We arrive at the new Dingle Playground on Remembrance Day, just before noon. A small cluster of children wait excitedly, their noses pressed up against a heavy green fence that separates them from the clean new playground structures, and the impressive new climbing tower.
Tom Jangaard, a landscape architect and project manager from the Halifax Regional Municipality has spent the morning conducting final CSA safety checks. He gives the nod. A small section of the fence is moved aside…and the kids are off – running like mad to be first down the slide.
A girl wearing a bright pink jacket wins the race. When she lands at the bottom of the slide, the look of surprise- followed by joy- on her face confirms what we have been told: this is no ordinary playground!
You come down with quite a thump, I tell you”, says Jangaard, a playground expert, who has been with the Dingle Playrground project from the beginning, and has the job of personally testing the slide.
Is the playground more dangerous than other playgrounds in HRM? “No”, says Jangaard, “it’s not more dangerous. It’s more challenging”.
Oooomph. My three year old son flies down the slide and lands flat on his back. Jangaard winces. He points out that each piece of equipment has an age-tag. (The tower, for the record, is designed for 5-12 year olds!)
My son is happy to move on to the areas designed for toddlers. He explores a small double toddler slide built into the landscape (great for races), some swinging bars and toddler climbing area. There is even a musical area, with colourful steel drums and large mallets that produce a pleasant bing-bong sound.
Looking toward the mouth of the North West Arm, there is a section containing a hand-operated water pump and a concrete runnel that looks like a miniature river bed.
Laura Hillard, who works for Earthscape, the Ontario-based company that designed and manufactured the new playground, explains that this water play area is designed so that kids can actually dam up the water using the concrete and sand.
The water is turned off now, but come summertime, this area will be immensely popular with budding engineers!
The centre of the playground is dominated by a distinctive structure of large logs, harbouring a huge net hammock. The logs look like huge pick-up sticks. Clean and stripped of bark, their golden colour is beautiful today.
The wood used for the project is Robinia (commonly known as Black Locust) a species of tree that is known for being extremely long-lasting, and resistant to insect infestation, rot and fire. The lumber will likely outlive the playground itself, with Hillard estimating that the wood will last 60-80 years. “Even if someone spray painted it, you’d just sand it off”, Hillard explains, “and if it caught fire, it would smoulder rather than burn”. (Let’s hope neither of those things happen!).
If you haven’t been to Sir Sanford Fleming Park with your family lately, the Dingle Playground is just one of the many reasons you should take the short trip to this section of the North West Arm.
Described by The Playground Chronicles as “a quiet oasis of green where you can almost believe that the city has been left behind”, Sir Sanford Fleming Park is in fact 95 acres of family fun, including a boat launch, trails, a frog pond, a lifeguard supervised city beach – and of course, The Dingle itself- a magnificent granite tower once owned by Sir Sanford Fleming- the person responsible for, among other achievements, the establishment of Standard Time Zones.
You can climb the Dingle tower in the summer months, and the views are amazing. If you’re planning a visit, check out Historic Places Canada for a short history lesson, then visit Halifax Trails for a really excellent description of the park, plus some cool links and virtual views, including this lovely video. (Thanks Halifax Trails!)
Have you been to the new Dingle Playground yet? Would you like to see more natural, challenging playgrounds in Halifax? Please tell us about it in the comments.