By Vivian Collings
Head Lake Park is set to have a 9000 square foot, accessible playground in late spring.
The playground has been designed, all major pieces have been ordered, and the fundraising committee has been able to secure over $500,000 in grants and donations, putting them well on their way to their $600,000 goal.
“This is going to be a destination playground and something so special to Haliburton,” said Head Lake Park playground fundraising committee member Nicole Baumgartner Spooner. “Its going to be the most amazing thing to see how a revamped Head Lake Park will impact our community for years to come. Having already been able to raise so much before even launching the campaign is proof that we live in a community that recognize and want to be supportive of this goal.”
So far, $300,000 has been granted from the Municipality of Dysart’s council, $150,000 came from an Ontario Trillium Accessibility Grant, and $50,000 is being donated by the Rotary Club of Haliburton.
“A local playground is a great asset in our community,” said Haliburton Rotary president Ursula Devolin. “Many Rotarians have children who played on the former playground equipment, and we greatly value resources that are accessible to all members of the community. Contributing towards new equipment was a no brainer for us. We look forward to watching the next generation of local kids and visitors play on the new structures.”
Andrew Hodgson from Andrew Hodgson Real Estate gave the very first donation to the fundraiser.
Since the previous playground in Head Lake Park was closed and soon taken down in June of 2022 due to structural safety concerns, Baumgartner Spooner met with Brandon Nimigon to discuss future plans.
The two local realtors knew that many other parents were upset by the empty space in the community, an essential feature to families that was removed right before summer hit.
“One day, I came up to Brandon’s office to talk about work, and at the end I said, ‘I also can’t believe the park is gone. It’s a huge void in our community, and we have to do something about it,” Baumgartner Spooner said.
From there, they reached out to community members to gather more information, and quickly found out that Andrea Mueller, manager of programs and events for Dysart, already intended on forming a committee to start a fundraising initiative.
“We planned for months,” Nimigon said, “trying to find out what we need, what we want for that park, and once we got that, how we were going to implement it and we got it going. That’s been the past two months, putting that plan into action.”
One of the main highlights of the new playground will be a fully accessible portion of the main structure for wheelchairs.
Fifteen-foot towers will stand out to anyone driving through town, walking in the park, or boating on Head Lake.
The entire playground, designed by Park N Play Design, is meant to cater to children and youth of all ages.
“The whole point of it is that you can start on one side of the park as a baby, and as you grow up into a teenager, you move on to the bigger, more advanced structures,” Nimigon said. “It’s not just for our kids, it’s for teenagers, babies, kids of all ages.”
Another exciting addition will be a 100 foot zipline.
“There are hopes of integrating benches, tables, and sun shades in the future to make it a more enjoyable experience for adults as well,” Baumgartner Spooner said.
The committee met with ACM Designs to put together a custom “Haliburton” colour scheme for the playground that would best represent the surrounding landscape.
Nimigon explained that the majority of costs are for preparation of the site.
Excavation needs to happen first and will require gravel, concrete, and sand to allow for proper drainage and stabilization of the structure. Engineered wood fibre will then be placed on top.
“Sand no longer meets the safety standards because you need to have certain absorption of shock for falls, so part of the plan is to integrate engineered wood fibre. It has to be a thick enough layer to meet the safety standards, and it’s quite expensive,” Baumgartner Spooner said. “There are so many guidelines to follow and standards to meet. And we don’t want to just meet them, we want to exceed them.”
The committee members said they have received many questions about the possibility of installing a splash pad in the future.
“The playground is our number one goal right now, but that doesn’t mean it has to stop there. We’re not ignoring that phase two right on the horizon to bring that master plan to fruition,” Baumgartner Spooner said.
The committee opted for a longer lasting structure that can be enjoyed by children for the next 20 to 30 years. The current swings will remain in place.
Benefits to the community
All demographics will be able to enjoy the playground, regardless of age or socioeconomic status.
“It’s free to play, it levels the playing field, it’s an opportunity for absolutely everyone, and is something that is not a want in the community, it’s a necessity. Not everyone can afford to go out of town to access free services like that,” Baumgartner Spooner said.
Nimigon said with such a huge population growth within the past two years, the community should be catering to young families.
“Right now, there’s nowhere close for them to go,” he said. “There’s nothing to keep people in town for a longer period of time other than to pick up the necessities.”
Baumgartner Spooner envisions families making a trip out of coming to town once the new playground is installed, driving more customers to downtown businesses.
“It’s going to be fantastic economically for the community. They might go grab ice cream after, they might grab dinner out, they might spend the day in town. It’s not a transient travel-through town, we want it to be a destination,” she said.
It will help children develop fine and gross motor skills, work on their social skills, and for parents and caregivers to meet one another and socialize as well.
“A lot of people in their child raising years make friends with people with other kids. Having no playground removes an area for those friendships to form,” Baumgartner Spooner said.
How to donate
A GoFundMe page is now set up for the Head Lake Park Fundraiser: gofund.me/1261a383.
Monetary and cheque donations can be dropped off at Century 21 Granite Group in Haliburton or Minden or at the Baumgartner Realty Group office in Haliburton.
The municipality is also accepting in kind donations.
“There’s no fault in why we’re in the position we’re in, but why are we going to wait? Why do we have to wait? Why don’t we help to make this something bigger than we could’ve ever dreamt of,” said Spooner.