Gordon Opleta happily sits on the new wooden bench overlooking Grandin Pond.
The 63-year-old, who lives with Down syndrome and arthritis, was the inspiration for its installation.
“(He) just absolutely adored to be able to feed the ducks,” said Heather Lee, a community support worker with Lo-Se-Ca. “But he would bend down and it would be such a hardship for him to get back up again.”
Working with individuals in the seniors day program, and meeting mobility impaired members of the community at the pond over the course of the summer, Lee saw a need.
“It was just such a long walk from the parking lot to that first bench and then (another) long walk to get to the duck pond,” she said.
“It’s an enchanting spot, but there’s just no place to sit.”
Lee posted on the Community of St. Albert’s Facebook page to see if other residents wanted a bench too. Her appeal was then sent to the city and went right to the mayor himself.
“Mayor Crouse apparently rode his bike over there to take a look,” she said.
Crouse said he would commit to getting the bench installed in a response post on the community Facebook page.
Lee got a call a couple of weeks later from Stephen Schlese, supervisor of operations at the City of St. Albert that the bench was in the works. The L-shaped sitting area at the pond’s first dock was installed this month.
“I’m quite humbled,” noted Lee. “It’s wonderful that (the city is) taking care of a problem – that might seem (small) for some people – but for the people that enjoy going out to the duck pond, it’s a big deal to have a place to sit and relax.”
Dan Rites, director of public works with the city said it was a win-win situation.
“It’s something that fit well in that area in terms of a need and nothing close by (could) satisfy that need,” he said. “We’re in the process of making a list of the city’s complete infrastructure, including benches and signs and park infrastructure, and that was an area that didn’t have anything.”
Opleta plans to be back at the pond next spring, feeding the ducks from the comfort of his bench.