With the not so delicate, but oh so joyous, sound of children laughing and playing, Whistler's new inclusive playground is one of Whistler's most fun 2010 Games legacies - and busiest.
Since the official opening over a month ago, the corner anchor of Whistler Medals Plaza - conveniently located for tired parents near purveyors of caffeinated beverages - has been filled with kids, rain or shine. The advent of the inclusive playground also marks the joyous sound of our resort community moving in the right direction for Paralympic hosts. Through the peals of laughter, we can hear our community move in a more resilient, inclusive direction.
"This inclusive playground allows both children with disabilities and parents with disabilities to play, interact and participate equally," says Sarah Tipler, Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) Measuring Up Coordinator. "The project is the result of much collaboration with community members, designers, occupational therapists and funders that envisioned a project that would yield a variety of experiences in a natural environment and in all seasons."
Themed "Nature Play, Play with Nature" the inclusive playground, designed in part by Shane's Inspiration, is funded through a partnership of the Province of British Columbia, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Canada, the Let's Play Project (a joint initiative of the Rick Hansen Foundation and the Province of British Columbia), and 2010 Legacies Now. The playground could not have been developed at this site without the participation of the Tyndall Stone Lodge and Marketplace Lodge property owners.
The new playground was completed for a soft launch in advance of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and the builders, landscapers and other crews who worked tirelessly in less than favourable conditions through the late fall and early winter were a key factor in that opening. The playground is so inclusive it actually enabled folks that didn't have tickets for Whistler Medals Plaza during Games time events to see what was going on at the medal ceremonies as the structure and surrounding walls were literally draped with people every night.
The inclusive playground is intended to provide play opportunities for people of all abilities and ages. While most playground equipment has limited opportunities for those with disabilities, the inspired design in Whistler provides play for: blind, deaf or hearing impaired, speech difficulty, Cerebral palsy/neurological disorders, Autism, low muscle tone/muscle weakness, psychiatric/emotional disabilities and mobility.
Support for this project comes from a larger 'Accessible Playground' program that has provided funding for three world class accessible playgrounds - one in Whistler, one in Richmond and another at Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver. Most importantly, these playgrounds will meet the needs of children with disabilities, and enable these children to play side-by-side with their siblings, friends and families.
"Because we are a host-community for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we've been endowed with many legacies that will last well beyond 2010," Tipler says. "But it is really the inclusive play area which will provide the most glee and laughter for our community, as we continue our journey towards becoming more accessible and inclusive."
To know more about actions accelerating us toward Whistler2020, go to www.whistler2020.ca