Autism Nova Scotia has moved one step closer to establishing an inclusive play park in Milton, Queens County, with a grant from Nova Scotia Communities, Culture and Heritage of $100,000.
That, along with $99,750 from the Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) Community Investment Fund, and $60,000 the federal government's Enabling Accessibility Fund, and various smaller donations, puts the group in at $289,385 toward the park's estimated cost of $450,000.
"We're so, so close," enthused Debbie J. Wamboldt, chair of the fundraising committee and a member of the South Shore chapter of Autism Nova Scotia.
But while the group was pleased with the additional funds, she said, "We're still looking for funders to get us across the finish line."
The Autism N.S. Universally Designed Play Park will be situated at 72 Old Cobb's Barn Road in Milton, near the walking trail entrance and beside the skateboard park at Queens Place Emera Centre.
It will include a splash pad, picnic tables, and a variety of components that will be accessible for everyone from young to old and those with mental and physical challenges.
Autism N.S. is coordinating the selection of playground equipment and amenities and will provide ongoing advice to the municipality during the design and layout phase.
It's also working at arms-length with the local fundraising committee to raise the necessary funds to cover the costs incurred upon the purchase and installation of the equipment.
The municipality will see that the equipment is installed. Once the project is complete, RQM will take over the operation and the upkeep of the park.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted fundraising efforts, including the Touch-a-Truck event that was to be held at Queens Place Emera Centre but has now been cancelled.
"It's hard to say whether we'll be planning any community-based fundraisers, just because of the pressure that's been put on everybody, having businesses closed down, that kind of thing," Wamboldt told LighthouseNOW.
Keeping in mind Health Canada social-distancing regulations, the fundraising committee remains committed to the project and is working "behind the scenes," through email and online conferencing, to see about potential funding sources.
"We envisage the park as a place for the community to gather. And now everyone is seeing, more than ever, how important it is for community connection and the effects of isolation. So it would be a really beautiful thing, at the end of all this, to start building on the park," said Wamboldt.