The small community of Londonderry in rural Nova Scotia didn’t have a playground of its own, so Amanda Langille, mother of two, teamed up with Robbin Spencer, another mom from the community, to make one happen. After five years writing grants and rallying the community the Londonderry Playforest came to be. Thanks to the many local volunteers they were able to create an amazing play space. We asked Langille about what it took to make their playground dreams a reality.
What motivated you to take on this project?
When my kids were one and three myself and another mother in the community, Robbin Spencer, discussed how great it would be to have a playground. The closest was at the local village school which wasn’t that far away but in a different community. So we started — what turned out to be — a three-year planning project. We wrote grant applications to the municipality and the province and got support from both.
What made you want to create a natural playground in particular?
The motivation came from taking my kids to a traditional playground. They’d be happy for half an hour and then want to go. When kids go to the play forest they spend so long there — once they’re sick of the slide they can go play in nature. They hear squirrels and birds, there are bugs, they can run, climb, play, and jump. Imagination takes hold. Research told us this was good for kids, and we saw an opportunity to do something different.
Also, it just fit. Londonderry is very woodsy — a country community. A very urban, colourful playground wouldn’t fit our surroundings very well. We wanted to put it in this little pocket of woods between the community centre and the ball field — an area kids have always been drawn to.
Tell us about the process for getting the playground built.
With about 70 volunteers we got the play forest built over three weekends. Twenty people the first weekend to clear brush. The next weekend was all heavy equipment. A fellow in Londonderry with an excavator, — Dan Mattix — donated his time and equipment to dig the holes and move the boulders in. The last weekend was the community build. We had 70 people on site, some mixing concrete, while others cut stumps, or dumped crusher dust and raked it out. We were installing all of the equipment. And we had a kids area where more volunteers were assisting the little ones in making the patio stones that would be incorporated into the play forest. It was a fantastic project to be involved with, and to see it come together in three weekends after the years of planning was so great.
How hard was it to fund the project?
The feeling we were getting was it was going to be very difficult to win the big grant we needed because Londonderry is such a small place — about 250 people live here. But we did get the funding and it was a really big win. In Londonderry we no longer have a store or a post office, but we have the Masonic Hall, and a community hall everyone works really hard to keep going because those spaces are the lifeblood of small communities.
Do you have advice for other moms looking to get something like this started in their own community?
Build your base of support and be very persistent. The great thing is when you feel like you are doing the right thing it is easy to persist. If you’re dedicated, committed, have a good idea, and somebody else willing to work with you, you can get a lot done. I wouldn’t have been able to do it on my own, that’s for sure. Robbin has been amazing. This project was a lot of work, and we were doing a lot of it at the kitchen table while Robbin had a newborn, but it is very encouraging to know you do not need a committee of 20 to get things done.
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