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Location picked for Castlegar playground

A 12-meter high castle play structure in Castlegar’s Millennium Park will go on the site of an existing playground, meaning no trees or camas will need to be removed to accommodate it.

City council previously approved buying components for what is to be billed as Canada’s tallest castle play structure at a cost of $827,000. But the location was in doubt.

The city heard from an advocacy group calling for it to go somewhere where it would not affect the park’s camas fields. Camas is a plant culturally significant to local Indigenous people.

City staff looked at a few locations, consulted with the Sinixt Confederacy and Kootenay Native Plant Society, and hired a landscape architect before recommending moving the playground from its original proposed location to one nearer the park entrance.

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They say in addition to not requiring the removal of camas or trees, the preferred location has good access to the parking lot, pathway, washrooms and concession. The downsides are that it may dominate sightlines, would require the existing playground to be removed, and would not have any natural shade.

Council voted in favour of the location, although it wasn’t without some debate.

Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff said a half dozen people contacted her to say they felt in that spot the playground will be “overpowering” and take away from the rest of the park. They would rather see it go where the outdoor gym was.

Mayor Maria McFaddin said she also wrestled between the two locations, but noted the latter would require some trees to be cut down and consultation with Indigenous groups indicated their preferred location was not the gym site.

She said she has heard from parents who would be happy to have the playground closer to the washrooms and others would prefer it be in the trees.

Council also agreed to approve the purchase of additional accessible play equipment: a swing at $80,000, a merry-go-round at $85,000 and something called a “pour in place sensory design” at $10,000. City staff say the school district told them about one in 20 children will benefit from those added features.

Engineering manager Travis Christianson said they still need to finish detailed design, then go out for procurement on civil works on the project, which is expected to take a few weeks. The playground’s components are expected to arrive around the end of July and it will then take about four weeks to install. A rubberized surface also needs to go in, pushing an opening to mid-to-late September.

The project also includes safety surfacing for the play area, an interpretive trail, and amenities like benches and garbage cans. The trail is scheduled for 2024. The overall project budget is $1.9 million, of which $1.2 million was received through a federal grant.

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