Weaver Park is going to get its playground. And it’s going to happen far sooner than any of the Help Rebuild Weaver Park organizing committee could have dreamed.
On Friday, organizers Brenda Patterson, Elissa Sanders and Alita Johnson announced that they have received a $35,000 matching funds grant from the Let Them Be Kids organization to rebuild the park at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Morton Street.
The committee must now raise at least $35,000 on its own, and the Let Them Be Kids funds must be used by Dec. 31. So their long-term goal just became a two-month project.
“It’s huge,” said Patterson, who is the driving force behind the project. She started her campaign to rebuild her community’s park in mid-June, having no idea how long it would take, not only to grab the attention of city hall, but to raise the kind of money that is necessary for this project.
Looking out at the half dozen babies and their families gathered for the announcement, Patterson said “this is going to be your park.”
Let Them Be Kids works with Belair Recreation to build the playgrounds. The committee will unveil three options at a public event at the park and hold a “dotmocracy”—allowing neighbourhood kids to choose which play equipment they’d like to see at the park.
The committee would like a climbing structure for toddlers as well as equipment for older children; more picnic tables and trash cans, and perhaps more fencing. There are many options Belair offers that the committee had never even considered, Patterson admitted.
A build date has been set for Saturday, Nov. 12. At that time Patterson hopes community members will come out in droves to help them clean up the park and get the playground equipment settled in. The committee would like to clean up the trails and the ball diamond that anchors one corner of the park—and perhaps have a couple of minor softball teams play a game that day.
In the meantime, “it means we fundraise like crazy. We’re going to be everywhere,” she said.
The committee has organized a bottle drive for this Saturday, Sept. 17 and Port Alberni Transition Town will hold a community event at the park on Saturday, Sept. 24.
“That’s a good start for the project,” Port Alberni Mayor Ken McRae said of Friday’s announcement.
The city and the park committee have met briefly, and logistics still have to be worked out, McRae said. The city wants to ensure the park is built to certain standards, such as including a rubber mat much like the new play equipment at Klitsa Park, for safety and liability reasons.
McRae also said he will approach some of the forestry companies to see what they might be willing to contribute. He acknowledged that improving the park was not something the city could have taken on, due to costs.
“We used to have service clubs that used to do that sort of thing, like the water park,” he said. “We couldn’t have done anything like that.”
He praised Patterson for spearheading the project, and for her persistence. “It’s good to have someone like that in our community,” he said.
Weaver Park is the first Vancouver Island park to receive funding from Let Them Be Kids.
“Your community was selected because we were impressed with the organizing group and their desire and passion to improve their community, as well as the vision to create a community gathering place that offered play and fun for all,” Let Them Be Kids founder Ian Hill wrote in a prepared statement.