ARICHAT: A large scale multi-purpose outdoor facility is in the works.

During Richmond Municipal Council’s committee of the whole on Feb. 9 in Arichat, Rachelle Samson with the Arichat Community Development Association made a presentation on the group’s plans for the “Richmond County Recreation Park” next to École Beau-Port in Arichat.

Samson said the group was established in 1998 and helped build a playground in Arichat that once stood behind the former municipal building along Veterans Memorial Drive.

In 2020, a new group of officers and directors decided they wanted to develop a community park on the site of the former Arichat ballfield, Samson said.

“Our goal is to have a community park that aims to provide an inclusive experience for people of all ages and all abilities,” she told council.

The park would have an accessible two-lane walking track to allow for wheelchairs and walkers which would run along the inside of the former ballfield fence, she noted.

The facility will house an inclusive playground with sensory play equipment, Samson said, noting that it will include domes for shelter and equipment with textures, colours and sounds.

“Sensory play playground equipment is designed to stimulate the senses, such as kinesthetic (touch), visual and auditory,” Samson told The Reporter. “For individuals with autism, this equipment can be soothing and better accommodating for their needs. As it will be placed just shy of the bigger equipment, it allows a child to separate from the larger crowd and focus on the one item, however, the best part about this equipment is that it is inclusive, allowing children of all abilities to play together.”

Along with a beach volleyball court currently on the site, Samson said the park will also include a fitness area with outdoor workout equipment.

“Companies have created workout equipment made with similar materials to playgrounds and swing sets; durable materials that require minimal maintenance.”

Perhaps the two biggest aspects of the parks are a skating rink which can be drained in the summer and used as a shiny rink, as well as a splash pad, she said.

In a separate part of the facility, Samson said there are plans for an off-leash dog park, with separate sections for larger and smaller dogs, which will be located where the minor league ballfield once stood.

Samson said the main area will be completely fenced in, but there will be space for parking, along with a picnic area, and washrooms.

Noting that the park will be separate from the adjacent school, Samson said it’s conveniently located close to the municipal building, and just down the road from St. Ann Community and Nursing Care Centre. She said it’s also not far from the Hearts of Isle Madame home.

“It’s kind of strategically located in the heart of the community,” she said. “We feel it’s a great area. It’s a really great piece of land. Prior it was a baseball field so there’s some drainage underneath, and the land itself is quite mouldable, so you don’t have to remove any big trees or make any big changes to it, and you have access to it, which is great.”

Understanding the scope of the project, Samson said the group has divided it into multiple phases.

“The project has been divided into multiple phases mostly dependent on construction phases and funds,” she said. “The phase execution, after the initial grounds work, mostly depends on the amount of funding we can source at one time given time.”

She said they have estimated the project at around $600,000, based on quotes from “multiple suppliers for multiple aspects of the project.”

To meet their fundraising goals, Samson said the group will undertake a “Chase the Ace” draw, silent auction, bake sale, sports tournaments, and donations.

Because there are some individuals and businesses who can’t contribute financially, Samson said volunteers can give their time and skills, while some businesses can donate equipment or personnel.

“There are quite a few provincial and federal grants at this time for recreation and sports,” she noted. “And we have a great community of people who are so able and so skilled, and have access to quite a lot of things that will have a lot of volunteers on this project as well.”

Samson said one important partner is Erin Ryan with the Conseil de développement économique de la Nouvelle-Ecosse who is helping the group tap into funding sources.

She said the group has also been in contact with the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial to see how they can contribute, including constructing bilingual signage, building benches, developing cultural spaces, or involving entrepreneurship and co-op students in the development of the project.

Samson said municipal staff can play an important role.

“We know that you guys have a great staff with access to certain things and we’d love to be able to come up with a way we can work together to see that come to life,” she told council.

District 1 councillor Shawn Samson thanked the group for planning the project. He said this is the type of development that can attract people to live and stay in Richmond County.

He said he has heard from constituents about the need for a dog park, and he said that is a welcome component of the project.

District 3 councillor Melanie Sampson asked about the project’s first phase.

Samson responded that the playground and walking track would be in phase 1 since Arichat has had no playground for some time.

“Once people see that come to life, I think they would realize it’s really going forward and the potential is really there,” she replied.

In response to a question from warden Amanda Mombourquette about how much has been budgeted for each phase of the project, Samson said they decided to tackle the project all at once because there are a number of funding streams.

She said the splashpad and rink will likely take longer because of the need to access water.

“We’re speaking with various people who did multiple projects,” she noted. “Port Hawkesbury is a great example of that. They’re kind of giving us advice in how to tackle that.”