A Skye mum has spoken of the “great community spirit” that delivered a new playpark for the village.
Maddie Legrady chaired the steering group which transformed a derelict site at Kyleakin into a fantastic new facility for all ages.
Ms Legrady, who is mum to four-year-old Scott, was one of several local parents who poured their time and energy into the project. Originally from Australia, Ms Legrady says the community spirit in Kyleakin is one of the reasons she loves living there.
“People support each other and community groups work together really well,” says Ms Legrady. “This project was close to my heart, with having my boy and knowing how limited the old facilities were.”
Kyleakin has a play park in the village, but Ms Legrady says the park is a bit of a “concrete jungle”, being surrounded by houses, with little room to expand.
The next nearest park is in Kyle of Lochalsh – just across the Skye Bridge, but too far to walk with a youngster.
Kyleakin gala committee had been fundraising for a new playpark for a number of years, but it was the development of a new housing estate that provided the catalyst to get things moving.
“We have a new development at the back of the village that will deliver about 50 new homes,” says Ms Legrady. “The park is already struggling with the size of the existing community and we felt it couldn’t handle potentially 50 more families.”
The community groups began discussions with the developer – Lochalsh & Skye Housing Association – and builders James MacQueen. Both promised to help with funding and groundwork. The final piece of the puzzle was the generous donation of land from Kyleakin Feus Ltd.
“Getting the site really gave us a foothold to get things underway,” says Ms Legrady.
A survey of the community showed huge support for the playpark development, and a steering group came together quickly.
“There were about eight or nine core members who were with us from the start and stuck with it throughout, most of them parents to young kids,” says Mrs Legrady.
“I think everyone involved in the committee felt that this is our village and we’re proud of it. It was important to deliver something not only for our kids but for other kids in the future too.”
The committee worked at an impressive speed, raising more than £90k and delivering the park within a year.
As well as the builder, developer and landowner, the group secured funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, Eilean a’ Cheo Ward discretionary fund, MOWI Scotland, the Hugh Fraser Foundation and Kyleakin Gala Committee – plus a range of smaller community donations.
Bright, colourful and social
Creating the vision for the park was the fun bit. Working with playground providers Kompan Scotland, the group put together a vibrant design featuring artwork like rainbows and a compass.
The park caters for all ages, with surfacing that’s comfortable for little ones to crawl on. Social play is a big focus, with equipment geared towards children playing and interacting together.
“We wanted to make it bright, colourful and social,” says Ms Legrady. “Because the site is surrounded by fields, there’s also lots of green space for kids to run around in.”
The Skye mountains make for a picture-perfect backdrop. The sun shone for the official opening day on 5 November, but the weather was less forgiving for the hard-working committee, who rolled up their sleeves at the turf cutting.
“We all got in there and got dirty with the turf, and it chucked down,” laughs Ms Legrady.
The kids are the VIPs here
John Finlayson, Skye councillor and chairman of the education committee, praised the hard work of all the volunteers. “The success of this project clearly shows the value of partnership working, involving a determined community group, public bodies, businesses, benevolent landowners and active fundraisers,” he said.
“Well done to all involved, and in particular Maddie Legrady, who did so much to co-ordinate things, along with her committee.”
Most new public facilities are opened by a local VIP, but the Kyleakin park group took a different approach. Instead, they sent letters home with local school and nursery kids, inviting them to do the honours.
“All these kids had been lined up at the fence every day waiting to get in,” says Ms Legrady. “We thought that rather than have one person cut a ribbon, we’d have all the kids throw open the gate and run inside. Their wee faces were just great.”