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Wild Wonder secures Sackville's Beech Hill Park as its year-round home for Forest School

Fort building is one of the favourite activities enjoyed by participants in the Wild Wonder Forest School’s 2017 summer program.
Fort building is one of the favourite activities enjoyed by participants in the Wild Wonder Forest School’s 2017 summer program. - File image

Town agrees to five-year partnership with Wild Wonder

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Wild Wonder Forest School now has a permanent home in Sackville.

The Town of Sackville recently approved a five-year agreement with Wild Wonder Inc., allowing the company to use Beech Hill Park for its programming on a full-time, year-round basis.

“I think this is a wonderful addition to our community,” said councillor Megan Mitton of the outdoor, nature-based programs offered to preschoolers.

Councillor Bill Evans agreed, applauding town staff for collaborating with Wild Wonder on this proposal.

“This is an exciting partnership,” he said. “I think this is a great initiative. I think it benefits us, it doesn’t cost us anything. And if nothing else, having more people in the park, it’s better for us, it’s protection,” he said.

Wild Wonder has been using the local park to pilot their forest school programming for the past two summers but they are now looking to expand and broaden their preschool classes beyond two to three days a week in July and August.

Participants in the Wild Wonder Forest School’s 2017 summer program take turns ringing the fairy bells before entering their outdoor learning space in the woods at Beech Hill Park.
Participants in the Wild Wonder Forest School’s 2017 summer program take turns ringing the fairy bells before entering their outdoor learning space in the woods at Beech Hill Park.

“They were interested in Beech Hill Park as a permanent home and signing an agreement that would allow them to be up there for five years,” Matt Pryde, Sackville’s manager of recreation programs and special events, told council during their July discussion meeting.

Pryde pointed out that the forest school will add to the growing events and programs now being offered at Beech Hill Park, as the town continues to work towards expanding upon the activities there as one of its priorities.

The town now offers some of its summer day camps and events at Beech Hill and even added a disc golf course, which all regularly attract more visitors to the park.

Wild Wonder has complemented these other offerings, said Pryde, and has co-existed well with the other patrons in its first two summers.

“That partnership with them has worked out really well. It’s given us a consistent presence in the park, which is nice,” he said.

The usage agreement is for a five-year term – from Aug. 1, 2018 to Aug. 1, 2023 – and will include the installation of a 20-foot yurt with a woodstove and a solar-powered compostable toilet. Wild Wonder was successful in receiving grant money for these two projects.

Pryde said in lieu of rent, Wild Wonder has offered to provide the town access to the yurt about six times a year.

“They’ve also offered to facilitate some sessions for us, up to 12 free programs that would fall under the guise of being a town program – so things like orienteering, survival skills, stuff like that,” he said.

Under the agreement, Beech Hill Park will still be considered a public space and Wild Wonder will not have any ownership to the park – patrons will still have free access to the entire park, although there will be a few limitations around the use of the yurt, Pryde explained.

Wild Wonder will also carry a $2-million liability insurance policy, with the town as co-insurer, and will take responsibility for any damage done to the park.

The forest school, for ages 3-6, is run by outdoor educators and offers programs that get kids out exploring and spending time in natural surroundings that provide endless possibilities for fun and creative play.

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