Years of planning and fundraising by the late Zayden Veal-Whitting’s family and friends have culminated in the official opening of the $1.3 million Eaglehawk Regional Play Space at Lake Neangar on Sunday.
The playground contains a junior play area called Where Angels Play in memory of 10-month-old Zayden, who was killed by a burglar in 2012.
City of Greater Bendigo Mayor Margaret O’Rourke said the project was kicked off when Zayden’s family approached the council with the idea of creating a memorial playground and an offer to fundraise for it.
The project has resulted in the largest play space in the municipality.
Zayden’s aunt Angie Whitting said the family was excited the the playground had been completed, and the Where Angels Play space had turned out even better than they had originally planned.
Ms Whitting said the space gave the family somewhere bright they could go and think about Zayden.
She also wants it to be a place where other people who have lost young children can enjoy happiness.
With the Family and Friends of Baby Zayden Veal-Whitting, the play space was supported by several community groups and businesses, who together contributed more than $130,000.
Ms Whitting said it had been an emotional process, with good times and sad times, and thanked the council for its support.
The Where Angels Play area is butterfly-themed, with large butterfly wings providing shade.
The rest of the playground – which features a variety of custom-designed play equipment, including slides, swings, trampoline and flying foxes – is inspired by the Banjo Paterson poem Mulga Bill’s Bicycle, the title character having come from Eaglehawk.
Viewed from above, it sits in the shape of an eaglehawk, or wedge-tailed eagle.
Cr O’Rourke congratulated the whole community on their support of the project.
“Can I just say, there’s something very special about the Eaglehawk community,” she said.
“It is absolutely in your DNA, in terms of what you do from your hearts for your whole community.”