The Highland City Council gave its blessing Nov. 20 to roll forward with a plan to to develop an all-inclusive playground at Dennis H. Rinderer Park, which is located off of Veterans Honor Parkway.
The council gave Parks and Recreation Director Mark Rosen permission to take the next steps in implementing the plan after hearing a presentation from Sam Lawson of All-Inclusive Rec and Natalie Mackay of Unlimited Play about the design of the playground.
“I want to say, ‘Thank you,’ as a mom, for thinking about each member in your community,” Mackay said.
Rosen said this specific design was chosen out of a panel of choices provided by three separate playground businesses. To help with the decision, Rosen contacted Angie and Elijah Daley. The Daleys have a set of twins, who each have their own very special needs. Their son, Elijah, 9, has cerebral palsy and is primarily wheelchair-bound. Their daughter, Cadence, 9, is blind and on the autism spectrum.
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Angie Daley said that she did not even realize this playground was an option, or that the city would think about doing it. Regardless, she said her family was thankful to be included in the process and that their children will be able to participate with other children in a typical child pastime.
“I think it just goes back to giving every child an opportunity to experience what typical kids get to experience and being included and not having to sit on the sidelines and watch from a far,” she said.
With the help of the Daleys, a design was chosen.
“We were able to kind of go through and think what the playground could do for each of their challenges,” Angie Daley said.
Each part of the playground equipment will be connected by a wheelchair-accessible ramp, and every feature is wheelchair-accessible as well. Among some of the other park features is a seated zip line and teeter-totter, swings, roller slides and an interactive music station. The playground design also includes the company’s newest playground feature, a mounted merry-go-round.
“We were excited about being able to wheel him (Elijah) up in the merry-go-round,” Angie Daley said.
The surfacing of the playground is also designed to be harder than normal, so it can uphold the heavy weights of children in wheel chairs. The surfacing also allows easier pushing of wheelchairs, unlike common rubber infill surfacing, which Daley said is nearly impossible to push a child on.
The surfacing can be replaced panel by panel, which helps with maintenance costs, according to Mackay. The tiles can also create a checkered floor pattern to outline areas with motion for vision-impaired children.
Finally, the playground is fenced so both able-bodied and disabled children will stay in the play area.
Where does it go from here?
Mackay said that the average turnaround time for a project like this is about two years.
All in all, the playground could cost about $250,000. Out of that cost, the equipment would be about $150,000, whereas surfacing and fencing would cost about $50,000 a piece, according to Rosen.
Rosen said the next step will be organizing the playground items into a catalog-like format and reaching out to local organizations for partnerships. It is likely the city will be looking for private donations to help pay for the project. However, Rosen said the entire plan is still in the preliminary phases, and no official structure has been put in place yet to receive any donations. For those wishing to donate, an announcement will be made at a latter date how to help.
But when the time comes, Mayor Joe Michaelis said he will be the first in line, personal checkbook in hand.
“I would be honored if you would let me donate the first $1,000 for this playground,” Michaelis said.