All Kids Invited
When the opportunity arose in 2018, it was all-hands-on-deck at the city’s Community Recreation Department: The state had announced grants for park facilities accommodating children with disabilities. The problem: A two-week window for applications. Among the requirements: Community input, an initial design, and matching funds.
“It was a really quick turnaround,” says Carolina Vester, Community Recreation assistant director. “We didn’t have an architect, designers or grant applicators. We had to wear multiple hats so we didn’t miss the deadline.” In a scramble, matching funds were taken from future park-building monies,and everyone within 1,500 feet of designated Salvadore Park was engaged.
Flash forward to this month, when the park will officially re-open. The ribbon cutting will be on Oct. 23 at 11 a.m., followed by Adventure Day, an annual event for handicapped children usually staged at City Hall. The new play gear, accessible even by wheelchair, includes sound making stations (drums, xylophone, chimes), swings, see-saws, slides, and mini-zip lines designed with soft edges and additional core support.
“This is a well-designed sensory experience environment where everyone can have fun, with a disability or without a disability,” says Mary Palacio-Pike, founding president of the Crystal Academy, a school for children with autism. “This was needed in the city.” The Crystal Academy played a special part in the $823,000 project, with its students participatingin the design of playground gear, right down to the way it felt to touch. Palacio-Pike, also the chair of the city’s Advisory Board for Disability Affairs, says it is especially poignant that the ribbon cutting is taking place now, since October is the city’s disabilities awareness month.