A unified neighbourhood response after vandals torched a Fairfield Island playground structure has led to city hall agreeing to pay to replace it.
The deliberately set fire occurred in the early hours of May 5 and destroyed the toddler play structure at Emerald Park on Fairfield Island.
There was immediate outrage about the act of senseless vandalism in the community all the way up to Coun. Jason Lum and Mayor Sharon Gaetz who took to Twitter to express their frustration.
“My nieces and nephews love this little playground, hope they catch the jerks that did this,” Lum Tweeted.
I agree! My nieces and nephews love this little playground, hope they catch the jerks that did this. https://t.co/L3vEaa5IqX
— Jason Lum (@jasonlum) May 5, 2018
Fairfield Island resident Amber Price – never one to sit on the sidelines – was also outraged, and quickly sought to see if the structure could be replaced. She made inquiries at city hall and was told, unfortunately, it was not in the 2018 budget and even if it was, equipment had to be ordered so nothing new could be in place before the fall.
“I thought to myself, I think we can do better,” Price said. “The residents of Fairfield Island had been through so much in the last couple of weeks, I felt they needed a win.”
The “been through so much” referring to a targeted shooting in the area just a few days before the playground fire.
Price who runs The Bookman downtown, is also committed to childhood literacy and the importance of development through play.
“If this was a traffic light and affected adults they would be replacing it much quicker.”
Price got down to work talking to neighbours, creating a petition and a Facebook group, Fairfield Island Residents for Emerald Park. She had the support of Coun. Sam Waddington and active Fairfield Island resident Marty van den Bosch with whom she even created a video.
But they never even released the video because, before they could, city hall did an about face.
“I was armed for war and it was unnecessary,” Price said. “They responded ‘this is a go-ahead project.’ And when they did the design, they specifically chose pieces readily available in the market instead of the normal process of making an order that would take a month or two.”
Director of operations Glen MacPherson confirmed the city would fund the $50,000 playground structure, which will be new and improved.
MacPherson said the design is simple and not only very cool for kids but the structures are more resistant to damage from vandals. The most exciting part of the design is that the city has taken the opportunity to tailor the play area to cater to a wider range of age groups in the neighbourhood.
The neighbourhood got to see the designs before it was given the green light, and the new playground should be in place by mid-summer. At the last minute, local company Denbow stepped up to donate bark mulch for the play structure area.
Price called the whole thing a success and she was happy to share some positive news with the community. She plans to apply for one of the city’s neighbourhood grants to have a block party once the new Emerald Park is opened.