Over the past year, the City of Calgary has been increasing options for play through the creation of new inclusive playground facilities.
The new playgrounds, 10 in total, have been placed throughout the city at regionally accessible parks and community hubs.
The playgrounds have been designed with different layouts to make them interesting for children visiting multiple locations. All are barrier-free, and have amenities accessible to children with mobility, sight, hearing, or developmental challenges.
“Inclusive playgrounds are special and different than your average playground,” said Tammy Robinson, manger for resource stewardship at Calgary Parks.
“They’re engaging in fun spaces that to challenge one’s abilities while providing those opportunities to play and learn all at the same time,” she said.
The playgrounds are located at Edworthy Park, Ellison Park, Hidden Hut in Hidden Valley, South Glenmore Park, North Glenmore Park, Ramsay, Sandy Beach Park, Somerset, Ted Harrison Park, and Vivo in Country Hills.
A full list of individual playground features and addresses is located on calgary.ca.
Park features include all people instead of separating them
Among the features located at the playgrounds are wheelchair accessible ramps that weave through the playground structures, roller slides, tandem swings, fully accessible merry-go-rounds, fully accessible rocking rafts and swings, zip lines, and climbers.
Some of the parks also feature musical instruments like xylophones for children to play with. Among the less obvious features are inclusionary interactive play structures. An example from the Sandy Beach playground is musical toy that also allows for hearing limited children to plug their headsets or hearing devices directly into the playground to hear the music they create.
"Often when we talk about inclusivity we think about wheelchairs, but these spaces are so much more far reaching," said Parks Foundation Calgary CEO Sheila Taylor.
"These spaces are catered to people of all ages and abilities whether or not it's kids, but also their families, their caregivers, and older people as well," she said.
"And it's not just about mobility—It's really about providing spaces that give the opportunities for imaginations, for socializing, for auditory and sensory challenged people to have a place that's for them."
Taylor said that these inclusive playgrounds are important because they bring together members of Calgary's community, rather than segregating them. The playgrounds also all have local access to public washrooms.
Playgrounds created in an unprecedented short length of time
All of the playgrounds were created by the city in the past year. Kyle Ripley, Director of Calgary Parks, said it was unprecedented for the city to build this many parks within that time frame.
In total the park construction came in at just over $4.2 million dollars. Funding support was provided by the Parks Foundation Calgary, the Government of Alberta, and by local businesses and community groups.
"I think what makes them special is that through the support of so many organizations together, we were able to really move the dial on inclusivity in Calgary, rather than having only one or two spaces in the corners of the city," said Taylor.
"We now have inclusive spaces spread throughout Calgary, and we at Parks Foundation hear from families every day how much these spaces mean to them," she said.
The expected lifespan of the playgrounds is expected to be approximately 20 years.
Costs for inclusive playgrounds higher due to size and safety features
Joan Macdonald, project coordinator for Calgary Parks, said that accessible playgrounds do cost more to create than non-inclusive ones, largely due to increased safety requirements.
She said that small community playground costs start at approximately $130,000 and can rise to around $250,000. Inclusive playgrounds start at around $250,000, and that cost can rise to $500,000 depending on size.
"If you want to make your equipment inclusive, it'll be approximately $200,000 more," said Macdonald.
"If you look at the ramping, that ramp takes up way more space, and some of the equipment is a little bit bigger. You need CSA spacing between each one, and then the fall surface is triple the price of a regular pea gravel fall surface," she said.
Macdonald said that the largest inclusive playgrounds, like the one at Shouldice Park, cost around $1 million to create.