The first Play Park in Mid Ulster to specifically cater for young people with disabilities has been officially opened by the Chairman of Cookstown District Council, Councillor Wilbert Buchanan.
The ceremony which was held on Thursday was attended by local dignitaries and children from local primary schools in the area.
This project was funded through the EU’s Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (PEACE III) which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, was sparked by a local resident, Aine Owens. Aine had got in touch with the Council to ask if the Play Park could include facilities for children with disabilities, as this was something that did not exist at the time.
Following consultation with a large number of organisations including GOLD Surestart, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Cookstown Disability Forum, and most importantly, young people with disabilities as well as their parents and carers, Cookstown District Councils’ Operational Services Department were able to put the plans in motion and begin the redevelopment work.
Together with Hawthorn Heights Ltd contractors, the Council has created a play park that caters for children of all levels of skills and ability, and which is accessible by all. As well as the extension and expansion of play equipment and the multi-coloured safety surface, the refurbishment has included the introduction of new play equipment specifically for children with disabilities.
Speaking at the launch, Chairman of Cookstown District Council, Cllr. Wilbert Buchanan said, “Cookstown District Council are committed to providing excellent facilities for children and the new and extended play park supports their physical and emotional wellbeing, and provides opportunities for positive social interaction, learning, health and independence.
“Funding was secured from the PEACE III Project to the sum of £127,770 for play park improvements, and for this we are extremely grateful. Children develop through play and are entitled to high quality play opportunities regardless of their needs and abilities. We are confident that this extension and refurbishment helps to meet these needs.”
Mr Downing, Principal of Cookstown Primary School, said: “It is very much a case of money well spent, as it helps our young people see that their elected representatives care about them”
Mr Devlin, Principal of Holy Trinity Primary School added his praise: “The children of Holy Trinity Primary School were delighted to be invited to the official opening of the park and gave the new facility a massive “thumbs up.”