that it was going to be replaced."

Gandam added he hopes the city can come up with a more comprehensive plan.

The council ended up supporting the original Playground Equipment Replacement Plan, with the hope of coming up with a more comprehensive plan around budget time.

Qiam Noori, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Ponoka News