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Evergreen unveils new nature play features in Kitchener parks

Collaboration with City of Kitchener and park groups bring new outdoor play and learning to Gzowski and Kingsdale parks

(Kitchener, ON – November 19, 2018) – The national not-for-profit Evergreen, in partnership with the City of Kitchener and generously supported by a two-year, $486,900 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) and the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation, celebrated the newest nature play features at Kingsdale and Gzowski parks in Kitchener. Part of Evergreen’s Neighbourhood Nature Play Program, the project expands outdoor play and learning opportunities in communities across the province. Local MPP Laura Mae Lindo was in attendance at the opening on Saturday, November 17, 2018 and congratulated Evergreen on the work being done since receiving their OTF grant earlier this year.

"During such turbulent times, we often forget about the power of play. And that power grows exponentially when we get to play outdoors, experiencing Mother Nature's teachings first-hand. Thank you to each members of these vibrant communities for coming together and making sure that our shared spaces educate and encourage creative community-building right here in Kitchener Centre and beyond," said Laura Mae Lindo, MPP for Kitchener Centre.

Since the program launched in 2017, Evergreen and partners have worked closely with neighbourhood children, parents and caregivers, practitioners and local community groups to co-develop the park features as well as nature play programming. The renovated public spaces include new sand play features, shade shelters, seating, water harvesting, opportunities for gardening and stewardship, community art, and a storage container filled with loose parts play materials.

“The success of Evergreen’s Neighbourhood Nature Play project is rooted in a commitment to community engagement at the municipal and local levels,” said Cam Collyer, Evergreen’s Executive Director of Programs. “The outcome has been deeply influenced by those who spend time in and play at this public space, creating new active outdoor play opportunities and connections with nature in a multi-sensory, year-round space close to home.”

Throughout the design and construction phase, Evergreen’s Play animators – specialists in child-directed outdoor play – delivered year-round nature play programming to the general public through part-time, weekend and after-school programs, as well as to schools and childcare centres through weekday programming. Evergreen also worked with City of Kitchener camps to train camp staff on how to integrate this approach into program delivery. The nature play program will resume in the spring of 2019.

“The City of Kitchener is very pleased with the outcome of this project and the way that it was approached and implemented,” said Josh Shea, Natural Areas Coordinator for the City of Kitchener. ”Not only do we have an amazing redesigned park space that will support creative and imaginative outdoor play but we also have created and built strong social connections within and among community members.  We’re excited to see how the community embraces these new spaces, not only in their interactions with natural materials and nature discovery but as safe spaces to engage with and meet people in their neighborhoods. We look forward to continuing to support this type of innovative approach to community engagement, natural play and park redevelopment in Kitchener.

Through OTF funding, Evergreen and the Children and Nature Alliance of Canada are also working with communities in Manitoulin Island, Ottawa and Kitchener to support nature play initiatives through program and capacity building efforts.

Over the past 15 years, Evergreen, leaders in the design of natural play area and programs, has worked with Kitchener/Waterloo schools and school boards to transform school grounds into healthy and safe places to play and learn, while developing a genuine respect for nature and for each other.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations. OTF awarded more than $120 million to some 700 projects last year to build healthy and vibrant communities in Ontario.



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