Resource support

Grand Falls Inclusive Park Opens to the Public with Community Support

An inclusive park in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, officially opened to the public on Sunday after four years of community efforts.

The park, a collaboration between the Association of Community Living and the Victoria Family Resource Centre, is wheelchair accessible and designed to accommodate all age groups.

“We wanted a park made for each person, regardless of their particularities,” said Marco LeBlanc, president of the Grand Falls Community Living Association.

“It’s about providing a space where everyone feels welcome and safe,” he said.

The inclusive intergenerational playground includes an area with exercise equipment, geared towards the elderly, multi-sensory games that include a voice distorter, a wheel that makes rain sounds and a rocking raft for balance.

It includes an insulating egg, intended to provide comfort for people with autism, a swing suitable for a parent and a child, and traditional park equipment, including a slide and a climbing wall.

Hudon-LeBlanc said the new park will allow her children to have new experiences and feel included. His daughter Julianne, left, and Joelle, right, are pictured here with Hudon-LeBlanc and their father. (Submitted by Josée Hudon-LeBlanc)

“That was all that was important to us to meet the needs of all the families in our area,” he said.

LeBlanc said the park should in part support the Dexter Learning Center, which offers help for adults with developmental challenges, and the Family Resource Center, which supports new parents.

Both centers are located on the same grounds as the park.

He said people of all ages and walks of life had already started using the park and large numbers of more than 250 people were expected to take part in the grand opening celebrations on Sunday.

LeBlanc said the park was made possible through financial support from businesses and organizations in the community.

Josée Hudon-LeBlanc said the park has had a significant impact on the lives of her daughters.

Her 16-year-old daughter, Julianne, uses a wheelchair and her 13-year-old daughter, Joëlle, has difficulty with balance and vision.

Hudon-LeBlanc said most parks aren’t suitable for people with special needs, especially those with mobility issues.

She said most parks have gravel or rocks, making it difficult for someone in a wheelchair to use.

“We can’t even get into most parks with my daughter who is in a wheelchair,” Hudon-LeBlanc said.

For this reason, his daughters must be accompanied by two adults. One can look after Julianne and the other can help Joëlle use the park equipment.

“It is difficult for these children and even more difficult for the parents of these children, to see that your child is sidelined because of motor problems,” said Ms. Hudon-LeBlanc.

Inclusive space took time

Hudon-LeBlanc said the equipment at most parks is generally too difficult for children with special needs.

“My other daughter can get into these parks, but she can’t balance or hold on… 90% of the equipment is too difficult for her,” she said.

The inclusive intergenerational playground features multi-sensory games including a voice distorter, a wheel that makes rain sounds and a rocking raft for balance. (Submitted by Marco LeBlanc)

“It limits the experiences these children can have.”

Hudon-LeBlanc joined the committee responsible for the park a few years ago. She wanted to help provide better options for children like hers and create an inclusive space for all ages and needs.

She said the design of the park allows her to bring her daughter in a wheelchair throughout the park and is much more usable for her other daughter.

“Many children are left out because parks are not for them, but having created a park like this will allow these children to play, have new experiences and feel included”, said Hudon-LeBlanc.