All-Abilities Playground

As part of Peace Arch Hospital Foundation’s Healthy Community initiative, an all-abilities, all-ages park will be built next to Centennial Arena in Ruth Johnson Park, replacing the existing play structure.

“In keeping with the Foundation’s strategic goal to support projects and programs that effect change in health and wellness upstream, we are thrilled to spearhead and fund this innovative and accessible park,” said Stephanie Beck, the Foundation’s Executive Director.

The park will be built in collaboration with the City of White Rock and White Rock Firefighters, who have been championing an all-abilities park on East Beach since 2009. Total cost of the project is $900,000 with $225,000 already committed by the City. The remaining $675,000 will be raised by the Foundation.

“When we first started fundraising for an all-abilities all-ages park on the beach eight years ago, we could never have envisioned the extensive parks system that this has become,” said White Rock firefighter, Evan Bird. “We are excited to work in collaboration with the Foundation and the City on this innovative community project and we invite organizations, citizens and philanthropists to join our fundraising efforts that will bring these parks to fruition.”

The park is the first phase in a three-phase plan that includes a trail down to the waterfront, eventually linking to the proposed park on East Beach.

 

With fun and unique play and outdoor fitness equipment that promotes being active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the new park will be a gathering place for children and their families, of all ages and abilities, to engage in green space among their peers.

“White Rock City Council is pleased to partner with Peace Arch Hospital Foundation in their efforts to raise $900,000 to build an all-abilities playground in Centennial Park,” said Acting Mayor Bill Lawrence. 

“The proposed all-abilities playground will greatly enhance physical activity and social connectedness in the community by incorporating play spaces for people of all ages and abilities to have fun and interact together using challenging play equipment, exercise stations and shaded gathering areas. City Council has consented to the use of a portion of land at Centennial Park for the playground, agreed to provide ongoing maintenance and has made a $225,000 financial contribution towards this worthy community project.”

“This park is exactly the type of project we look to support through our Community Health funding,” said Geoff Funke, the Foundation’s vice-chair and chair of the Healthy Community Committee. “With a goal to make White Rock and South Surrey the healthiest community possible, this park will cater to preschoolers, school-age children, youth, adults, seniors and people with disabilities.”
In conventional parks, children in wheelchairs are often left on the sidelines, unable to play with other kids, or in the case of a parent or caregiver with a disability, they cannot get close to where their able-bodied child is playing. This new all-abilities all-ages park aims to break down barriers so that everyone in the community can participate and feel included.

Myra Merkal, founder and organizer of the White Rock Princess Party, started the event in 2009 as a fundraiser for the proposed East Beach park. This year’s party will take place on July 29 at Centennial Arena and is always a sell-out.

“I am thrilled to continue working with the White Rock Firefighters Charity Association to raise funds for this park system,” Merkal said. “Our annual Princess Party has raised more than $100,000 for the East Beach park and we are more dedicated than ever to our vision. We hope that our collaboration with the Foundation and the City of White Rock will help resolve the many unknown details for the beach location.”

While fundraising for the East Beach park has been steady, the exact location has been undetermined due to space constraints on the White Rock side and the Semiahmoo Indian Reserve occupying the Surrey side. The firefighters have met with the City of White Rock to brainstorm ideas for a location and hope to meet with the Semiahmoo First Nation to discuss opportunities for the park on their land.

“I love the idea of two phases of parks with a connecting trail,” Merkal said. “It will benefit the entire Semiahmoo Peninsula, nurturing a community that is welcoming, inclusive and healthy.”

Construction of the park will begin in early 2018 after an RFP process to determine a playground installer and the park is slated to open in spring 2018.

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