Hardisty School: Accessible Playground Development Project
For many years, the community around Hardisty School has relied year-round on the school’s playground as a place to gather, play, and live a healthy life. Unfortunately, this playground is simply too small and inaccessible to serve our community and its diverse needs. The lack of accessible features in particular makes it impractical if not impossible for younger children and those with limited mobility to make use of it.
To solve this problem, the non-profit Hardisty Booster Society is working with Hardisty School to install inclusive equipment to expand and improve upon the existing playground. This will ensure that everyone can use the space, regardless of ability, and will simultaneously increase the capacity of the playground so it can better serve our community.
Our priority for this project is to install equipment that will make the playground fun and accessible for the widest possible range of community members. Within our school and community there are a significant number of children who rely on wheelchairs, walkers, or other assistive devices. Our design includes extensive sections of pour-in-place rubber safety surfacing to enable users of these devices to easily access the playground. Users of the expanded and accessible playground will also find a comprehensive new range of play and gathering options that respect and accommodate all abilities.
We will also install equipment that makes the playground more suitable for smaller children. The Hardisty School of today, which is a K–9 school, is the result of the merger of three schools—the original Hardisty Junior High School, along with two elementary schools—and our existing playground infrastructure was built at the time of the merger. The project was planned and designed expeditiously with little meaningful consultation with the parent council at the time. As a result, the space is lacking in accessible features and age-appropriate features for the school’s youngest students (i.e., Kindergarten and Division 1) or for children of a similar age from the surrounding community. To address this, we will install a targeted selection of swings, activity panels, and other ground-level features so that the entire family can enjoy this space. As a school-associated organization, we are deeply integrated within the families of our community, and as volunteer parents we are ourselves invested in the success of children in our area. These new components in our playground will be immeasurably impactful
Who Will it Benefit?
The expanded and inclusive playground at Hardisty School will reach a large number of children drawn from Edmonton’s Fulton Place neighbourhood and the surrounding communities. In particular, our additions will allow the playground to serve those members of the population with disabilities, as well as children who are too young to access and enjoy the existing equipment at the playground. Given that these children seldom if ever visit the playground alone, this initiative will also benefit families and caregivers. We already see the current playground in frequent use by families; it serves as an important gathering place for the community and helps to ensure Fulton Place remains a desirable community for families. Due to the high demand for the space, we want to ensure that everyone can play and that no one feels left out. With these additions to our playgrounds, the entire family will benefit from having an inclusive playground that serves as a community destination and gathering spot.
This project will also benefit our community for decades to come. Since its establishment in the 1950s, Fulton Place has been a home for established and growing families alike, with 40% of area households reporting children at home. As we look to the future of Fulton Place, we know that it is critical to continue to attract families to the area and to retain those currently residing here. Recreational infrastructure such as an inclusive playground (which serves as a community hub and has a lifespan measured in decades) is key to this endeavor. By showing that Fulton Place welcomes people with diverse abilities and families of all descriptions, we can build a stronger community and a bright future.