Uplands students Rowan Last helps Vienna Demedeiros make her way across the cedar stepping blocks in the new Uplands Elementary park.

Children flock to new all-natural playground

Terrace parents and friends came together over the last year to build an incredible new natural playground at Uplands Elementary School on the bench.

The park is a 35 by 150 metre sand-floored network with dozens of cedar stepping-blocks, a fenced section forming something of a maze, and several conveyor belt bridges for kids to jump on. It also has an intricate mock pond, with bridges, platforms and stepping blocks for kids to play on.

Paid for through the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) and the school, the whole idea for the natural playground was sparked by Uplands teacher Julia Nieckarz.

From there the project was taken on by Kevin Barton, an engineering consultant whose kids go to Uplands, and Dave Gordon from the Terrace Beautification Society.

The pair poured hours of work into the project, designing, rallying and coordinating volunteers and materials, and working on the ground.

Barton managed the project and joked that he was volunteered by his wife Erika, and gradually got pulled in from there.

“I was thrown under the bus by my wife,” Barton laughed, adding that she’d mentioned at a PAC meeting that he’d probably be able to do some design work.

“Then the ball started rolling, through the winter we started procuring materials, then Dave came on board, and then that was it,” Barton said, adding that it was “a real juggle show” to balance the project and his job this summer.

There were times the two men wondered if they bit off more than they could chew, but as the project developed, more volunteers and donations came in, and it continued coming together.

“It was a fun project,” Barton said, adding that part of his reason for doing it was the intrigue of a new type of development. “When am I ever going to get an opportunity to build a playground?” he asked.

Dave Gordon, the other major volunteer, said he initially got involved through a tree planting project, wanting some green beautification between the school and the brown space on Thomas St. north of Twedle Ave.

“I came to the school, and the principal told me they already had a grant for planting trees, and basically said, ‘here ya go!’” Gordon said.

But Gordon was intrigued by the all-natural park idea and took on the design and development of the back section of the park which incorporated a mock-pond.

The park is designed to encourage imaginative play, with random surfaces and stepping stones for kids to use.

“I knew kids like to play the game, ‘don’t step on the lava,’” Gordon said. “So all you need to do, is provide them with places that they can step, stuff that’s pretend lava, and they can go from there.”

Gordon and Barton said they made a good team, each with different connections in contracting and industry.

More than 20 volunteers and 15 local companies jumped onboard to help with the project, contributing time and materials.

As a finishing touch, Roderick Brown carved an eagle, bear and wolf with a chainsaw on the front platform.

The official park opening was last Friday, Oct. 13, where parents and volunteers were invited to join the school at a hot dog barbecue celebration where they could watch the kids play on the new park.

 

Left, Kevin Barton and Dave Gordon dedicated hours to design and build the new Uplands Park. In the photo, Kevin is holding his son Staale on a platform surrounded by flocks of excited children in the park. On right, Rowan Last helps Vienna Demedeiros cross the cedar stepping blocks.

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