By James Matthews
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A playground’s liability issues have raised the hackles of the Municipality of Dysart et al township council.
A new playground for Head Lake Park has been designed and most major pieces have been ordered. Head Lake Park’s playground has been non-existent since June 2022. Its structures were removed because of safety concerns.
But some of the plans for the replacement playground raised new concerns about safety and liability on Mar. 14 during a township council meeting. No decision about the playground was made.
Mayor Murray Fearrey expressed concern about the inclusion of a zipline in the playground plans.
He said he feared there would be liability issues that would stem from such an apparatus.
Andrea Mueller, Dysart’s programs and events manager, addressed council with Nicole Baumgartner and Brandon Nimigon who are part of a group raising money for the playground.
Mueller said the zipline equipment has already been ordered.
Nimigon said the overarching goal is to install a playground “that’s functional for everyone, that is accessible to everyone in the community. That’s really been the main goal when setting this up.”
Baumgartner said there’s a desire to create a “destination playground” that isn’t just a draw for residents. Rather it’s hoped to be something that’ll put Haliburton Village on the map.
“We think it’s important both economically, socio-economically, for the development of children,” she said. “The benefits are wide-spread.”
A GoFundMe page has been created to raise money for the project. And people can make donations at the town hall. There’s also a social media presence toward the cause that will be frequently updated.
“Just keeping everybody in the loop,” Nimigon said. “It is a community involvement. This is not just the members. It’s anyone and everyone getting together to create this functional, outstanding park in downtown Haliburton.”
They’re looking to install the park equipment at some point in the spring. Exactly when that happens is contingent upon the weather, of course.
Dysart’s township council kicked in $300,000.
“Which is a huge, huge chunk of change for us to start this process,” Nimigon said.
That’s in addition to $150,000 from an Ontario Trillium Accessibility Grant and $50,000 from the Rotary Club of Haliburton. They’ve also received $5,000 from their first donor, he said.
“We’re off to a pretty good start,” he said.
They have $500,000 of their $600,000 goal.
At its longest side, the park will be about 120 feet with a width of about 69 feet.
The park’s total footprint will be about 9,000 feet.
The ground will be covered with 12 inches of engineered wood fibre, which is essentially a rubber mulch.
Fearrey said council was taken by surprise by the inclusion of a zipline in the playground. He said Mueller hadn’t previously alluded to that apparatus, and it isn’t visible on drawings Fearrey has seen.
Mueller said plans for the playground had initially called for the construction of a timber tower. But that was cost-prohibitive with a price tag of about $262,000 for just that item.
Alterations to plans had to be made.
Mueller said the zipline is in drawn plans, but it’s difficult to see.
“I want to know the details on the zipline,” Fearrey said. “There’s a liability maybe here. We don’t want a liability. We want to make sure it’s safe for kids.”
He said it’s concerning that nobody on council has heard about the zipline being part of the playground.
“When you hear a word like zipline, it gets your attention,” he said.
Mueller provided a video that illustrated the zipline and its use in the hope council’s fear could be assuaged.
The zipline doesn’t have any harnesses. Rather, children could stand or sit on a T-shaped mechanism that zips along the line.
She said there’s one at the Stanhope playground in nearby Algonquin Highlands.
“It’s one of the most popular features at that park,” she said. “People drive quite a distance. Anybody with kids seems to go there to go on the zipline.”
Fearrey expressed reservations that the zipline lacks a seat in which a child could be safely strapped.
Deputy Mayor Walt McKechnie said council is in favour of anything to benefit the local youth. He said, other than gossip on the street, this was the first time he’d heard officially about the zipline.
“I knew about all the other stuff,” he said. “I would feel a lot more comfortable if I knew a little bit more about the structure of this zipline.”
Fearrey said council needs to be informed about such things because they have a responsibility to provide justification to the public.
“I hope the message is that we need to be kept in the loop on these things,” he said.