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Why build a new playground?
The playground renovation is Phase 3 of the three phase Waskasoo Gardens Playground Project which includes Phase 1: the Community Gardens and Phase 2: the Waskasoo Gazebo.
The entire park renovation responds to needs assessments and data gathered for the Waskasoo Neighbourhood Plans. Under intense development pressure, the community worked extensively with the City of Red Deer to create planning documents that protect local green spaces, maintain the area’s character, and lay out the community's vision for its future. The needs assessment for the Community Plan found that Waskasoo lacks 'a heart,' a place that is designed for social interaction, community gathering, and casual contact and enhances residents' sense of place. The plan recommends that the Waskasoo Community Association take the lead and work with relevant stakeholders to design and develop the Waskasoo Playground into a just such a place. See the plans and data gathered here.
Research consistently indicates that the community wants to renovate the east end of the park into a natural playground with amenities for preschool children. Natural playgrounds are designed for play in a natural setting and/or with nature-based features. While traditional playground equipment tends to be prescriptive and targeted towards specific groups (e.g. by age or ability), natural playgrounds provide elements that may not have an obvious use and require players to use their imagination and engage in open-ended and creative ways. The result is inclusive, unstructured, free play that benefits players’ emotional, mental, social, and physical health and development, and builds resiliency and risk management skills to help children thrive. These benefits are so clearly established that the Canadian Public Health Association, Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health, and ParticipACTION all recommend that investments be made in natural playgrounds in neighbourhoods where they are lacking. The Waskasoo Natural Playground will be the first such space in a neighbourhood park in Red Deer.
Data gathered also reveals that Waskasoo truly needs amenities for preschool children. With two excellent elementary schools, Waskasoo has more young families than the average Red Deer neighbourhood and has no preschool amenities. There are also no neighbourhood preschool play areas within easy walking distance of either Waskasoo, its adjacent neighbourhoods, or the entire central core of the city! See the City of Red Deer map of Tot Lots below.
It's a tall order: a natural playground that instills a sense of place where the entire community can gather and play and yet supplies needed amenities for preschoolers. To fill it, we are replacing the current twenty-year-old play structures (rated for ages 5 - 12) with natural landscaping and play equipment made from natural materials all chosen to enhance Waskasoo's sense of place through the new park's "Prairie to Parkland" theme.
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