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Blewett community playground gains traction

Building a play ground is a lot of work. At least that’s what the Parent Advisory Committee at Blewett School is learning.
Children and supporters rally around the old play structure at Blewett School. In the second row are key supporters Greg Fink of Kootenay Woodstoves

Building a play ground is a lot of work. At least that’s what the Parent Advisory Committee at Blewett School is learning.

When the Blewett School PAC learned that School District  No. 8 had condemned the original playground they knew they would face an overwhelming job to fund and build a replacement.

“We were devastated, as a PAC, to learn we were losing our play structure,” said Blewett parent and PAC secretary Angelina Eisele. “The PAC met and decided to study what would be involved in building a new one.”

The first part of this study involved information gathering from the students, staff, caregivers and parents to understand what the community wanted in a playground. Suggestions were compiled by the PAC and given to L.V. Rogers high school drafting student Ben Hall, who was asked to provide a 3D concept design.

“The Blewett PAC thought it appropriate that a youngster should develop the concepts and vision for the playground,” said PAC Secretary Eisele.

“Why not let a kid take the first pass at modeling what our children might imagine in their dream play structure.”

Phase two of the study involved handing the concept model to the design team at Spearhead Timberworks.

Spearhead employees and Blewett parents Ron McDougall and Tom Bristom donated their time and resources to evolve a concept model that could be presented to the school, various consultants and SD8 for review.

“The kids and young Ben Hall had a pretty extensive wish list, but within that were some cool ideas,” said Bristom, the head Spearhead designer. “Spearhead has participated in a number of projects similar to the ideas in the concept plan, so it was easy for us to further develop these.”

Spearhead presented the concept design to the school district, structural engineering consultants and CSA approving agencies for their feedback.

Then the final design models were presented at the year end barbecue to the Blewett PAC, staff and students where they received overwhelming support and endorsement.

The new playground embraces themes of safe natural play structures that encourage open ended imaginative play. The idea of locally built from local materials encourages community involvement and ownership of the project. It also allows participants to contribute in ways that best suit their abilities and resources.

Funding contributions to bring the theory to reality have been rolling in, with governmental and school district support, as well as corporate and private donators stepping up.

“The Blewett Fire hall was the first to open their coffers. Next came Pacific Insight, Nelson Animal Hospital and Whitewater Winter Resort,” said Blewett PAC co-chair David McCulloch.

“But the big contributors to date have been regional district Area E.”

Blewett School has Kindergarten to Grade 5 and a student population of just over 100. Set on 20 acres of prime rural real estate overlooking the Kootenay River, the school’s natural setting, strong staff and a history of community engagement has given Blewett the reputation that draws students from regional district areas E and F, the city of Nelson, and as far away as Ymir.

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