The likelihood of a woodland adventure play area in the trees behind Saanich Commonwealth Place has gone from concept to reality thanks to a massive response online.
Saanich Parks entered the woodland adventure project into the Aviva Community Fund online contest, which is currently underway, and the community has responded with more than 18,000 votes. It had earned more than 8,000 votes in the first week. Voting wraps up Oct. 28.
Parks manager Eva Riccius said the project needs a lot of refining, particularly the specific place it would be built, but it’s a lot closer to a reality thanks to the Aviva contest.
“It’s awesome. I’m happily surprised for sure as this gives an indication that there’s interest in the community for something like this,” Riccius said. “It’s just a concept at this point, once we get funding we would narrow down the exact appropriate spots.”
One spot that sticks out is a “clump of forest” on Beaver Lake, on the north side of Commonwealth Place.
The forest’s towering Douglas fir trees would make an ideal setting for a woodland adventure ropes course and natural play elements that test the skills and agility of youth. Suggestions include wood log crossings, for balance and traverse, and wobbly ladder rungs, a series of log stumps, and a net bridge crossing.
Rope courses use rounded wood poles and cables, and do not damage trees, though some landscaping would be done.
“One of the main reasons we like this is it fits two of our specific goals in the Youth Development Strategy, to increase outdoor play and create additional outdoor play structures in Saanich,” Riccius said.
To win money in the Aviva contest, entrants must finish among the top five in one of three categories. Saanich’s woodland adventure play area is in the community health category. A judging panel will pick the winners from the three lists of finalists, with awards between $50,000 and $100,000.
Because the project has already gained so much support, something similar will likely be proposed for Saanich’s 2018 budget, Riccius said.
In August, Riccius and other members of Saanich Parks toured some of the wooded areas behind Commonwealth Place.
“We threw around the idea to dedicate a woodland area for future use but we hadn’t settled on anything. When we came across the contest, someone had the idea, why don’t we put the woods as an adventure play area forward.”
The location means Saanich programming could use it in the warmer months, as Commonwealth Place is home to a youth centre and programming. The structure would also be open to the public.
Saanich Parks and Recreation also plans to make the park available to Power to Be, the local non-profit organization that empowers youth and families by connecting them to nature.
To be clear, Riccius said Saanich would not rely on the Aviva voting results as a mode of public consultation. However, Saanich Parks is inviting the community to vote for the project at avivacommunityfund.org/voting/project/view/16-512.