Abbotsford parents upset with closure of Safari Kids Zone play facility

City said private firm now provides indoor play structure

An online petition calling to re-open Safari Kids Zone received more than 150 supporters early this week.

The large indoor play structure at Abbotsford Exhibition Park (32470 Haida Dr.) closed down for drop-in hours in December, and will cease operation permanently on June 30.

The petition states that parents and their children were disappointed when Safari Kids Zone closed its door to anything other than birthdays, and adds the city decided “without public consultation” to close it permanently.

“Safari Kids Zone is arguably the cleanest and safest kids play place in the area, and our children deserve to be able to enjoy this type of facility.”

Heidi Enns, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said the facility opened in 2010 after the city purchased a used play structure and could install it in the park at a low cost.

She said there was nothing like it in the community at that time, but that as the equipment was five years old when purchased, it would have a short life span and need to be retired eventually.

The play structure, measuring 48 feet by 24 feet and 16 feet in height, was installed in 2009 after it was purchased from a mall in Ontario. The city paid $107,000 in total to have it shipped, installed and to cover other associated costs. The structure was worth $180,000 new.

Enns said a private company is now providing similar services – Abby Play on Abbotsford Way, which impacted the use of the city-run facility, so the schedule was altered in December to open only for bookings and birthday parties.

She said this information was in program guides, the website and schedules, and staff talked to parents of regular attendees before it was closed to drop-ins.

But Cheryl Davie, a local mother who often brought her son there, said she only found out about the closure through social media and wonders why parents weren’t consulted online.

Enns said there are many other affordable programs available from the city at the Abbotsford Recreation Centre and Matsqui Recreation Centre.

Davie said she wants to see the facility stay open and repairs done if needed, as it is a cost effective option for parents.

“They are treating it like a business decision… this is a public amenity paid for by taxpayers so we need to make that decision, not staff.”