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W.G. Murdoch accessible playground installation expected this fall

After five years of fundraising, W.G. Murdoch School is expected to install its first accessible playground in September and is looking for volunteers to help finish the project.
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A conceptual image shows what a playground at W. G. Murdoch school may look like once complete. Submitted/For Rocky View Weekly

Crossfield is anticipating the installation of its first accessible playground in September, and is looking for volunteers to make the long-awaited park become a reality.

W.G. Murdoch School secured the funding for the project through many years of fundraising undertaken by both the school and the Friends of W.G. Murdoch Fundraising Society. 

“Crossfield doesn't have any accessible or mature play structures. The only playgrounds they have are the one at the elementary school and the tot park, so I see a huge opportunity for the older kids anywhere [from] the elementary kids, preschool kids, middle age school kids, and likely even some high school kids,” said Tracey Oldale, chairperson with Friends of WG Murdoch, who began working on the project roughly five years ago.

A lot of grant applications and fundraising activities were cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, postponing the original installation date of the playground.

Many fundraising events that would have helped the cause were put on hold due to the pandemic, according to Oldale. Assigned grants were cancelled because of the expiration of deadlines and not reaching necessary fundraising targets.

Oldale noted that most of the funding has been acquired over the last year, thanks to many local donors and sponsors.

According to a public notice from W.G. Murdoch School, the new playground will tentatively be constructed Sept. 8 to 10, just in time for the start of the 2022-23 school year. A plaque will be installed at the playground to thank donors involved in the project.

In 2020, the project was estimated to cost $150,000 to $160,000, but costs have risen since then. Oldale estimated the project will cost roughly $180,000.

Rocky View County (RVC) council granted a request by the school division to draw $15,000 of cash-in-lieu funds for the project in 2020. RVC holds and maintains a joint cash-in-lieu reserve fund, with a maximum total of $15,000 allowed. 

The Rocky View Schools (RVS) public school division’s budgets don’t support playground installations at schools, so parent-led initiatives like the one in Crossfield are common throughout the division, said an RVS staff member in 2020.

Additional funds were donated by the Crossfield Recreation Board several years ago.

The playground will be a standard adventure playground with different components for sliding, climbing and stepping. It fills a gap in the community for an accessible play structure, according to Oldale.

The playground is specifically designed with strategically-placed colours to help users with visual challenges and different heights for those with mobility challenges.

The design company captured all visual-, physically- and developmentally-accessibility points in the new playground, according to Oldale.

“There is a wheelchair-accessible point to the playground, the design companies have protocols that they follow,” Oldale said. “It has colour contrast, it has height of stairs, depth of stairs – that kind of accessibility stuff.”

Oldale said she originally pushed for the project to be accessible and all-inclusive as she has a son with special needs. She reiterated the playground will be a win-win for everybody in the community, disabilities or not.

In a public notice from W.G. Murdoch School, a request for volunteers asked anyone willing to help out with the installation in September to reach out to the school’s principal, Mr. Keenan, at dkeenan@rockyview.ab.ca.

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