Life injected into Nanaimo park

Volunteers outline and execute vision for hospital-area park in Nanaimo

A decaying playground in a barren field was all children had to play on at Forest Drive Park.

Now, thanks to the work of volunteers under the guidance of the City of Nanaimo, the park has new playground equipment that’s fully accessible to people with all levels of mobility.

“There’s so much potential for it,” said Michelle Sloan, a co-ordinator of the project.

The new playground equipment, chosen for its woodsy look and feel to blend in with the character of the neighbourhood and park, went up Saturday with the help of volunteers.

It features a climbing wall, plus transfer stations, so people with mobility issues can wheel right up to the equipment and use it.

Sloan said she used to watch a neighbour wheel over and simply sit at the side of the playground, unable to reach the equipment surrounded by pea gravel.

“It would make me so sad,” Sloan said. “She couldn’t use any of the equipment.”

Although the young woman no longer lives in the neighbourhood, Sloan said it was important to her and the committee of six to ensure the playground met the needs of everyone in the area.

Forest Drive Park is found between Merideth Road and Dufferin Crescent, in the hospital district behind The Willows complex.

The 0.2-hectare park was created in 1959 through a subdivision development – not much was done since.

The wooden equipment had a metal slide and a merry-go-round – “Everything that they no longer make for parks because they’re so dangerous,” Sloan said.

Neighbours approached the city with ideas to revitalize the park. The city directed them to its Volunteer in Parks program and the neighbours ran with it. They developed a plan, which included not only new playground equipment, but also a bike path, hard courts for basketball and a community garden with raised vegetable beds.

The committee presented its vision to the city, securing a city grant of about $50,000 to add to donations of cash and in-kind.

“It was an older park,” said Kirsty MacDonald, parks planner with the city. “We wait until there’s interest in the neighbourhood.”

Part of the refurbishment included installing a water main and pipes to provide irrigation for the community garden, as well as improving drainage.

“It had terrible drainage – it was boggy all the time,” Sloan said.

Now that the playground is in, the next phase is to raise money for the bike path and basketball courts, which is estimated at $15,000. Money is also needed for landscaping, as the park currently has no shade trees. Further additions could include a multi-purpose court and a gazebo or shelter for events.

The project also brought the community together, connecting neighbours and allowing children to get to know each other.

More information can be found on the group’s Facebook page – search Forest Drive Park. Donations of cash can be made to the City of Nanaimo, with Forest Drive Park written in the memo line. A tax receipt will be issued.

Other groups in Nanaimo interested in the Volunteers in Parks program can find information on the city’s website at