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First Nova Scotian fully accessible and inclusive playground opens in Liverpool

By Evan Taylor Oct 11, 2023 | 4:21 PM

Liverpool, welcomed a groundbreaking addition to its community today with the official opening of the Etli Milita’mk Playpark. Designed to be a universally accessible space where people of all ages and abilities can play together, the Playpark’s grand opening ceremony took place on Wednesday, October 11, 2023.

The realization of this visionary project was made possible through the dedication and determination of Debbie Wambolt, a mother of a child with autism, who passionately championed the cause. Wambolt’s journey began in 2016 when she engaged municipal election candidates with a list of community needs, which included a safe and accessible play space for children with autism, disabilities, seniors, and those with limited mobility.

Darlene Norman, Mayor of the Region of Queens Municipality, expressed heartfelt gratitude to Wambolt, recognizing her unwavering commitment and the ripple effect her vision created within the community. Norman emphasized that Wambolt’s advocacy not only led to the formation of a local fundraising committee but also secured financial oversight from Autism Nova Scotia.

Etili Milita’mk Playpark is aptly described as a ‘Universally-Designed’ playground, featuring a diverse array of elements designed to engage all senses and accommodate users with a wide range of abilities and sensory needs. The park offers a variety of components, including a standing spinner, climbing walls, swings of various types, a toddler ‘truck,’ a wobble sphere, a quiet grove for autistic users, musical elements, braille descriptive panels, interactive panels, and more.

Debbie Wambolt, reflecting on the project’s success, remarked, “I continually say how proud I am to be a part of this community. This might be something people witness in bigger areas, but to witness a small community like ours come together in such a way to make this happen has been life-changing for me.”

In July, the playpark added a spraypad component, which has already seen frequent use by the community and visitors.

Cynthia Carroll, Executive Director of Autism Nova Scotia, extended her thanks to the funders and the South Shore community, praising Wambolt for blazing a path towards the realization of this inclusive space. Carroll highlighted the unique spirit of collaboration in Liverpool that resulted in a playpark for individuals of all abilities, ages, and sizes.

The Etli Milita’mk Playpark boasts an estimated value of over $600,000, with funding derived from a variety of sources. Autism Nova Scotia managed fundraising efforts, ensuring the financial success of the project. The Region of Queens Municipality generously donated the land and $111,773. Combined Provincial funding of $112,000, federal grants totaling $160,000, private trusts contributing $85,000, and over $100,000 in general donations from community fundraising efforts, including events like zombie walks, bottle drives, bake sales, and children donating money from their birthday parties, all played a crucial role in bringing the playpark to life.

Mayor Norman emphasized that this playpark symbolizes the Region of Queens’ commitment to accessibility and inclusion for all residents. It’s a testament to their dedication to implementing policies and practices that support inclusion within recreation, social, and workplace environments.

The name Etli Milita’mk was chosen in consultation with members of Acadia First Nation and translates from Mi’kmaq to mean “we are playing here.” This playpark stands as a symbol of unity and inclusivity, a testament to the power of community dedication, and a model for creating accessible spaces across the country.