Kids playing in a park with natural elements (Healthy Kimberley/Facebook file).

Kimberley parents propose new park in Swan Subdivision

Jeff Rees and Todd Larsen hope to bring a park with natural elements to the neighbourhood.

Two Kimberley parents gave a presentation to City Council this week in hopes of bringing a new playground to the Swan Subdivision.

Jeff Rees and Todd Larsen, who both have young children and live in the subdivision, are spearheading an initiative that, if funded, will see the green space in their neighbourhood turned into a community gathering and play area.

Rees says that growing up in Kimberley, he remembers playing in the nature park with friends in an unsupervised manor, which allowed him to gain curiosity and independence.

“We’re hoping to develop a neighbourhood play space that would be an important and innovative community gathering area,” said Rees.

The City-owned green space in question is located directly behind the basketball courts (and outdoor rink) at the end of Swan Ave, and backs onto the Kimberley nature park.

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Rees and Larsen said have received “overwhelming” support from residents of the Swan Sub and surrounding area. They have also received letters of support from Teck Resources, Healthy Kimberley, and after Monday’s Council meeting have the backing of City Council as well.

Larsen explained that he and Rees have applied for funding through the Columbia Basin Trust Physical Literacy Grants.

“There are also several other funding resources that we can apply for and gain access to such as, the Kimberley District Community Foundation, Canadian Tire’s JumpStart Program, and RDEK Community Initiatives…” said Larsen.

Rees and Larsen hope to use the potential grant funding to help with the design of the park, which they envision to have natural elements that allow children to use their imagination at any age.

“While researching ideas for this play area, our group became aware of ‘natural playgrounds’ that contrast with the typical plastic or steel play structure,” wrote Larsen and Rees in their report to Council. “By incorporating natural materials such as logs and rocks or earth berms, as well as creative elements such as simple musical instruments, playground users of all ages derive more all-around benefits than they would on one dimensional play equipment.

“These kinds of play areas engage more of children’s senses and curiosity and look more attractive as a part of an urban landscape.”

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Shenoa Runge, Healthy Kimberley’s Coordinator for Physical Literacy, was also present at Monday’s Council meeting as a consultant on the project. She says that one of the best ways for children to experience outdoor adventures and experimental play is in their own neighbourhood.

“One of the most exciting pieces that I’ve been learning about, what supports physical literacy in our youngest citizens, is play. Particularly, nature-based, adventurous play seems to be really critical,” said Runge. “Incorporating loose parts play and natural elements, nothing overly high-tech, allows children to evolve their play, be more spontaneous and more imaginative.”

In terms of the City’s involvement, Manager of Parks and Facilities Brett Clark says there is some due diligence to follow with the construction of the park and its elements, however it would not be an added burden on the Parks staff to maintain and inspect the park.

Mayor Don McCormick and many Councillors agreed that the scope of work Larsen and Rees have done is “impressive” and they support the initiative.

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