It has been just over two years since Jillian Walsh and a group of her friends approached me to discuss the future of the playground at Trace Manes Park. Much has happened since then with boundless hard work, love and passion. Soon, the entire community will benefit.
Although the playground is a favourite spot of many, there is a great deal of room for improvement. The wading pool is over 50 years old, and because of maintenance issues it didn’t open this year until July. The portable playground equipment was originally supposed to be temporary – brought in when the last set was deemed unsafe. And, a major issue is that the playground itself is not fully accessible.
Jillian’s vision was to build a playground that was both safe and inclusive for all. Inspired by their memories of Jillian’s daughter, Georgia Walsh, Jillian and her friends began fundraising in the summer of 2015, with a goal of raising $1.2 million. Incredibly, they achieved their goal by December 2016. During those 18 months, they hosted numerous fundraising events, which included two Georgia Walsh All-Star baseball games (summer of 2015 and 2016), a Halloween party and a poker tournament. In part thanks to the generosity of Shane Baghai, the developer of 3-5 Southvale, who voluntarily entered into a Section 37 agreement of $250,000, their goal has been surpassed.
Thanks to Jillian’s tireless research and passionate advocacy, construction of a new state-of-the-art playground and splash pad will begin next spring. The design, as well as plans to name the playground area in Georgia’s memory, was unveiled at a recent community meeting.
As the hub of the community, the “new” Trace Manes Park will soon be a place for all children to enjoy. What a wonderful and heartfelt tribute to Georgia by her mother and her many friends.