Ella Cartwright, 4, stands atop the hill next to a bear statue at the natural playspace at the Lower Onslow Community Centre. The hillside features a bear cave for children to play in, including write on the chalkboard walls. Raissa Tetanish – Hub Now

LOWER ONSLOW – A little bit of a chill in the air didn’t stop young children from running from corner to corner at the new Lower Onslow Community Centre natural playspace.

“I love it, I think it’s awesome,” said Robin Cartwright, who was there with her four-year-old daughter, Ella.

“We love natural playgrounds. She attends a Montessori school, and their playground is bare so they can use their imagination.”

Cartwright, who lives in Antigonish, was visiting a friend and her two children who live near the community centre. She suggested they attend the grand opening on June 3.

“My sister lives near Needham Park, and we love the playspace there,” said Cartwright. “It’s definitely a gem to be here by it.”

For those on the organizing committee, it’s been a dream for a few years now to have a natural playspace in behind the community centre.

Jennifer McKay said the committee has been working pretty hard for the last year or so to bring it to fruition.

“It’s nice to see the community have this completed and be able to enjoy it now. It feels like a dream that we never thought would happen, and it’s finally happened. It’s nice to see,” she said.

Over the winter, some local youth have been playing on the playspace as it was finished piece by piece.

McKay said it’s a different concept than so many other playgrounds.

“It really promotes kids to use their imagination and just come out and have some fun,” she said.

“It’s really unique. It’s not your typical swing set. The uniqueness I think will be a big draw to everyone.”

With a preschool operating out of the community centre, its teachers and students have been able to utilize the space.

There’s a mud kitchen, which includes a ‘wood stove’ for children to bake for their friends and family.

“It’s really cool – there’s sand and rocks – they can invent whatever they want,” said McKay, who said her children have created a restaurant with the mud kitchen.

At the other end of the playspace stands a bear statue on a hill, with a bear cave immersed hillside. The cave features a chalk wall, with children’s drawings adorning its spaces. Some children have even spent time reading inside the bear cave.

“The hill feature is our tidal bore feature,” said McKay. “It’s one of our most eye-catching features for sure and I was wondering what the kids would do when they played on it, but kids are walking across the ropes, they’re playing hopscotch over the ropes, they’re running in and out, they’re hiding. You just see those imaginations going and it’s wonderful. They’re all using it in a lot of different ways.”

With the project coming in at around $60,000, funding came from the Municipality of Colchester County and province, as well as fundraising by the committee, which included financial and in-kind donations such as labour.

Cobequid Trail Consulting donated the table under the picnic shelter, which parents can use as a place to relax while their children play. It’s also the perfect place, says McKay, for snacks or lunches to be consumed.

“It makes it an easy outing for families.”

Over the last three years, the proceeds of the Onslow Rocks fundraiser have gone toward the playspace.

“The playspace was the last major thing we wanted to do here (at the community centre),” said Doug McInnes. “Moving forward with the Onslow Rocks program, we’ve renamed it the Onslow Rocks for Charity, so half the proceeds will go to the community centre and preschool, and the other half to a needy family or person in the community.”