October 11, 2023; Liverpool, NS: A safe, inclusive place where people of all ages and abilities can play together is now a reality in Liverpool. The Etli Milita’mk (pronounced: Ed Ah Lee Milly Dumk) Playpark officially opened with a ceremony held on site on Wednesday, October 11, 2023. Donors from the community, government officials, funding partners and members of the community gathered at a grand opening ceremony to thank those who were involved in developing the first universally designed playpark in Queens County. The idea to build a playground that was safe for children with autism, disabilities, seniors, and those with limited mobility was a dream of Debbie Wamboldt, a mother of a child with autism. She first started to advocate for the idea in 2016, providing municipal election candidates with a list of community needs made in consultation with the disability community. On the list was a safe and accessible play space.
“On behalf of Council and our residents, I express gratitude to Debbie Wamboldt for her dedication, determination, and passion. Her desire for an accessible playpark in Queens County resulted in both the formation of a local fundraising committee and also the commitment of Autism Nova Scotia in terms of financial oversight. Debbie inspired children, teenagers and adults along with service groups, businesses, corporations, government and two separate councils to bring this to a reality.” said Darlene Norman, Mayor of Region of Queens Municipality.
Etili Milita’mk Playpark is a ‘Universally-Designed’ playground with a wide
assortment of elements that engage all senses and offer options for different users, and components to include people with a range of abilities and sensory needs.
“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,” said Wamboldt. “It has been rewarding witnessing our community shine through the adversity we faced to make this project happen. We raised funds and doubled down even during a global pandemic to ensure that this project would happen. That’s an amazing thing to see the community do.”
Among the equipment in the playpark are three slides of varying heights and styles; five swings of 4 types including multi-generational and inclusive harnessed; a standing spinner; a roll-on spinner; a climbing wall; a toddler ‘truck’; a wobble sphere; a quiet grove (designed for autistic users to ‘get away’); musical element; braille descriptive panels; interactive panels; stepping ‘stones’; climbing apparatus; three different ladders; a transfer station (where one can move off a wheelchair onto decks); and a sliding pole. In July, the spraypad component of the playpark was opened, and has had frequent use by the community and visitors.
“I’d like to thank the many funders for their incredible support and the South Shore community, especially Debbie Wamboldt, for trailblazing a path towards making this playpark come to life”, said Cynthia Carroll, Executive Director, Autism Nova Scotia. “This community truly worked together to build a playpark for people of all abilities, ages, and sizes – an accessible and inclusive space where everyone can play.”
Etli Milita’mk is valued at over $600,000. Funding for the playpark was from a variety of sources, with fundraising efforts administered, coordinated and held in trust by Autism Nova Scotia. Region of Queens Municipality donated the land and $111,773. Combined Provincial funding of $112,000 and federal grants adding to $160,000 were received. Private trusts sponsored $85,000 and general donations were a significant part of the funding, with over $100,000 being donated by community fundraising efforts, from zombie walks, to bottle drives, bake sales, and children donating money from their birthday parties.
“This playpark speaks volumes to Region of Queens commitment to accessibility and inclusion for all residents. The benefit of universal design was very evident throughout the summer months as children through to seniors laughed and had fun at the spraypad. Accessibility and inclusion are placed at the forefront within Region of Queens. Policies and practices are being implemented that support inclusion within our recreation, social and workplace environments,” said Mayor Norman.
Etli Milita’mk was selected as the name of the playpark in consultation with members of Acadia First Nation. Translated from Mi’kmaq, it means “we are playing here”.