North Kamloops kids seek petition signatures, hope to convince city to install swing set at park

Petitioning for a swing set

There’s a slide and some monkey bars — but, according to a group of neighbourhood kids, their small North Kamloops playground could really use a swing set.

“I personally like swings because you can go really fast and very high,” said eight-year-old Sitka Porter. “It’s kind of just an essential for a park — and this park has no swings.”

Porter decided to put together a petition, and got their mom’s help to come up with the right wording for a pitch. Then, they gathered a couple of friends to help out — Brooklynn Saunders, 10, and Addilynn Saunders, 8.

“I decided to invite them because I didn't want to just do it alone. So that's how it all started. We just decided that there isn't really a swing set here, there could easily be one,” Porter said.

For about three days, the trio went door to door in their neighbourhood, asking residents around Belmont Park to sign their petition in support of a swing set. They have 50 signatures so far and the goal is to get to 100.

Porter said they were nervous at first about knocking on doors and delivering their pitch — “we thought that it might not even work” — but they now think people are pretty excited to support the initiative.

“Someone kind of cut us off before we could finish, and was just like ‘yes, yes!’ They wanted [the swings] so bad,” Porter said.

The kids ultimately intend to present the petition to the city.

“I feel like it’s great they’re being actively involved in trying to shape their local community. Anything that gets them out, being active and trying to help contribute in some sort of way and make changes is a great thing,” said Neilina Carmichael, Porter’s mom.

“I'd love it if there was a swing set put in — that would be super fun. I think it'd be super rewarding for them to be like, ‘Oh, we put the work in and did this, and there were results from it.’ But even if there's not, it'll still be a great learning experience for them.”

Improvements are needed

Jeff Putnam, parks and civic facilities manager for the City of Kamloops, said it’s “wonderful” to see kids excited about improving their neighbourhood.

He said there’s a couple of different parks which came about because of youth engagement, including a longboard park in Aberdeen — the first of its kind in North America — and a Rayleigh skateboard park.

Putnam said there’s about $350,000 available per year in the budget for playground upgrades. The addition of a swing set costs between $30,000 and $50,000, while a total playground renovation costs about $150,000.

Putnam said Belmont Park is in the city’s 10-year plan for upgrades, but the current schedule sets the work to begin later than 2025.

“I can't tell you if it's two years or eight years, it's something that we're evaluating all the time. Now that I see it with my own two eyes, I would say it needs to be sooner than later,” Putnam said, adding the playground is a bit sparse, and in need of some accessibility upgrades as well.

“I think they're on to something — this definitely needs to be improved.”

Approaching the city with an idea

Putnam said there’s a couple of ways these types of ideas can come forward to the city. He said people can attend a council meeting to present their proposal, and can also reach out to his office so they can discuss the “nuts and bolts” of the idea.

He said if a group wants to speed up a park upgrade, they can leverage their neighbourhood association to help lobby the city, or start some fundraising. He added his office can also accept a written proposal for a new swing set, and he could submit it to city council for consideration as a supplemental budget item in early 2025.

“I’m definitely interested in doing what I can do to encourage them. …You never know what will happen,” Putnam said.

Coun. Katie Neustaeter said speaking as a local government representative and as a mom, it’s “so encouraging” to see the kids petition for the swings.

“This is exactly what we want to see in community, to see future leaders who are speaking up for what they need, and noticing what could better their community,” she said, adding she thinks this could make a good application for a supplemental budget item.

“I'm cheering them on — and I'd love to have a conversation with them at some point, but just thrilled that they're active in this way.”

In the meantime, the young trio has words of encouragement for anyone else who wants to step up, band together with their neighbours, and try to make their community a better place.

“I would probably say, well, be confident! You can do it yourself, have fun with it,” Porter said.

“We had lots of fun doing it together.”

With some parental help, the group has also started an online petition to get more signatures in support of a future swing set.

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