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Non-traditional playground could be coming to KL

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Town council is throwing its support behind two community-minded-individuals who would like to create what is known as a “loose-parts playground” in Kirkland Lake.

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If the playground comes into being it will be located on the corner lot on Second Street and Station Road where a more traditional playground once stood.

Anna Boudreault and Francine Sanche, who are both Educators at La Garderie Francofleur et Miel recently made a presentation to council and explained the concept of a loose-parts playground and why it would be beneficial.

“We would like to present the idea of adding a loose parts playground in our community.

“Previously there was a play space for the children in the community located at the corner of Second Street and Station Road. This space is currently not being utilized and we would like to propose that this space be turned back into an area where children can play. We see the need for a play environment that encourages creativity, imagination and innovation for children in the community of Kirkland Lake.

“Our goal is to create and provide this playground to the community at no cost to the town with the support of local businesses and donations of materials. Recently one of our coworkers passed away and one of her passions as an educator was to encourage open-ended play with loose part materials. In memory of her, we would like to name the park Reece Fillion Memorial Loose Parts Playground.”

Their report went on to read “Children are naturally drawn to objects that allow open-ended play. You’ve probably seen it yourself when they ignore the toy in order to spend hours exploring the box it came in. This natural sense of creativity and wonder is what the theory of loose parts is all about. Loose Parts is simply a name for stimulating materials that children can use to learn how the world works.

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“Unlike “normal” playgrounds or most toys, loose parts are open ended and reusable in an infinite number of ways depending on the child’s needs for development. Children are naturally drawn to objects that allow open-ended play.”

In terms of materials for the park, they are hoping “to have most materials donated by local businesses and our community. “Loose parts” is a term that refers to any material that can be moved, stacked, carried or altered. These can include natural materials such as sticks, stones, stumps, water, leaves and sand or recycled materials like milk crates, ropes, pipes, spools, gutters, pallets, tarps and many more.”

From the town’s perspective, Directory of Community Services Bonnie Sackrider feels the concept is an excellent idea.

“I think the idea of the loose parts playground is fantastic; the location makes sense, the concept is unique and not in practice in public playgrounds in Kirkland Lake so definitely of interest, and the fact that there are volunteers willing to bring the concept to fruition is of benefit to the entire municipality.”

In a report to council Sackrider added “Because there are municipal services located under the ground in this area, the land is not attractive for any project that requires work beneath the grade, or anything that would push frost into the ground, such as a parking area. For these reasons, redevelopment into a seasonal play area is very appropriate. This is an example of true Community Development, whereby members of the municipality take on activities that provide a service to the community to make it more livable and sustainable.”

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She also pointed out the cost to the municipality would be very low.

“Financial considerations would be minimal as the volunteers will complete the creation of the park area and the supply of loose parts. If this group of volunteers is not able to maintain the park in the future, the redeveloped area will be more attractive than it currently is, and could be maintained as play space by the department. The Community

Services Department would be obligated to conduct regular inspections for safety and will add it to the tri-weekly garbage runs completed by staff in the spring, summer and fall.

As for the next steps, Sackrider says “now that Council has approved the concept and directed staff to come back with an agreement, the volunteers will be able to confirm the dollars required whether through fundraising or grants.  Once they have their funding confirmed it is only a matter of ensuring the area meets accessibility standards for outdoor play spaces, and obtaining the “parts”.  I am hopeful that the community will see a new play area this summer.”

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