Sharon Tiffin/News staff Seven-year-old Sofia Mairs

Sharon Tiffin/News staff Seven-year-old Sofia Mairs

Saanich celebrates community-driven nature play area

A new playground means outdoor fun is now only a hop, skip and a jump away for a Saanich neighbourhood.

A new playground means outdoor fun is now only a hop, skip and a jump away for a Saanich neighbourhood.

The Pearce Crescent Rotary Play Area (1200 block of Pearce Crescent, in the Blenkinsop Valley) officially opened Saturday and is being used as an example of both community co-operation and a new approach to neighbourhood playgrounds.

The park focuses on a natural setting to encourage active and imaginative play. The adventure-style playground features large boulders and logs to climb, along with tunnels, a hockey area, a circulating pathway and a wood climbing structure with a slide.

“It’s not like a traditional playground,” said Matt Belanger, a Pearce Crescent Rotary Play Area committee member. “It’s a little more creative use of space. They’re climbing and jumping from rock to rock and creating their own games.”

The nearest playground from the neighbourhood of about 50 houses is a good half hour’s walk away, and residents were eager to have something closer to home. Residents saw a weedy, unused road right-of-way as the perfect location for a cost-effective playground.

Community fundraising covered the cost of building the park, a process which took about six months to complete and brought in over $11,000. The committee appealed to local organizations for support and applied for grants.

The Blekinsop Valley Community Association got the ball rolling with a $1,000 contribution and others followed suit, such as the Rotary Club of Saanich which gave $3,000. A $3,500 grant from the Saanich Legacy Foundation and a District of Saanich matching grant program contribution also helped.

“It was amazing, the support we got right away,” Belanger said. “Sometimes when you go out into projects like these you just expect to get ’no’ everywhere you go and we never got a ‘no.’ It was just ‘yes, yes, yes.’”

Saanich staff designed the playground at no cost, bringing three options to the neighbours at an open house, where one was chosen. The district also did the installation, but at a cost. The final price tag of the playground was around $9,500.

“It’s wonderful to see the community come together and be so creative with what was unused land. It’s my hope that more neighbourhoods in Saanich will take on similar initiatives like this group has,” said Saanich Coun. Nicola Wade in a release. “Saanich Parks staff should be congratulated for what is a remarkable design.”

Belanger’s children have already had a go at the playground and he said they have a blast on it.

“They’re such outdoors kids and anytime you can get them out of the house and away from those distractions inside, it’s just so positive.”

The hope is the project will inspire other communities to take a similar approach.

“There’s nothing like it on (Vancouver) Island, that any of us are aware of,” Belanger said. “That’s our hope, that other communities similar to ours will be inspired that there are options out there.”

kwells@goldstreamgazette.com