Victoria playground opens at site of former tent city
Grade 5 students helped design new use for the site that was previously home to 100 people
A year ago, the green lawn next to Victoria's provincial courthouse was a homeless camp, but now, where the tents once stood, there are swing sets and climbing structures.
The site had been home to roughly 100 people before a court injunction removed the tents permanently last August. Those who had lived where the playground now stands were relocated to transitional housing earlier in the year.
Building a playground was the most popular option after discussions with neighbourhood residents about what to do with the former tent city site.
- Playground planned at former site of Victoria tent city
Stuart Hall, head of the nearby Christ Church Cathedral School, brought his students to the opening of the new playground Thursday.
"The kids have just loved the park, they are ecstatic," Hall said. "They just let out a holler and charged out to the different apparatus."
Robyn Burns, CBC host of All Points West, went to the new playground to talk to parents and children using it for the first time.
"It's beautiful," said Mary Beard, who was there with her grandson. "I think perhaps there ought to be a moment when the oldies can walk around the perimeter free of being knocked over."
Designing the new site
Grade 5 students from the school met with the playground designers earlier in the year and helped choose the play structures that were included.
"They were pretty magnanimous about it, making sure that there were things for young kids and things for old kids and things for people who have disabilities," Hall said. "The kids can see their own ideas there."
Preparing the area for children to play was no easy task. Soil contaminated from cooking fires and drug use was trucked away and new trees were planted at an estimated clean-up cost of $350,000.
- Contaminated soil trucked away from former Victoria tent city site
Hall is adamant that the new playground was the right choice.
"Beautification of the neighbourhood is something that everyone can enjoy. Even people who don't have the most ideal living conditions can come and sit there and enjoy it during the day," he said.
The playground is closed from dusk to dawn. A sign outside the playground says that overnight camping in the area is not allowed.
Hall said he hopes the new playground will unify people in the community. "It's a great place for bringing people from all corners of the neighbourhood together."
With files from All Points West and Robyn Burns.