All-abilities park plan embraced

Council endorses five-year 'dream' for proponents of waterfront playground.

The annual White Rock Princess Party raises funds for an all-abilities park.

The dream of an all-abilities playground on White Rock’s waterfront came a little closer to reality, after city council voted last week to endorse the project.

The idea for a “unique, interactive play space for all ages and abilities” has been the focus of White Rock resident Myra Merkel and her son, firefighter Evan Bird, for more than five years, the duo told council Monday evening.

“Our goal is to collaborate with city council and staff to garner awareness and support from the community,” Merkel said.

Over five years, Merkel has raised more than $68,000 for the park, most of which has come from her annual Princess Party events. (This year’s Frozen-themed party – www.wrprincessparty.com – takes place Aug. 22.)

The completed project is estimated to cost between $600,000 and $1 million, according to Bird, who noted White Rock’s East Beach would be the preferred location for the playground.

Council voted unanimously to support the concept and direct staff to include the park in the city’s waterfront plan – one of council’s corporate strategic priorities – and to finalize a location, the subject of which raised some concerns.

“Does it have to be on the waterfront?” Coun. Megan Knight asked. “That is our biggest challenge.”

Merkel responded that it was her “dream” for the playground to be built on the waterfront, noting it would be an asset to the city’s tourism sector as well as a boon for the community.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin suggested that staff explore the option of a temporary location inland, where equipment can be installed, to be relocated to the waterfront once approval has been granted from the appropriate channels.

“This is a dream that is getting close to reality, but unfortunately it’s going to be subject to forces outside of our control, i.e. the province and the federal government, with respect to approvals,” Baldwin said, noting it could take the city another five years to get the go-ahead.

“I’d like to have that (temporary location) opportunity so that this doesn’t just go on and on forever, with no end in sight.”

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