Friends of Aireville Park have achieved a great deal since the group was set up in 2012; a new pump track and skate park, numerous litter-picks and community events, grant funding and awards.
Now they’re embarking on their biggest challenge so far – to raise £100,000 for a new children’s play area.
Craven District Council has helped the group draw up plans for an ambitious and adventurous play space catering for toddlers through to teenagers.
The group has already raised £12,000 through Tesco Bags of Help, and work is underway to install a zip wire at the top end of the park. The aim is that this will be open in time for the Easter holidays, but that’s just the start.
The new play area will eventually cover 4,500 square metres, including a climbing net, ropes and beams, sand and water play and natural play spaces. There will be a combination of traditional equipment such as climbing towers, swings, see saws and roundabouts, alongside wild garden and nature areas.
Skipton Castle will be used as an inspiration for stone walls to form an entrance to the area, while other features will be designed around historic trees and the landscape of the park.
Fiona Protheroe, chairman of Friends of Aireville Park, says a recent government study showed three-quarters of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates.
“Active outdoor play is essential to children’s health and well-being. To encourage this we aim to raise £100,000 to help fund the play area," she said.
"The park is desperate for a new activity space that will improve the kids’ quality of play and encourage them to interact with nature, challenging their mental and physical abilities."
The current play area was originally created back in 1951, and most of the play equipment dates back to a refurbishment in 2000.
Craven Council is contributing £112,000 to the play area from planning gain monies, but Friends of Aireville Park need help from the community to raise the rest of the money needed.
"We are a little overwhelmed with the scale of the challenge to raise £100,000 for the new play area but we’re prepared to work hard to make this happen," sad Fiona.
“The £12,000 grant from Bags of Help is a great start, however we have plenty of work to do, and will need lots of support. We'd love to hear from individuals, community groups and schools who would like to raise money for us, or businesses who can sponsor us. We’re particularly keen to hear from anyone who has experience in crowdfunding. Together we can make this fantastic new play area a reality and not just a grand plan."
Businesses, groups and individuals in the area are being asked to consider sponsoring or donating towards individual items; two donations worth £1,000 have already been made.
These include donations from friends and family of Maureen Jefferies, who died of lung cancer a year ago. Her daughter Sharon, one of the members of Friends of Aireville Park, said: “My mum loved the area and when visiting would always enjoy taking her three grandsons to Aireville Park. She was very clear that she would love a memorial bench in the new play area more than anything. She was proud, that in a way, she could contribute too. It gave her comfort to think that there would be a place where we could sit and think of her whilst watching the boys play.
“Her generous friends and family donated so much that we would also like to fund a memorial picnic bench in mum’s name. So not only can we sit with her, we can all have a picnic too.”
The plans for the new park have captured the imagination of residents; Newground, which designed the plans, had a fantastic response when they went out to public consultation.
A huge 93 per cent were in favour of the inclusion of den building, balancing beams, tunnels, bridges and a tree house, allowing children to embrace the joys of wild and explorative outdoor play - freeing them from the constraints of the classroom and the rules and restrictions of the home.
Communications and Partnerships manager at Craven District Council, Sharon Hudson, said: "We had an amazing response to the consultation; children and parents particularly loved the greater range of play, along with a wide variety of natural and creative play linking closely with the environment.
“The plan is fresh and exciting while incorporating elements of the park’s heritage. This end of the park has really developed and it makes sense to move the play area from its current location, at the bottom of the park, up with the new skate park, pump track and near to the Coffee Lounge cafe - there really is something for all the family.”
While the fundraising begins in earnest, the Friends of Aireville Park continue their work to make sure the park remains clean and tidy; around 60 volunteers of all ages collected 43 bags of rubbish as part of the national Great British Spring Clean campaign earlier this month.
“This park is so important to our community,” said Fiona. “We’re determined to make sure it provides a fantastic environment for children and adults alike, helping to keep our residents happy and healthy.”
For more information on the project visit Friends of Aireville Park, Skipton on Facebook. If anyone is interested in sponsoring or donating towards any items, then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To help support the plan by donating, go to the website localgiving.org/friendsofairevillepark