That Play Ship has Sunk

I remember the first time I took Miss M to the DeWolf Park Playground in Bedford. She was less than a year old and she and a little friend crawled around on the grass and ate each others' snacks while me and his mom chatted in the sunshine and watched all the big kids play on the giant wooden ship playground.

I've been back there many times and as Miss M got older I found it more and more challenging to keep track of her little head bobbing around the structure and ended up following her through it many times as there are a few surprising drop-offs that I worried she might disappear through as a teeny toddler. To be fair, the playground is designed for kids 5+ however it's such a beautiful spot for a picnic next to the harbour, so we often ended up there on a nice day and, if you put a playground in front of a kid...

Then Mr M, the adventure toddler, started exploring the playground and I often had to choose which child was least likely to vanish into the depths of the ship as they'd split up and perform individual death-defying feats (such as Mr M at 18 months old trying - and pretty successfully at that - to climb a 6-foot-tall wooden ladder).

Basically I found the playground to be, for toddlers, about as stressful as they found it fun. However, the internal struggle is finally over as the playground is a goner. I drove by last week to check it out while I was working on an article about it, and saw a big pile o' dirt where it used to stand.

Luckily they are building a bigger and better playground to replace it - complete with a toddler section. I know my kids will still want to go in the bigger kids' area but at least I can TRY to steer them towards an age appropriate structure for part of the play time.

This article was originally published in the Chronicle Herald's weekly community papers and has been republished here with their permission.

Last week crews removed the ten-year-old wooden playground structure from the DeWolf Park Playground to prepare for the installation of new playground equipment, which includes a new rubberized play surface.

Margaret Soley, Manager of Parks Special Projects with the HRM, says it was time for an upgrade in order for it to meet the current CSA (Canadian Standards Association) standards and guidelines. She says that although they’ve been replacing components as needed for the last few years, it became clear that it was time to replace the whole playground.

“There was rot in some of the structural wooden posts, both underground and above ground,” Soley says, adding that the rubberized surfacing needed a complete replacement as well. “It’s really outlived its life.”

Soley says the previous playground no longer suited the needs of all the families who were using it.

“We want to increase the visibility and the accessibility and encourage more inclusive play for all children because the structure that’s there now is for 5 to 12 year olds and there’s really nothing for the smaller children,” Soley explains.

The new structure will keep with the nautical theme of the previous ship playground and there will be three main components. For children aged 5 to 12 years old there will be a large ship structure with multiple play features including a periscope, ship wheels, a cannon, slides, and climbers; for children aged 18 month to 5 year olds there will be a tot structure with climbers and slides; and, for all ages, a Spinner. There will also be dolphin and seahorse spring toys for bouncing on.

They have put an emphasis on making the new playground more inclusive for all children, regardless of ability. There will be accessible parking spots beside the playground and a new asphalt path to the play equipment; there will be many play features installed at the ground level of the structure; and the Spinner has a gentle slope in the centre to make it easier for a child with mobility issues to get in and out of the equipment.

Angela Brake of Bedford visits the DeWolf Park Playground often with her four-year-old son and sees it as a great space to spend time as a family, but agrees that it was time for the structure to be updated.

“I am happy they are replacing it. It is nice to see they are putting resources into outdoor children’s play areas before they are completely rundown and unsafe,” she says. “I am really glad they are replacing it, and I am excited to see what it will look like.”

Soley says they hope to have the new playground open to the public by the end of October if the weather cooperates for the work. During the removal of the old equipment, and the installation of the new structures, the playground area will be closed, however DeWolf Park surrounding it will remain open.