The new playscape experience on Bowen’s west side has taken a big swing forward.
The project – a collaboration between many island organizations and individuals, and spearheaded by the Bowen Island Playscape Group (BIPG) – has recently hit the $75,000 fundraising mark, allowing for construction to finally begin.
The Westside Playscape has progressed at remarkable speed, from conception of the idea just last year to the impending arrival of shovels in the ground at the 1.5 acre site off Windjammer Road, currently home to the Arbutus Ridge Playground.
For the four mothers who make up BIPG – Lusungu Kayani-Stearns, Courtni McGillvray, Bobbi Parker, and Kendra Patton – the inspiration to pursue the project was borne out of necessity.
“When COVID hit there was no playground, because we couldn’t use the playground at BICS,” says McGillvray. “When you have kids five and under who aren’t going to BICS during the day, where do they go? You can only take them on so many nature walks and to the beach.”
This left setting up a backyard playground, or heading to the mainland for a day trip, as the only options for park play.
“I’d say COVID really gave us that push, we realized how few (playground) resources we have on the island,” says Kayani-Stearns. “And we have so many children on the island, so many families are moving here. So it’s going to be something we need long-term.”
Bowen is estimated to have at least 750 children, further emphasizing the necessity of a public place to play.
One of the group’s first stops was the Bowen Island Community Foundation, who helped them fine-tune their vision and develop a detailed plan to take to council. “They really stepped up and made the project possible,” says Patton.
BIPG originally imagined Cates Hill for the playscape, but the municipality cited a lack of space and maintenance as drawbacks. They instead suggested the Arbutus Ridge Playground in King Edward Bay, which consists of a bigger space and easier connections via car, transit, or trails. Once complete, the municipality will take care of maintaining the space.
The group was sure to note the work put into developing the current site in the first place, undertaken several years ago by the Playscape Project. Chairperson Nick Mitchell, along with several other committee members and the developers of Arbutus Ridge, fundraised the money to create the structures existing in the park today, including a number of log climbing stations. BIPG say they see their work as adding to the momentum these previous playground advocates had begun.
After a space was chosen the project quickly gained momentum. Over $35,000 was raised from a matching campaign that was spearheaded by Allard Ockeloen and David Beckow, followed by a $25,000 grant from the Bowen Island Community Foundation, one of their largest ever. “Amazing, and we’re so appreciative of that,” says Patton.
Most recently, an anonymous donor came forward with a sizeable contribution; they are willing to match all donations, up to $15,000, to complete the playscape. This means – despite still having $25,000 more to raise – BIPG is confident enough to sign a contract with manufacturer Kinsol Play to begin work on the site. The group is certain the project’s success so far will inspire people to help get the playscape over its final financial hurdle.
“We hope to take advantage of this generous gift to match all donations up to $15,000. This is an exciting project and we are confident that Bowen Islanders are as enthusiastic about the creation of the playscape park as we are! This is the last leg with only $25,000 left to go. With Bowen’s support we can do this!” says McGillvray.
According to the playscape website, this work will include installing ‘two sets of swings, a tall tower slide, and a step-and-balance parkour area. Picnic tables and additional seating are included in the park design. The addition of shade sails will help to make the park usable on even the hottest of days.’
It’s not just money being donated to the cause either – many community members are volunteering their time and efforts to make the playscape a reality. This includes an advisory council with Derek Lee, a landscape architect who created the design for the area. Local artist Erin Sinclair also used her time to create graphics and artwork for promotional materials.
Local organizations have been major players as well. In addition to the large grant from the Community Foundation, the Bowen Island Montessori School and Bowen Island Gardening Club have put forward time and efforts into making the project happen. The latter will plant gardens around the area. By partnering with the Montessori School, BIPG is able to offer charitable tax receipts for all donations.
“I think it was a good mix of people that came together for this, that all had different skill sets that combined to make a successful campaign. I’m pretty proud of us,” said Patton.
“It’s a day trip destination,” adds Parker. “The beaches and the forest are great… but you kind of need to do something different with your kids. And sometimes it’s nice to come where you can see other adults.
“A big draw of the other park is you can go there and see other parents and talk while your kids are doing something. And I think that’s what’s going to be exciting about this as well,” she says.
“It’s going to be a place where people can congregate and spend time together and do lots of different things.”
Anyone interested in donating to support the playscape can do so by visiting the project's CanadaHelps fundraising website.