A new playground at E.S. Gish took its inspiration from the French parkour movement. It’s the first of its kind in Canada.
After almost two years of fundraising, the new playground at 75 Akins Dr. is almost ready for use.
Parts of the structure were brought in from Finland and include equipment that allows for numerous activities at once, said Trevor Zahara, owner of Riel Park-based Peak Play Environments.
And while it may not look like the usual combination of swings, slides and monkey bars, all of those functions are still available, he said.
“What’s appealing for these parks is that kids naturally want to climb, and swing from things, and play,” he said. “And they’re not necessarily looking for traditional structures which include stairs and decks and ladders and swings.”
Parkour is an activity or sport that sees people moving rapidly through an urban area, negotiating obstacles such as walls or rails by running, jumping, and climbing.
The same activities attract children to playgrounds, said Zahara. He brought in the new equipment after discovering it at a recreation convention in Germany five years ago, he said.
Similar structures can already be found in other playgrounds around the city, such as the climbing cube in the local Rotary Park, he said. But the school’s playground features multiple, new structures.
These include a climbing piece made up from many round balls or “molecules”, and a multiple-suspended piece that can be used for balancing and climbing acts.
“The sequence of movements through it, it’s kind of like if you had a monkey bar going from deck to deck,” said Zahara. “Or if you had multi-levels of monkey bars which you could not only hang from but also climb through and around and within.”
Opening next week
The build for the playground took place from May 23 until May 25 and required almost 215 shifts and 600 hours from local volunteers, members of the playground committee and the school’s parent association.
That followed almost two years of fundraising, in which the school raised about $170,000, including city and community grants, said committee member Danny Jeffery.
They needed a new playground because the K-9 school expanded quickly and now accommodates over 500 children, he said. They also wanted to create a playground that could be used by all ages, he added.
The previous playground was made for Kindergarten to Grade 3 students, he said. While they kept some of the old equipment, the newer pieces are accessible to older children.
They also added benches for parents, and woodchips instead of sand, he said.
“One of the benefits we proposed with this was once the woodchips have padded down you can roll a wheelchair on it,” he said. “We want to open it up to all, especially if you don’t know who will be in your school.”
The playground is expected to open next week, pending an inspection by the city and some final construction, said Jeffery.
It will then be accessible during and after school hours.
“It feels fantastic. Just to know that the students will get something that they’re going to love,” he said. “And then I think you feel satisfied as a parent group that you’ve done a good thing for the city of St. Albert and for our community.”