By Darren Lum
Watching her seven-year-old son Andrew McArthur-Robertson clamber on and around the latest addition to the Maple View complex in Wilberforce makes Sandra McArthur smile.
It’s a long-time coming for her and the residents that call the complex home. The community was presented with a Ontario Trillium Foundation grant worth $34,000 in 2019 to cover the costs of the new playground installed a late-last year to replace a 25-year-old playground.
McCarthur said it provides her peace of mind to know her son has a safe place to play close to home.
“This playground equipment offers more opportunity for imagination. The other was just so straight forward. And it wasn’t multi-age groups. This one has multi-age groups because you have the smaller slide and the bigger slide, so more than one age group can be on it,” she said. “Being able to cook your meals and watch your kid at the same time is convenient. And the kids really enjoy it.”
A resident at the complex for 11 years, who is originally from Toronto said she’s happy living in Wilberforce where it isn’t too far for her son to be able to attend Stuart Baker Elementary School where he can be enrolled in French Immersion. When she lived in Cardiff the distance was too great for the bus trip to transport her two older children to continue their French immersion study after starting in Lindsay.
Kathy Rogers, the administrator for the Monmouth Township Non-Profit Housing Corporation, said this grant provides a positive message to the residents of the complex.
“I hope it makes them feel important because I think it’s important it’s here. Right now, I think the importance is being highlighted with the pandemic because technically we’re not supposed to have our playground open according to our service manager,” she said. “But for us we have it opened because we have a limited number of kids.”
She estimates there are close to 10 children that live on the property run by the corporation, which includes 24 apartments and 10 townhouses.
The footprint for the playground limited the options for what could be installed, but the corporation was conscious of certain features that would benefit the young users.
“It’s not a big space so there is not a lot you can do with it. So we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose the things that we knew the kids played with and see if there was anything we can add,” she said.
They added a slide and ensured it had raised platforms, which allows the children to play “forts” underneath the structure sometimes, using snow from the ground to create walls at the openings, Rogers added.
Originally, the Monmouth Township Non-Profit Housing Corporation wanted to replace the degrading rubber matting, but realized with a successful application for OTF funding they could replace everything. The aging equipment had been enduring regular repairs and was not open for use during these times, forcing the youth of the complex to go to town to play at the town playground.
The installation also permitted a feature with the “wooden border so that one area is blended into the grass to allow a smoother transition for strollers,walkers and wheelchairs.”
Without the grant, the corporation was considering other materials such as sand, gravel and cedar chips.
“It was tremendous that they were able to give us that funding because then we could put in that rubber matting. It’s better for maintenance and great for the kids to be on. It’s nice and bouncy. It works so well,” she said.
Rogers points out this playground is not open to the public at this time with the lockdown measures.
It is open to the youth that live at the complex, as it was decided by the corporation’s board, who believe there is not a high density of children living at the complex. When it comes to safety for the residents the decision to open the playground made sense.
“For me these kids can play in their own playground with their own neighbours and feel safer instead of going up to town to the playground area where everybody uses it and you have no idea who’s there. Less worry about being exposed to germs, right?”