The big red slide has served its purpose for 20 years and will be replaced with interactive climbing features. Ronan O’Doherty photo

Patchett Street Park’s cool new playground designs come with high price tag

Mayor says the new features will pay dividends in attracting and retaining new families

With the help of some clever children and gas tax reserve money, the Patchett Street Park Playground is well on its way to joining LeBourdais and South Quesnel Park as a cornerstone play centre for Quesnel.

Known for its big red slide, which West Quesnel children have excitedly barrelled down since its construction in 1998, Patchett Street Park was earmarked for upgrading in 2015, when all the city’s parks were reviewed.

While it has long been one of the city’s most popular parks, the slide, which is its main attraction, has become faded, burned in some places and is often the target for vandalism.

When the city’s 2018 capital budget was prepared, $200,000 was approved to rebuild the park and consultation was planned with some local children, who are to be its primary users.

After sending some design elements in advance to a couple of teachers, the Grade 5, 6, and 7 students from Voyageur Elementary School were assembled and asked for their input on the neighbourhood play area.

Mayor Bob Simpson addressed them like he would any consultation committee and provided some parameters.

They had to look at the safety features of the play area, think about the fun aspects that they would like to include and they also had to keep in consideration that there would be costs and, as such, limitations.

“The kids wanted all the features,” Mayor Simpson says,“and we had to tell them to limit their choices, but they were great!”

While they have come to love the big red slide and were hoping to keep it, the poor condition of the playground element meant that it could not be incorporated into the new plans.

A slide that uses the natural hill feature was seen as a necessity, however, so a metallic chute will be included.

The park does not currently have swings, so the initial designs didn’t include them.

The students pointed out that they were missing and when asked whether they were important, agreed unanimously that they were.

Now two sets will be made available; the standard belt seat as well as a more accessible type.

A crow’s nest and tree-house structure will be linked by a rope bridge, so many pirate or jungle scenarios can be acted out in great detail.

Climbing features with rope ladders and half-sphere steps will dot the hill, so rubberized flooring needs to be incorporated for safety’s sake.

This has brought the budget up to $370,000, which may have raised some eyebrows.

But in addition to providing safety features, the investment will pay off by attracting and retaining young families, says Simpson.

“The toughest segment of the population are in that 25- to 40-year-old age group,” he says.

“We want to bring them in and retain them during those family years, and building amenities really pays dividends.”

He adds Quesnel wants to be an active community and having children who are active is an important part of making that happen, so if the playground is shortchanged, everyone is shortchanged in the long run.

“These are federal dollars, they’re not property-tax dollars,” he points out, when discussing where financing for the park will come from.

“We get an annual allocation under the gas fund and because of the budget changes we were able to accomplish, we have freed those gas tax dollars up to be able to developed into things like this.”

“This is the last big playground in our five-year-program [to upgrade the city’s parks], and council always knew we might have to come back to this, so we put $200,000 as a placeholder on our budget, knowing that later we would have to come back to put in a more realistic amount.”

The city is hoping that an application made to the Tire Stewardship Community Grant program will cover approximately $25,000 of the resurfacing costs.

The construction of the new park is also going out as part of a competitive bid process, so it is quite possible the final amount spent won’t be quite as high as the budget after all.

If all goes according to plan, the existing structure will be removed in August with construction finished by end of September.
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