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Councillor pitches idea to get kids playing outside and in the street

Councillor Yvonne Hamlin wants the town to consider a Quebec-based model for designating certain streets as free-play zones
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One of Collingwood’s rookie councillors has a head full of ideas, including one she hopes will encourage and enable more outdoor play for local kids.

Councillor Yvonne Hamlin pitched one of her ideas during the Aug. 26 council meeting under the “other business” agenda item, suggesting Collingwood look into a Quebec town’s model of designating quiet residential streets as spaces for free play for kids.

“I’ve always been interested in how we can have more common spaces,” said Hamlin. “It would get kids outside and playing, and that’s so important.”

Hamlin first learned of the "Dans ma rue, on joue" (on my street, we play) initiative out of Beloeil, Quebec – a city of about 20,000 people – in the summer and shared a story about it on her Facebook page.

The concept works like this: residents on quiet, residential streets can apply to the town to have the street designated a play zone. The parameters established in Beloeil require two-thirds majority support from the residents on the street, the passage of cars cannot be impeded, and there must be clear site lines and adequate lighting on the street.

Hamlin said the speed would also be reduced on a road designated as a play zone.

Once she shared the concept on her social media, she said she had residents asking how to help make it happen in Collingwood.

“It fits so well into the Healthy Kids Community Challenge,” said Hamlin. “It’s about making it easier for kids to play. They don’t have to play organized sports or go to one of our big parks … kids who can just go outside and play get a lot more exercise than if they play softball once a week.”

Hamlin does have grown kids of her own, and lives on one of those quiet residential streets.

She said if there were streets in Collingwood designated for play she imagines them doing things like playing ball hockey, skipping, or playing hopscotch.

“I see many young families moving to town and I see they want their kids to be healthy and enjoy the community,” said Hamlin. “I would like us to be on the leading edge of attracting young families and people under 30.”

Initially, she was hoping to ask for a staff report on the idea, but Mayor Brian Saunderson told her she should talk to staff first before bringing back a motion for a staff report.

Hamlin would like to see play zones on designated streets as early as next summer.

“This is my first term on council … I don’t know how fast these things go, and I also know they can get killed. As soon as it can happen would be great,” said Hamlin.

The City of Beloeil has posted files for marketing and application forms for the designated play zone streets on its website so other communities can use the model as a resource.

As for trying to get her street designated, she said she sees the application process as something to be led by parents with children.

While Hamlin acknowledged there are plenty of areas in the town where kids are already using the street for games like ball hockey, she said an official designation would go far.

“It would clearly mark areas where you would expect kids to be playing on the road,” said Hamlin.

She has a meeting with town staff scheduled next week to talk about her idea for designated play streets in Collingwood.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 15 years of experience as a local journalist
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