A new play park designed for children of all abilities has been officially opened in Portstewart.
The Diversity Park, located within the grounds of Flowerfield Arts Centre, is a flagship project completed by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.
The one-of-its-kind facility includes play equipment for users with disabilities and sensory needs.
One of its most noteworthy attractions is a wheelchair swing which allows wheelchair users to enjoy the experience of playing on a swing.
The park was officially opened with a special ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, September 23rd. It was created thanks to funding provided through the Council’s contribution to the Landfill Communities Fund, which is administered by Ulster Wildlife. Its chairman Dr Roy Ramsey, and Grants Officer, Nicky Lowry, were among the guests who attended the opening.
Speaking at the event, the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Alderman Maura Hickey, said: “What we are acknowledging today is the completion of a project which originated in the legacy Coleraine Borough Council. Council officers led by John Richardson, Head of Capital Works, Energy & Infrastructure, and Wayne Hall, Project Manager and designer, worked in partnership with residents who lobbied strongly for a Park which would meet the needs of all children but in particular those who require more support than others – a play park which would enable those children to enjoy an opportunity to play alongside their brothers, sisters and friends. The Park actually opened to the public in August and the positive feedback since then has been overwhelming. It’s a fitting tribute to the hard work and planning that’s gone into the project.”
Also present at the official opening were Christine McClements and her daughter Lilia. Christine and her husband Gregg were instrumental in lobbying for the provision of a fully inclusive park, which would allow Lilia to play alongside her sisters Grace and Cassie.
For Christine, the play park recognises that there are children with learning and physical disabilities within our community, and their ability to play and live full lives is important too. Christine said: “A number of people have commented to me that in years gone by you would have never seen a disabled child like Lilia out and about. This park says that as a society we expect our disabled children to be out in our community enjoying their lives and we are going to provide the facilities to allow this to happen.”
“Our experience has been that when Lilia is excited and giggling on the wheelchair swing or bucket swing seat or bouncing excitedly on the sunken trampoline, other people in the park just love to see it.”
Rounding off the event, Alderman Hickey said: “I expect that our Council is now the envy of many as a consequence of what we see here today and I hope it reflects what might be possible for future play park provision as we seek to ensure that all children can play together in a safe and welcoming environment.”