Playgrounds

HRM to upgrade or replace 12 playgrounds

Eight districts on the western half of HRM will receive new play equipment by late June

Glenbourne Park will receive one new play structure, but no swing set.   Bethanee Diamond

The Halifax Regional Municipality will replace or add equipment to 12 playgrounds, but others in the region will have to wait.

Margaret Soley, acting co-ordinator for parks and playgrounds for the municipality, said they choose what play structures need work based on inspectors’ reports. Most of the equipment the inspectors flagged no longer pass Canadian safety standards.

When looking at a report, she also looks at demographics and other parks within a 500-metre radius of the spot they’re considering replacing.

“We can’t come to a conclusive decision based on that information,” Soley said in an interview Friday. “But it gives us a good base. And then we also talk to the municipal councillor for the area because he or she often knows the community.”

The 12 playgrounds are spread out from Prospect to Beaver Bank, but most of the parks are close to Bedford and Halifax.

The municipality put a call out for proposals on Jan. 15. Soley said there are “about half a dozen or so” other playgrounds that aren’t part of this proposal request because the needs of the community are still being assessed. The HRM currently has 397 playgrounds.

For nine of the playgrounds, the HRM plans to remove and replace existing equipment. For the other three, the current equipment will stay and new pieces will be added. 

The nine parks getting replaced and their budgets are as follows:

  • Bedford Village Park: $60,000
  • Cove Road Park: $50,000
  • Connaught Battery Park: $30,000
  • Glenbourne Park: $45,000
  • Halifax Christian Academy Park: $60,000
  • Havill Park: $65,000
  • Mandaville Court Park: $65,000
  • Pierre Gingras Memorial Park: $60,000
  • Sunnyview Terrace Park: $60,000

The three parks getting additional equipment and their budgets:

  • Earl’s Road Park, $25,000
  • Judy Anne Court Park, $25,000
  • Tantallon Woods Park: $25,000

Earl’s Road Park, Judy Anne Court Park and Tantallon Woods Park will all receive the same design and equipment for their additional play structures.

Soley said companies that win the bid will create their own designs. This means Soley won’t know what the equipment will look like until they pick the winning proposal, but 10 of the parks will have a swing set and a play structure.

However, she said the municipality is working towards having more creative playgrounds, like those at The Dingle in Sir Sandford Fleming Park. Soley added that creativity will play a role in the ranking of proposals.

Havill Park’s wooden pirate ship playground will be removed and replaced.   Bethanee Diamond

Alex Smith, founder of PlayGroundology and CanadaPlays, is an advocate for having a wide range of creative outdoor play equipment. He has travelled the world learning about play dynamics and tries to bring the different things he learns back to Halifax.

‘Loose parts’

Smith said the Isleville playground in north-end Halifax is an excellent space for kids to have adventures, discovery and independent play. Children in the water area can bring buckets or other toys to play with in the water, allowing for more varied play.

He also said Nature Learning and Play Space in Musquodoboit and The Dingle have a creative approach to the traditional bright-coloured plastic and metal play equipment. The Dingle has sand and abstract log structures, and Nature Learning and Play Space uses the natural environment to let children play and explore.

Smith said children need to play outside, but playgrounds are not a “silver bullet” solution to this. He would like to see more creative play areas like those he mentioned.

He said some of the best play comes from “loose parts” — items like cardboard boxes, containers, planks of wood and fabric — that allow children to use their imaginations. Smith said with regular play structures, play can be programmed and limited.

“What we really need for kids is more independent outdoor play,” he said. “Playgrounds do help in that regard, but we need kids to be outdoors, having fun, experiencing adventures and discovery on their own without adults being there at all times.”

Smith held a loose parts play event last July at the Halifax Common. Some members of Halifax Recreation and Pop-Up Adventure Play from the United Kingdom helped with the event. He said more than 200 children attended.

“I think Halifax is a playful city,” he said. “I think we have the opportunity of becoming even more playful and creating an environment for our kids where they have the opportunities to discover themselves.”

Work on all 12 playgrounds is expected to be completed by June 29.