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New splash pad will a'maze' families, children of all abilities

The $1.8-million Arkinstall Park Splash Pad, which embodies the principles of inclusive design, is scheduled to open summer 2020

Against the backdrop of Newmarket’s rich agricultural history, children of all abilities will have the chance to work the land through play just as the town’s earliest settlers did.

The harvest theme of Newmarket’s first fully accessible splash pad last night was unveiled at the Municipal Offices and there’s no doubt that the $1.8-million recreational addition will draw fun-seekers from near and far.

Construction on the Arkinstall Park Splash Pad, to be located in Ward 6’s Dr. Margaret Arkinstall Park in the Summerhill South and Sawmill Valley Drive neighbourhood, next to Terry Fox Public School, is expected to begin in August, with an anticipated opening of summer 2020.

Neno Kovacevic, the IBI Group designer who led the project, said the splash pad embodies the principles of inclusive design.

“We tweaked the design to be not just accessible for wheelchairs, but also to address different types of accessibility needs,” said Kovacevic. “We asked, how do we engage inclusive design and promote inclusiveness so that everyone from the elderly to little kids would be able to use the park.”

The splash pad will offer more than a dozen different features all geared toward providing hours of watery fun.

For example, there is a water maze with hand-pumped activators that children will have to work to start the water flowing, make their way through the maze, before taking off on a racetrack of sorts to find and activate the next water feature, shaped like blueberries, strawberries and blackberries. That all leads to the reward at the end, which is a giant waterfall.

This feature is Kovacevic’s favourite part of the design.

“I like this the best because the kids have to work hard together to pump the water from the jets. It’s hard to get water from the Earth, there are lots of pumps involved and you have to clean the water. This will give the kids an appreciation of water,” he said. “This is all about healthy communities, about getting kids to work hard to help reduce things like obesity and to improve the health of kids.”

Other splash pad elements include a giant watering can that children can move through, which has water pouring from the spout as well as cascading in the can, large-sized strawberries that look like they’re cut in half feature water spraying down from all sides, and carrot, cucumber and beet shapes that feature various types of water sprays.

Ward Councillor Kelly Broome said providing waterproof wheelchairs for splash pad guests may be an option if the Town receives an accessibility grant for which it has applied.

“The whole park is accessible, the apple carousel is wide enough for wheelchairs, all surfaces are non-slip, and there’s wayfinding for all different impairments, such as sounds effects for the visually impaired,” Broome said.

The park will also have a water-filling station, fully accessible washroom facilities and picnic tables that will be accessible to all. In addition, some equipment will feature braille.

“Often, you’ll see seniors and kids together and that’s a good union, so even a senior can come through the carousel in a wheelchair with their grandchildren,” added Broome.

The harvest-themed fully accessible splash pad includes the following elements:

  • The combined organic and linear forms mirror the mosaic nature of the landscape of the Greenbelt, natural and human-altered
  • Rectangular paving areas mimic farmland lot layout from a bird's-eye view
  • A series of dispersed groundwater jets atop the linear bands imitate hay bales strewn across farm fields
  • Push-button activators on the ground encourage the action of bending over repetitively, which reminds us of the activity of berry picking
  • Farm-gate-like features announce the entrances to the splash pad space and mark the ends of the field running track
  • The water curtain effect mimics farm field irrigation systems
  • A structured row of deciduous canopy trees enforce the linear nature of agricultural plantings
  • A cluster of coniferous trees are representative of hedgerows that border agricultural fields
  • Ornamental grass plantings mimic fields of wheat dancing in the wind, while offering a soft buffer from the adjacent parking lot
  • Two, orthogonal water mazes simulate the challenge of navigating through tall stalks of corn

Kim Champion

About the Author: Kim Champion

Kim Champion is a veteran journalist and editor who covers Newmarket and issues that impact York Region.
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