When you think of a playground, you might imagine kids running across bridges, shimmying down twisty poles, and soaring on swings. What you might not immediately consider is what the thousands of physically-challenged children do at a traditional playground.
The answer is, not a lot.
It was not long ago that the first all-inclusive playground came on the scene to fill this pressing need. Although many parks over the last 50 years have created wheelchair-accessible areas, it wasn’t until the last decade that playground designers began creating areas where children of varied abilities could play side-by-side. This is about more than just specially designed ramps and swings. This is about designers creating unique structures that allow children with every type of mental and physical difference to enjoy the pleasures of the park.
One of the most recent additions to this pantheon of inclusive play structures is the Rotary Playgarden in San Jose, CA. This all-inclusive playground sits at the edge of the beautiful Guadalupe River, located near the city’s visitor’s center. As a gift from the Rotary Club in celebration of the city’s 100th anniversary, this playground is the height of artistic design and play research. Nestled in 4.1 acres of lush greenery, the playground is $6 million of investment in a future where children of all abilities levels can explore, create, and imagine.
It’s features include:
• Wide-spread equipment to allow spatially-aware children maximum comfort.
• Environmental and sensory play with plants, sand and water.
• Additional handholds on equipment, specifically designed for those with physical limitations.
• A sliding hill with handrails, stone climbing access, wheelchair access and transfer platform.
• Accommodating swings including traditional, ADA chair, a disc pod for multiple users to swing at one time, and springing swings to enable swing assistance from other children as well as a mufti-directional movement sensation.
The park was originally the brain child of Julie and Mel Matsushima, both long-time residents of San Jose. They had a desire for their twin granddaughters, Aimee and Chloe, to be able to play side-by-side, even though Aimee was born with cerebral palsy. It was their determination and connection as past presidents of the Rotary Club of San Jose, that drove them to share their vision for the 100th Celebration of the city. Their ideas came to fruition through the park designs by Karen Krolewski and Diana Pink at PGAdesign in Oakland, CA.
Julie Matsushima told the Mercury News, “Having a park that all children could enjoy, that was the dream.”
The playground, which is located along Coleman Avenue in San Jose, is slated to open in late March to a growing crowd of online playground enthusiasts. With more than 3,000,000 hours of community service from local Rotary Club members, millions in donated funds, and cutting edge play structures from Goric and others, the crowd will not be disappointed.
Tina N. from Los Gatos, CA, shared on Yelp! what many in the area are thinking:
“I have been watching this park being built and waiting to check it out. So far from I can see it looks AMAZING!!! This water/sand park will also be equipped to accommodate children with wheelchairs as well. They will have a double seesaw that allows the parents to sit behind their kid. I really can’t wait for them to open. Only a few more weeks!”
Although tradition is good when it comes to your grandmother’s spaghetti, innovation is key when it comes to creating a playground that connects people together. The Rotary Playgarden in San Jose is the perfect combination of inclusion and exploration that will be making family relationships stronger for many years to come.
To find out more about the structures at the Playgarden and how you can incorporate them into your city’s playground design, contact us today!