The Kinette Park on Fourth Ave has specially designed soft ground under the play structures to protect kids from their falls. (Priyanka Ketkar photo)

Betty Stewart, the champion for Burns Lake’s only accessible playground

The woman who considers herself as just a coordinator while the community recognizes her efforts

The agreement between the congregation of St. Paul’s United Church and Village of Burns Lake for the maintenance of the accessible park, Kinette Park on Fourth Avenue, was renewed for 10 more years last week.

The agreement was signed between the village and the church’s board chair Winifred Giraud-Comeau and the Chair of Trustees Betty Stewart.

“It has been 10 years already, oh my goodness!” exclaimed Stewart, who was a champion for the revamping of the park and chair of the board when the park was revamped 10 years ago.

Kinette Park, is the first and possibly the only accessible park in the Village of Burns Lake, making it an important addition for all the families and kids in the village. Ten years back when the St Paul’s United Church’s board decided that the park needed repairs, they didn’t realize how much of a revamp that would be.

“The equipment was getting dangerous, so pieces were being removed. It was clear something needed to be done. We had thought we will need to do just some minor repairs however it was a breathtaking thing when we realized how much the overall repairs and replacements will cost,” said Stewart adding that none of the results for the park were possible “without the help of people who gave us a lot of money.”

A committee of citizens was formed called the Kinette Park Committee, of which Joan Clancy, John Illes and Kelly Holliday were members, and decision makers.

“They needed someone to arrange meetings, take phone calls, phone people, chase grants, that kind of thing, so my role for that committee was something like secretarial, coordinator or something. The decision makers were the committee members,” said Stewart humbly, downplaying her role in putting together the park.

Stewart became active with the church in late 1992 and at that time she was also working as a teacher on-call for the School District. She worked with the school board for 13 years and as a union rep for the on-call union for five years.

For Stewart, the park means a lot. It is a place where families can come together and enjoy and not be worried about injuries due to the way the park was designed. The surface of the park, is covered in soft, rubber-like material that would protect kids from serious injuries.

“I can tell you this, this park is now 10 years old and it is just as good as it was when it started – there are some places where it needs a little repair but after 10 years you can walk on it, you will realize it feels like it is something soft. And if you fall, you won’t get injury or whatever,” said Stewart adding that the play structures were also thoughtfully designed to make them more accessible with the help of Rick Hansen Foundation that specializes in giving solutions to make the world a more friendly place for people with disabilities.

Stewart is currently retired and is still finding ways to stay busy. She has been taking a course that the church offers for getting licensed as a lay minister. Upon completion, she will be able to do services in a church that is not her own. She however, doesn’t know what the next step would look like she but is very excited about the maintenance agreement with the village.

“It is important to our church that we agree to this maintenance agreement as it worked well in the past and I hope it goes on many years after too; I hope it goes on even after I do,” said Stewart who has been very pleased with the work the village does to maintain it. According to her, there are some small repairs to be done that the village has undertaken to do, they mow the grass, they keep the boulevard mowed there, they just did new paving in front of the road.

“And I have asked if they would consider putting a walkway or something so people can push strollers and wheelchairs. Oftentimes we see people coming from the daycare and they will have strollers. It would just be easier if there was some service around the side of the road,” she said.

“I am so pleased that it is still as good as it ever was. We just ought to have a sign at the bottom of the hill that there is a handicap accessible park. Just because of the location it is not obvious but it is there,” said Stewart who is still, after all these years advocating to ensure that the park is well-utilized and more people know about its existence.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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