Celebrating Thunder Bay Playgrounds
by Brian G. Spare
There was no better day than Family Day during WinterFest for Mayor Keith Hobbs to usher in the next century of the Playgrounds Program. He proclaimed 2014 as the “Year of Play” noting that this year was the centennial of the Supervised Playgrounds Program in Thunder Bay. “Recreation has always been important to this area.”
Playgrounds have a vital role to play in our community
In June of 1914, Mayor S.C. Young proclaimed the inauguration of the Supervised Playgrounds Program Fort William. Five playgrounds participated that summer – Central, Ogden, Franklin, St. Martin’s and Collegiate. Fort William joined the playground movement hosted by many progressive cities throughout North America. Port Arthur followed suit in 1917. It was believed that playgrounds have a vital role to play in our community that affords young people the opportunity to release energy through creative play and in an atmosphere conducive to socialization. Playgrounds, they felt, were an integral part of a child’s developing years allowing for their natural growth through free play in a relaxed, outdoor supervised environment.
As well, playgrounds would offer mental and emotional security. They would provide a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in everyday tasks that engendered confidence and pride in themselves and the playground as a whole.
Mayor Young insisted that the program be offered at no cost all children, and funded at a low cost-per-child. He outfitted one of the playgrounds at his own expense. In its first year, over 1,500 children participated in playground activities.
Safety of the children is a priority
From the start, the safety and well being of the children was a priority. Each playground was assigned a man and a woman to supervise. Playground supervisors had to show good leadership by making use of all neighbourhood and community resources. This included having a good knowledge of all activity skills. They had to be able to develop a program using the equipment, physical environment and the skills of the children on the playground to the best advantage. All playground leaders had to demonstrate a firm conviction to the importance of their job and enjoy working with people – especially children – and provide a safe place to play creatively. In 100 years, this is still the case.
The Playgrounds Program has grown
Over the years, the Playground Program has grown. It now encompasses 16 supervised playgrounds and community parks that are in operation offering arts and crafts, sports, games, music, drama, storytelling and special events. The community parks include George Burke, Chapples, Chippewa, and Marina Parks, and the Centennial-Boulevard Lake-Current River Park complex.
Since their inception, the playgrounds have been places for children to get together, engage in some good old fashioned fun, be out in the fresh air, learn and socialize. In a century, that hasn’t changed. People from neighbourhoods, friends and family, children and adults, and kids of all ages, are encouraged to come out and enjoy our parks and playgrounds. Our city is committed to the wellness and well being of its families and children through offering good quality opportunities to play, relax and participate in its Playground Program. And that is what community is all about.
Thank you to the following for their assistance with this article:
City of Thunder Bay Recreation and Culture Division
City of Thunder Bay Archives
Brian G. Spare is a local author and freelance copywriter who is a regular contributor to Bayview Magazine. Contact him at https://BrianGSpare.com
*Previously published in Bayview Magazine*