David Alison Ganong Chocolate Park in St. Stephen playground redesign theme to mirror candy making equipment

Artists redition of the redesign idea for the David Alison Ganong Chocolate Park in St. Stephen

St. Stephen
A zip line that ends in a dunk in a chocolate fountain was one of the ideas presented for the redesign of the David Alison Ganong Chocolate Park.

However, while the idea suggested by a nine-year-old boy during consultations with school children is amusing, it’s highly unlikely to be incorporated into the design being developed by landscape architect Jim Scott, of Trace Planning and Design.
But Mike O’Connell, director of parks and recreation for the town, said the idea, suggested by his son Matthew, and similar candy-related ideas from other elementary school students, has resulted in a theme for the redesign.

A candy factory.

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O’Connell said from the school consultations, Scott came up with the concept of designing the playground equipment to represent the equipment used in different stages of the candy making process.
“He’s really working on that concept now,” said O’Connell.
“I think we’re really going to go forward with this chocolate factory type idea. I think it’s kinda fun.”

O’Connell said he’s pleased with Scott’s cooperation and interaction with the public.
“He’s really in tune with doing something the town wants. He really listens, and he really incorporates the changes.”
O’Connell said at the school workshops, Scott went through exercises such as placing chairs in a row for the students.

“This is just a good time. There’s some wonderful things happening downtown and this would be such an awesome part to it I think.” ~ Mike O’Connell

“He asked them ‘what’s too close to sit beside somebody else if you don’t know them’ and then figured out the distance they were comfortable with.” O’Connell said that information will be used to determine the size of benches placed in the parks.
There were only about 10 members of the public in attendance at a recent public meeting on the playground redesign.
But O’Connell said there were good ideas presented, which resulted in more discussions.

He said one woman asked if it was possible to turn the splash pad into a skating rink in the winter.
O’Connell said the redesign does include a change in the splash pad, creating more in-ground spout features, including those which would light up at night.
Because of the woman’s suggestion, Scott will do some more research on the skating rink possibility.

Other aspects of Scott’s design are to move all the playground equipment closer together, have a rubberized surface to make the area more accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, and to create more green space.
Another possibility is rotating the Rotary Bandstand to face the river and the increased green space.
O’Connell said the town will host another public meeting in January.

“Hopefully we will get more people show up with more ideas. We don’t want to finalize it until we think we have the perfect design.”
He said now that the town has a concept for the park’s redesign, there will be a more indepth visual presentation available for the next public meeting.

A cost for the work and the new equipment has not yet been established. O’Connell said he hopes the town is able to partner with individuals and successfully apply to available government grants. He suggested the work could be completed in phases.

“This is just a good time. There’s some wonderful things happening downtown and this would be such an awesome part to it I think.”

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Kathy Bockus
Journalist Kathy Bockus is based in St. Stephen and has worked for The Saint Croix Courier as a general news reporter and feature writer for the past 15 years. She began her lengthy newspaper career in 1974 with a daily in Saint John. Bockus says she always jokes being a reporter is a licence to be nosey, but firmly believes that everyone has a story to tell. She can be contacted at 321-0759.