This beach volleyball court, which was constructed for Les Jeux de l’Acadie in 2016, will be part of the new Richmond County Recreation Park next to École Beau-Port in Arichat.

A proposed multi-purpose outdoor recreation park in Arichat will be an excellent use of space that has gone unused for far too long.

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

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

To provide an “inclusive experience” for people of all ages and 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.

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.

Along with a beach volleyball court, currently on the site, Samson said the park will also include a fitness area with outdoor workout equipment that will be made with durable material that requires 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 “located in the heart of the community,” conveniently 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.

Since the land was once used as a ballfield, Samson said there’s drainage underneath, and the land itself doesn’t have any large obstructions like trees.

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

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

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

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.

Samson said they decided to tackle the project all at once because there are a number of provincial and federal government grants for recreation and sports.

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 and the group wants to work with them on this project.

Councillors expressed their interest and support for the project, and hopefully, this will be the first of many endorsements for a project that can improve public health, provide inclusivity and build a sense of community in the process.

And while governments of all levels have a role to play in providing the group with the support it needs, it is incumbent that the community, once again, rise to the occasion.

In looking at the recent past, if the outpourings of support that helped construct the Hearts of Isle Madame facility, and financed repairs to historic Notre Dame de l’Assomption Church are any indication, it is expected this project will receive the help it needs from the community.

This is a project that deserves support from everyone, because it is a project that will benefit everyone.