The all-abilities park planned for Centennial Park

The all-abilities park planned for Centennial Park

White Rock park plan moves ahead

All-abilities initiative is spearheaded by the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation in collaboration with the city and White Rock firefighters

A new all-abilities, all-ages park could be open as soon as late October this year next to Centennial Arena.

The inclusive, participatory park, which will replace the existing play structure in the larger Ruth Johnson Park, is a first key step for Peace Arch Hospital Foundation’s Healthy Community initiative and advancing the all-abilities concept in White Rock.

“In terms of built environments, this is the first major project we’re looking forward to completing,” Geoff Funke, foundation vice-chair and chair of its Healthy Community

Committee told Peace Arch News Tuesday.

“This will be a healthy environment not just for children but for people of all ages and physical abilities and it will be the first park of its kind in the White Rock-South Surrey area,” adding that it is in keeping with strategic goals identified by the foundation several years ago.

Overall cost of the park will be $900,000, to which the city of White Rock has confirmed a contribution of $225,000 – leaving just $675,000 to be raised by the Foundation, in collaboration with White Rock Firefighters Charity Association, which has championed the concept of an all-abilities park since 2009.

Construction of the new park is expected to begin in September, once the city has completed a request-for-proposal process to identify a playground installer.

Funke said the new park will be a first phase of an envisioned network of parks, which will eventually link it – through an enhanced trail system down to the waterfront – with the firefighters’ cherished all-abilities park project on East Beach, for which suitable land still has to be located.

While raising money for improvements to the hospital campus remains important – even with the recent completion of ER fundraising –  foundation efforts, including the Great Pumpkin Run-Walk on Oct. 22, will also be focused on the Healthy Community initiative Funke said.

“There are two pillars of the foundation, which makes it a unique organization in Canada,” Funke said.

“One is a 100 per cent commitment to the hospital campus including projects like building the ER. The other pillar is that, with the changing landscape of health care, it’s equally important to fund projects that are more upstream in contributing to health and wellness of the community.”

“We are thrilled to spearhead and fund this innovative and accessible park,” foundation executive director Stephanie Beck said in a news release Monday, marking the official launch of the project.

Acting-mayor Bill Lawrence noted in the release that, in addition to the funding contribution, the city also contributed the land for the park, and has committed to ongoing maintenance.

“(It) will greatly enhance physical activity and social connectedness in the community,” he said.

And both White Rock firefighter Evan Bird and Myra Merkal, founder and organizer of the White Rock Princess Parties – which have raised some $100,000 toward the proposed East Beach park – said in the release that they see the new park as a positive first step toward the anticipated park system.

“We are excited to work in collaboration with the foundation and the city on this innovative community project and we invite organizations, citizens and philanthropists to join our fundraising efforts that will bring these parks to fruition,” Bird said.