Learn the latest on Highland’s all-abilities playground project
An “All-Abilities Playground,” located at 2548 Veterans Honor Parkway in Highland, will be unveiled with a ribbon cutting event starting at 10:30 a.m. June 1.
“This is probably most heartwarming project I’ve done in my 25 years as far as the effect this will have on people,” said Mark Rosen, Director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Highland. “I’ve been able to witness some amazing things already … I’m so grateful for everyone’s support and continued support on this.”
While open to all, the playground is designed with children with disabilities specifically in mind.
“It truly is for all-abilities from the wheelchair accessible to the ramps to some of the equipment,” Rosen said. “For the vision impaired there are different colored tiles designating transition. For adults who are disabled, this gives them chance to be up close and personal with their child’s playing experience.”
Added Highland Mayor Joe Michaelis, “What’s exciting about this is it’s not just our community that’ll utilize this. Children from surrounding communities will be utilizing this playground also.”
The project’s origins date back to late summer/early fall 2017 when a resident approached Michaelis about possibly constructing an all-abilities playground. He spoke with Rosen and City Manager Mark Latham about the idea, and both were on board.
“We thought it would be a great asset to this community and surrounding communities to utilize this playground,” said Michaelis, who made the first $1,000 donation toward the playground.
Excavation started in early October 2018, and the first phase was completed by last Thanksgiving. Thus far in 2019, a fence around the playground and a wheelchair accessible merry-go-round have been added.
Two notable park features are a roller side and the aforementioned merry-go-round. The roller slide is metal to accommodate youngsters with cochlear implants, as the static electricity from plastic slides, Rosen noted, can blow out those implants.
“This slide provides a lot of the tactile stimulation for the different feel of going down a traditional slide,” Rosen said.
For the merry-go-round, Rosen said the wheelchairs can roll straight on with no seams that would obstruct wheelchair access.
“Plus, individuals can stay in their wheelchair. Just lock the wheels and enjoy the feeling of flight,” said Rosen, in his 25th year as Director of Parks and Recreation.
The Rockin Ship is yet another playground feature. Wheelchair accessible, kids can use their body weight to start glide back and forth.
“This will be a big thrill for them,” Rosen said. “It has different patterns ... kids can use their creativity.”
Rosen hopes the playground will eventually get dual ziplines accessible for disabled children. Michaelis added the park is only about halfway complete.
“It’s undetermined when the playground will be fully completed due to additional funding needed for the apparatuses for the one end of the playground,” he said. “The project has been done by monetary donations and in-kind donations. We’re still accepting donations because we want to put in some specialized apparatuses and we’re going to run out of money soon.”
People can donate toward the park through the Highland Area Community Foundation.
“The foundation has been a great vehicle for people to give,” Rosen said.
The ribbon cutting event will include remarks from Rosen and Michaelis and a release of balloons, while the children present will actually cut the ribbon. Additionally, 2016 Paralympian Chuck Melton — who won the silver medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games — will address the crowd. Melton, who competes in wheelchair rugby, is from Kentucky but now resides in the area, according to Rosen.
Additionally, the official name of the park will be disclosed Saturday.
All in all, Rosen hopes the community — both young and old — enjoys the playground.
“This is an opportunity for new families to Highland to get to know other people who have similar situations. And this is a great opportunity for kids to be active and use their imagination,” he said.