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New inclusive playground planned for Ocean Park school

Structure promising to be wheelchair-accessible, inclusive of different sensory needs
Rendering of the proposed new playground for Ocean Cliff Elementary students, that is intended to be all-inclusive and accessible to children with different abilities and needs. (Landscape Structures rendering)

Making memories on the school playground is just one hallmark of a happy childhood. That’s why local parents are working to get an accessible play structure built in Ocean Park, where more kids can feel included in the fun.

Ocean Cliff Elementary currently has only one playground on-site for all students, but the hope is to soon change that by not only building a second one, but by making it more structurally inclusive so that all students can enjoy it.

“To us, all-inclusive means not just wheelchair-accessible but inclusive to kids who have sensory issues, gross-motor challenges, all those things (as well),” said Heather Barker-Bitter, a member of the school’s Parental Advisory Committee (PAC).

Features of the proposed new playground include a sway swing, that is made wheelchair-accessible by a ramp that runs through the structure and ample spacing between the different components.

“We wanted to create enough surface that if someone was in a wheelchair or if a lot of kids were playing in that area, there’s space for the (person in the) wheelchair to move around,” Barker-Bitter added.

There will also be a double slide, which would allow a child and a support worker or guardian, if needed, go down the slide side-by-side.

Barker-Bitter and the other current members of the PAC took over the project from parents who have left the school since fundraising began in 2019.

Because the pandemic changed the schools’ operations, the funding was used elsewhere and the inclusive, accessible playground had to be put on pause.

That is, until now.

Members of the current PAC are carrying on with the plans, while making some adjustments along the way.

“They were, to save money, looking at the existing playground. When we came to the school and our children were in Kindergarten, we didn’t just feel that changing what currently exists” was enough, Barker-Bitter said.

She and other parents of the younger, primary students noticed that their children were not as comfortable playing on the one playground that is for the whole school.

“If the playground was built today… it wouldn’t meet best practices because now when a school is built, it is an all-inclusive, fully-accessible playground because it needs to be inclusive of all kids who are going to be coming to that playground. So that’s now — which is great — a standard in the Surrey school district.”

In a letter of support for the new structure written by Katie McRae, an integration support teacher at the school, the existing playground was described as “very restrictive.”

“We currently have students at our school that have varying physical, social and emotional needs. Providing students with an all-inclusive playground would help to improve social, physical, sensory and intellectual abilities,” McRae’s letter continues.

Since November 2022, $140,000 has been raised of the $220,000 goal.

The funds came from neighbours of the playground, families with children at Ocean Cliff, rotaries, businesses and organizations that work to make society more accessible for everyone.

Another donation of $2,000 came from the Self Advocates of Semiahmoo, who used a portion of the proceeds from their clothing sale in June to support the project.

“Inclusive play spaces offer parents, grandparents and caregivers with physical disabilities access to participate in the play experiences of their children,” reads a letter of support from Rebecca Kiesewetter, a local parent who has children with developmental disabilities.

“Inclusive play spaces afford children with mobility issues and neurodiverse abilities the opportunity to join in play with their peers which promotes social inclusion and physical development. Inclusive play spaces are also important for those who experience temporary disabilities (e.g. broken arm or leg), as it allows children the opportunity to remain included in play with their peers as they recover.”

The goal for the project is to reach $200,000 by the end of November and break ground next spring.

Anyone interested in donating can send an email to for more information.

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Editor’s note: Peace Arch News was notified of the donation by Self Advocates of Semiahmoo to the inclusive playground after press time. The article was updated to include this information on Oct. 4.

Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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