Monday, October 15, 2007

New Heasley Park playground's a community effort

Corporals Marco Di Benedetto and Kevin Halls, from left, of the
31 Combat Engineer Regiment help get Heasley Park,
at 500 Parkside Dr., ready for its new playground last week.
Waterloo Chronicle (Sep 26, 2007)
The children living near Heasley Park will no longer have to put up with aging equipment.
Thanks to City of Waterloo staff and a group of community volunteers, the Lakeshore East park will get a new and improved playground at the end of the month.
"(The old equipment) has been very much appreciated by the kids, but I think they've probably loved it to death by now," said Benton Leong, the president of the Lakeshore East Community Association.
"It's certainly in need of refurbishment."
As well, city project manager Geri Quin said the former equipment wasn't meeting safety standards, and it needed surface replacements.
The city typically spends $50,000 annually replacing two local playgrounds.
It was Heasley Park's turn this year, however, $25,000 wasn't enough to replace the equipment and to expand it the way the community wanted, Leong said.
City staff suggested the community organization work with them to fundraise and jointly refurbish the park. The Sunnydale Community Association has also gotten involved because so many of its residents use the playground.
"Along with the city's original $25,000, we as a community have raised an additional $25,000 from some of the businesses and community members," Leong said.
The latter figure also includes a $10,000 grant from Let Them Be Kids Canada, a foundation that helps communities create partnerships and promote volunteerism through projects, such as building playgrounds.
Local businesses have backed the project, donating time, money and supplies. For instance, the neighbourhood Bank of Montreal has raised enough money through customer fundraisers to purchase a bench for the park, he said.
As well, Waterloo residents, firefighters, police, army engineers and students have all donated their time to making this playground a reality. Many will be lending a hand on Sept. 29, the day the equipment will be erected.
Its two structures -- one for kids aged two to five, and one for ages five to 12 -- will have multiple slides, climbers and landings.
In addition to installing this equipment, there will be a community event that day, complete with competitions and prizes, environmental stewardship projects for kids and a community dinner.
Leong is still looking for bands to entertain the crowd and more food for the potluck barbecue dinner, which will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
"One of the things we're emphasizing is how diverse the residents of this area are. We come from all over," he said. "So I'm asking people to bring a dish that proudly reflects their family's heritage."
This is the first time the city's been involved in a community playground building project, said Quin.
"We've done lots of community projects before, but nothing like this," she said. "It's been simply marvellous. Everyone we've contacted has said yes."
It's "amazing" what can be accomplished when the community comes together to make things better, she said.
"I think this is a really good example of community stewardship."
And the end result will be a brand new and enlarged facility in this heavily populated area, near the Albert McCormick Arena.
"That was one of the reasons we picked this particular park to do this project, because we knew there were a lot of kids in the neighbourhood who would appreciate this playground," she said.
The old equipment has been dismantled and will be sent to Bosnia for kids to use there.
"Undeveloped countries don't have the same safety standards as we do," Quin said, adding Let Them Be Kids recycles Canadian playgrounds in places such as Africa and Central America.

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