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Inclusive playground project at Vancouver’s Marshall Park progresses

Harper's Playground effort at Chelsea Anderson Memorial Play Station in need of donations

By , Columbian staff reporter
Published:
4 Photos
Cody Goldberg, co-founder of Harper's Playground, looks over fundraising bricks and paver stones as construction continues at Marshall Park. The group is working to build a new, inclusive playground for varying ability levels.
Cody Goldberg, co-founder of Harper's Playground, looks over fundraising bricks and paver stones as construction continues at Marshall Park. The group is working to build a new, inclusive playground for varying ability levels. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

When the Chelsea Anderson Memorial Play Station reopens at Marshall Park this spring, following months of construction, it will be Vancouver’s first inclusive playground built with Harper’s Playground.

“Everybody has, and deserves, the right to play,” said Harper’s Playground co-founder Cody Goldberg, quoting his wife, at a media tour of the park on Thursday. “Families will drive from far and wide to experience what we call a radically inclusive space. And what we mean by radically inclusive is everyone belongs here, no matter what age or ability level.”

The redesign of Chelsea Anderson Memorial Play Station is set to open in late spring, though the project is still $420,000 short of its $3.2 million goal.

Harper’s Playground and the city of Vancouver are in the final push, asking for donations before the Jan. 31 deadline. Donors can invest in the project by purchasing personalized bricks and paver stones that will be placed around the park.

Inclusive by design

Goldberg’s mission to create playgrounds accessible to all began in 2009 after his daughter, Harper, was playing at a local park and her walker got stuck in wood chips.

The new Chelsea Anderson Memorial Play Station will be wood chip free — accessible to all from the smoothly paved walkways to the wheelchair swing.

“I want all kids, regardless of their abilities, to be able to enjoy playgrounds,” said Julie Hannon, the city of Vancouver’s Parks and Recreation director. “It’s just a really great model for that to happen.”

Yellow-tinted bricks will line a pathway up to the top of Harper’s Hill. Following the yellow brick road to the top of the hill, community members will get a 360-degree view of the park. The sides of the hill will be covered in Astroturf.

“Children will be rolling, sliding, wrestling, laughing, frolicking all over this hill,” Goldberg said, demonstrating by running down the concrete hill, currently awaiting Astroturf.

On top of Harper’s Hill, a Japanese maple tree will be planted, inviting community members to sit and socialize. The Japanese maple is slated to be just one of 27 new trees planted at the park.

Other features of the park will include: a wheelchair accessible merry-go-round; a wheel play area for any type of wheels; a wooden log fort; an inverted sand pit; and a wheelchair swing, among other things.

“Ultimately, this is intended to build community. We’re building a space where community will gather, friendships will be made,” Goldberg said. “A kinder, gentler, more inclusive world will happen pretty much right here.”

The goal of the park is to be physically, socially and emotionally inviting to all members of the community.

Honoring Chelsea Anderson

The Chelsea Anderson Memorial Play Station currently at Marshall Park was built in 1999 to honor the life of a Vancouver firefighter’s daughter. Goldberg plans to keep the memorial and expand on the firefighter theme.

The remodeled Chelsea Anderson Memorial Play Station will use decommissioned fire hydrants to hold plaques around the park and old firefighter gear will be incorporated into the metal railing leading to the top of Harper’s Hill. A decommissioned and modified fire truck from the 1980s, complete with the original knobs and levers, will be a hub for playing at the park.

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