Nearly 30 years after the playground at Fruit Valley Park first opened, the equipment is getting a much-needed renovation and name change courtesy of a $1 million donation from the Kuni Foundation.
Construction on the playground at 3200 Fruit Valley Road will begin around late 2024 and end in 2025, according to city documents. The playground will be renamed the Elizabeth Austin Playground.
“We are honored to be partnering with the Kuni Foundation to reimagine the playground at Fruit Valley Park,” Park Development Services Manager Julie Hannon said in a press release. “This will be a wonderful addition to an already vibrant neighborhood and is an important step in the city’s vision to increase the number of fully accessible playgrounds at parks throughout Vancouver.”
The Kuni Foundation — a Vancouver-based foundation that funds cancer research and inclusion efforts for disabled people — first brought the idea of a new inclusive playground to the city in 2022. The group eventually decided to remodel the 29-year-old Fruit Valley Park playground, which Hannon said is not very accessible for people with disabilities.
“The playground to be built will give more community members the ability to use and enjoy,” a city report states. “The playground will be built to ensure accessibility for mobility devices and also to create a balance of play experiences that are engaging to children of all abilities.”
City staff are working with the Kuni Foundation to find a design firm that specializes in disability-inclusion projects.
During the summer and fall of 2023, city staff will invite the Fruit Valley neighborhood to participate in public surveys and meetings to “help shape the playground’s theme and amenities,” according to the city’s website. The final design should be finished by December 2023, which will give city staff most of 2024 to focus on permitting and pre-construction.
The foundation previously donated $101,000 for the renovation of the inclusive Marshall Park playground, which should be completed this spring.
One of the foundation’s conditions was renaming the playground after Elizabeth Austin, a community leader and mother who died of cancer in 2021.
“Elizabeth loved exploring Vancouver’s parks and playgrounds, visiting every location in the area,” Kuni Foundation President Angela Hult said in the press release. “The Elizabeth Austin Playground at Fruit Valley Park will be a tribute to her warm, welcoming nature and love for creating community.”