|Park plans include handicap accessible playground|
|Written by Darci Tomky|
Phillips County has so many things to offer, but one thing it is lacking is a universally accessible playground, and a group of volunteers is hard at work making that a possibility.
“Yes, Everyone Can Play!!” is a project of the Phillips County Commissioners with volunteers Brooke Dirks, Shannon Schlachter, Michelle Vieselmeyer and Andrea McCallum.
The idea is to build a playground facility for all children, including those with disabilities. In addition to the playground, the project will include an all-weather turf field and a frisbee golf course.
With the recent completion of the brand new Phillips County Event Center at the fairgrounds in Holyoke, it seems the only thing missing is an up-to-date playground.
Traffic has increased due to local programming and community events hosted at the Event Center, and of course the first thing children want to do is play on the playground, said Dirks.
Homesteaders Park was established in 1976 in honor of the county’s first landowners. A playground was added later in 1980.
With old wood boards and metal slides, the 30-year-old structure is unsafe and currently not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Project volunteers said parents have voiced concerns about the safety of the playground.
They have been asking each other, “How cool would it be if there was a playground that was handicap accessible?”
Project organizers don’t want to take anything away from the other Holyoke parks, but they do want to provide another option in the community.
Plans for the renovation of Homesteaders Park include a universally accessible
Dirks headed up the new Dragon’s Wagon Preschool playground, which is a private facility, and after speaking with a man working on that project, everything began to fall into place.
The group has now formed a plan to raise funds and apply for grants that would make the universally accessible playground a reality.
With personal experiences with disabled children, providing a place for handicap kids is something very close to the volunteers’ hearts.
Every community in Northeast Colorado has children with special needs. There is an entire section of children in Colorado that can’t go to the playground like every other kid, said Dirks and Schlachter.
They explained the importance of children experiencing the joy of swinging in a swing or the sensation of begin five feet off the ground, and however simple those things may seem, they help develop a child’s self esteem and sense of accomplishment.
A child’s occupation is to play, said Schlachter, and a universally accessible playground will help all children do that. “Given the right tools, children can do anything,” she said.
The term universally accessible means the playground will be designed for use by everyone, including individuals with disabilities.
Following the seven principles of universal design, the new facility will have aspects like ramps wide enough for wheelchairs, sensory toys, braille writing and slides wide enough for parents to go down with their children, just to name a few.
A poured rubber floor will make it easy for strollers and wheelchairs to maneuver around the playground. This is also a very maintenance-free option.
The area will not only benefit children with special needs, but will also allow adults who have mobility issues or aging family members to interact with children while they play.
The park plan includes a lot of activities other public playgrounds in Northeast Colorado don’t have, said Schlachter and Dirks. The closest handicap accessible public playground is on the Front Range, so having one in Holyoke will be a huge asset to the community.
“This park will be completely unique to the area,” said project organizers. “Our hope is that the facility brings together families and communities in a new way.”
We want this project to have a “spirit of community,” said Schlachter. She explained how they hope to eliminate the preconceived notions and prejudices people have about children with disabilities. The idea is to build bridges with others in town so this would truly become a community project.
Grants are being applied for through Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the Daniels Fund, Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation and El Pomar. In addition to those funds, the project needs a $20,000 cash match for the estimated $220,000 cost of the playground.
Volunteers are asking for community support for the Homesteaders Park renovation project and noted some funds and in-kind donations have already been pledged.
A short timeline for the project lands groundbreaking in May 2011 with completion scheduled for October 2011.
“It will finish the Event Center,” said Dirks, noting the playground will add so much to the new building at the fairgrounds.
When looking at the design, organizers said they want to be able to add on to the playground over time. They want to continue to make it stimulating and thrilling for the children.
The ADA compliant universally accessible playground, an all-weather turf field and a nine-hole frisbee golf course in the adjacent grass area will have a significant impact on Phillips County and the surrounding communities.
Every person, regardless of abilities, deserves the opportunity to play, to feel included and to experience new things. “The playground would be a dream come true,” said Dirks.
Anyone interested in supporting the project should contact Dirks at 970-580-9190 or Vieselmeyer at 970-520-7254.