BAY ROBERTS, NL — The playground at the Wilbur Sparkes Recreation Complex has changed quite a bit in recent weeks.
Once filled with crushed stone like most other playgrounds one would find in the Conception Bay North area, it now features a rubberized surface, making it an accessible attraction for families in Bay Roberts.
This is just one aspect of a major overhaul to the recreation complex. Changes made to the playground were part of a landscape master plan for the complex that council formally adopted in 2014.
"We came up with a plan that kind of completes the full facility," explained Flynn. "We broke it down into phases. Phase one was last year where we relocated the skate park and did some landscaping down on that side, and then phase two was a big phase — $1.4 million council put in — and that was to construct a new softball field, establish a splash pad, rubberized surface down for our playground and a walkway right through our full facility."
Older playground equipment was also removed and replaced, and they've also set up a pair of zip-lines, one of which is accessible through the use of a low-to-the-ground chair. The push to make the playground inclusive was a feature of the original master plan.
"We received a few letters over the years basically asking if the town would entertain the idea of making aspects of the facility all-inclusive, because there's very little in the way of opportunity for anybody who is confined to a wheelchair or has accessibility challenges to participate in any recreation facilities in the Conception Bay North region, really," said Flynn.
The new walkway is a key component on that front, allowing everyone to make it all the way around the recreation complex.
There's one portion of the playground not equipped with a rubberized surface underneath it. As the piece of equipment there is older, Flynn said the plan is to wait until it needs replacing, at which time a rubberized surface will be installed.
Land is also cleared near the playground for the splash pad. According to Flynn, the plan now is to have that ready for July 1, 2018. Installation will take place in the spring.
"I think the economic impact that this will have on the community will be huge, just with the splash pad alone," he said. "To know the number of young families who leave Bay Roberts and the Conception Bay North region to drive to St. John's to have access to a splash pad and these types of facilities that we have out here now in our region. The addition of a second ball field here is huge addition. A lot of communities our size and smaller are actually taking down ball fields because of lack of use, and here we are constructing a second field on our site due to the popularity of the sport in our region."
The town already hosts a lot of tournaments in the summer, and Flynn expects to see even more activity as a result of the second field. He also pinpointed the recent installation of outdoor lighting for the soccer field as an asset with economic implications.
"They'll be ready to go for the 2018 season as well, and we certainly feel that that will only add to the events and activities that we can have here — both in a sport sense and a community sense," Flynn said. "So if there's any type of community activities or anything that we want to do in the evening, now we have a full-lit facility over there to run that."
As for the final phase of the master plan, Flynn said that won't get started until 2019. Phase three will include a new clubhouse, beach volleyball courts and additional parking. These features will benefit the town's bids for the 2020 and 2024 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games.
"We want to get people to enjoy the facility first before we start rolling in with more equipment and shutting the facility down again," said Flynn.