Parks Manager gives update on City playgrounds

Muzzy Drive playground -- Bailey Sutherland/Daily Herald

The City of Prince Albert Parks and Open Spaces Manager will be providing an update on the 2022 States of the Playground Report at the upcoming Executive Committee meeting on Monday.

The report highlights Community Services’ accomplishments to date, the current state of the playgrounds and the City’s current investments. 

Community Services has recommended that the report be forwarded to the Budget Committee to review a proposed funding level increase in the 2023 budget year for playground maintenance and possibilities of refurbishment and replacement.

In 2019, Community Services provided City Council with a comprehensive State of the Playgrounds Report outlining objectives to enhance the current playground structures. 

“Prioritizing those objectives through a systematic inspection process continues to identify priority locations and those that have the ability to wait,” reads the report.

The City of Prince Albert owns and operates 29 playgrounds, one paddling pool and eight spray parks in all types throughout the neighborhood parks. Each park comes with different amenities, such as fully themed units, climbers, and spring toys, allowing for unique experiences depending on which location you visit. 

Through Capital funding and partnerships, six objectives outlined in the State of the Playground Report were accomplished or are in the process of being accomplished in the 2022 budget season.

While $70,000 in operational dollars was used to help maintain and improve the play spaces in the 2022 budgeting season, partnerships and funding opportunities are important in achieving milestones for future development. 

Capital investment dollars of $130,000 were provided to the Carlton Community Club to fund the brand-new development of two basketball courts including player’s benches, basketball poles, backboards, hoops, and basketballs, as well as three pickleball court installations within the Carlton Community Club outdoor ice rink. The City partnered with the club through fundraising efforts to help raise approximately $30,000 in additional funds to put towards the development on the Club’s side. These funds also allowed for the conversion of an unpaved outdoor rink surface to a paved surface to accommodate for year-round usable space, a new puck board, new netting above the rink boards, netting to divide the rink in half, garbage/recycle bins, and picnic tables.

Other important partnerships in 2022 allowed opportunity for the City and the Malcolm J. Jenkins Family Foundation to bring an enclosed skate park and enhanced basketball courts to the James Isbister Park located near the West View Public School. A capital budget investment from the City in the amount of $100,000 and $200,000 from Jenkins was used to fund this project.

Both projects were the recipient of new asphalt work and will see lighting upgrades, picnic tables, garbage/recycling bins, player’s benches, new basketball poles, backboards, hoops, and basketballs.

“This one-of-a-kind project will serve as an opportunity to review how we use space moving forward,” reads the report. “Looking for those one-of-a-kind projects to help in planning practices of how park space can be redesigned to help meet the needs of community.”

The Prince Albert Rotary Club also partnered with Jenkins and the City of Prince Albert to bring the Rotary Adventure Park to Little Red River Park.

The Rotary Adventure Park is one of the largest projects this year and was scheduled to open in July of 2022 but is still currently under construction, according to the report.

“Due to delays at times beyond the City’s control, we continue to monitor and reset timelines to ensure we are being as realistic as possible to deliver a great product that will enhance the Little Red River Park system for years to come,” said the report.

The Crescent Heights area benefitted from a City capital budget investment of $120,000 and $230,000 from Mr. Jenkins to install a brand-new spray park just north of the Crescent Heights Community Hall. The project allowed for new features not seen before within the City, including the flash flood, mini flash flood, aqua gather station, whirl flex, tot wellspring and acrylic tot shower dome.

According to the report, these types of projects continue to help the City during the planning process to push the boundaries of water play can and could look like bringing hours of fun and inclusive play in a spray park setting.

The report has recognized a change in priorities for 2023, with the Midtown Park project being moved to the top of the list after a review was done by Community Services over increasing safety concerns.

Several concerning factors include roots from the nearby poplar trees invading the play space and the park’s close proximity to 6th Avenue East.

Community Services’ plan for the 2023 operating year is to pull the play space back to the west of its current development, opening the potential for a broader range of ideas on how the space is to be reimagined. 

Replacing the spray park in Midtown in 2023 would leave the paddling pool at Hazeldell Community Club as the only other spray park or paddling pool needing replacement. 

“Public parks are an important place for formal and informal play. Especially amongst children, play is a foundational method for developing a number of skills that are necessary for later life. Through play, children develop skills associated with socialization, coordination, imagination, and cognition,” reads the report. “If we want to have a playground environment, we are proud of, that offers children, families, users the opportunity to experience play in a fun, unique and safe environments we believe steps have been, taken, ensuring that the City playgrounds are around for the long term by investing in today and reaping the benefits of that investment tomorrow.”

The Community Services Department has recommended two options for the Budget Committee to take into consideration for the 2023 budgeting process.

Either the current source of funding for the total Capital playground investment of $130,000 be increased to $150,000 and the $70,000 in Operating remains the same, or that new capital investment from the City into spray pad replacement of $200,000 be considered with a commitment from the Department to seek matching dollars through other funding opportunities.