Play de­layed, but not for long

Ac­ces­si­ble swings com­ing to Grand Falls-Wind­sor parks at the end of Au­gust

Advertiser (Grand Falls) - - News - BY SARAH LADIK Sarah.ladik@ad­ver­tis­ernl.ca

GRAND FALLS-WIND­SOR, N.L. – School is out and sum­mer is upon us, but at least one fam­ily is wait­ing to be able to get out and re­ally play.

“Joel is a very so­cial child,” Erica Billings said of her eightyear-old son. “To have a wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­ble swing, at least, at a play­ground where there are other chil­dren play­ing, is im­por­tant to his de­vel­op­ment. Chil­dren learn through play and so­cial­iz­ing.”

Joel Stride lives with cere­bral palsy, which af­fects his arms and legs, and he uses a wheel­chair to get around. There is one ac­ces­si­ble swing at the Cor­duroy Brook Park cur­rently, which Billings said is cer­tainly a step in the right di­rec­tion, but that park is not as busy as some of the oth­ers.

The good news is, three swings are now on their way and will be in­stalled at the Main Street and Goodyear Av­enue parks, as well as the one by the Pen­te­costal Church.

“We have the swings or­dered, and as soon as we get them they’re go­ing to be put in right away,” Coun. Rod Ben­nett told the Ad­ver­tiser July 4. With the units or­dered last week, this should hap­pen by the end of Au­gust, he said.

The town ap­plied for a $250,000-grant from Jump Start to help pay for im­prove­ments to ac­ces­si­bil­ity at the parks, in­clud­ing paved walk­ways to the swings and paved park­ing spots to make get­ting in and out of cars eas­ier. While the mu­nic­i­pal­ity did not get the grant, the money for the swings – which cost about $10,000 each – was al­ready in the bud­get. Ben­nett said coun­cil will try to find money in the cap­i­tal bud­get, or else per­haps in sav­ings on pav­ing else­where, to get the re­main­der of the work com­pleted.

“It’s some­thing I was asked for dur­ing my cam­paign, and it made sense, and I got all the coun­cil­lors on side to get them or­dered,” he said.

Billings has been talk­ing to town rep­re­sen­ta­tives since May, try­ing to get the swings in place sooner rather than later.

“I just don’t want the sum­mer to be gone and see noth­ing hap­pen,” she said. “School is out now for sum­mer, and to have that op­por­tu­nity to play with friends and all that kind of stuff is im­por­tant for ev­ery child, and even more so when there are bar­ri­ers in place.”

While Billings is dis­ap­pointed that by the time the swings are in­stalled, a good por­tion of the sum­mer will be gone, she said the area has seen beau­ti­ful fall sea­sons the last cou­ple of years.

“When­ever they get here, we’ll use them,” she said.

SARAH LADIK/THE AD­VER­TISER

Erica Billings and her son, Joel, make the most of a warm sum­mer day at the Suther­land Drive Park July 9.

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