Proposed All-Abilities Playground

This is a proposed concept of the Washington Jaycees all-abilities park, which will be built east of the Kohmueller farmhouse along South Lakeshore Drive near Lions Lake. The design process is ongoing and visual appearance may change, but the park will feature a playground with equipment for children with special needs but be open to children of all abilities.

Progress is being made on the All-Abilities Park, which is currently under construction east of the Kohmueller House near Lions Lake.

Darren Dunkle, parks director, said the department will go out to bid for the first phase of outside construction within two to three weeks.

In-house crews from Public Works have been on site moving dirt, working to grade and prepare the site.

Once the first phase has begun, the parks department will go out to bid on the second phase, which includes surfacing.

The park is estimated to be completed this spring, although no date has been nailed down.

Equipment will take several weeks to arrive. Dunkle said the decision hasn’t yet been made on whether in-house staff will install the equipment or whether that work will be contracted out.

“Most likely if we contract out, it will be installed quicker, because our in-house staff have other responsibilities they need to do as well,” he said.

The determination will be based on budget, Dunkle said, adding that the department is working in partnership with the Washington Jaycees on the project.

“The amount of funds they’re able to raise will be a factor as well,” he said.

Dunkle recently attended a one-day seminar in Sunset Hills on inclusive and nature-themed playgrounds in preparation of opening the all-abilities park.

The seminar discussed the differences between what is required in the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) law and what “inclusive recreation” means.

“The big difference is that the majority of playgrounds follow the minimum regulations to be in compliance with ADA,” he said, “where an all-inclusive or all-abilities playground goes above and beyond the ADA code and provides more components or pieces of equipment that are geared toward certain disabilities.”

Dunkle said the playground will be comparable to other all-abilities playgrounds in other areas, however, it will be the first one of its kind in Franklin County.

“I think it’s going to be a great thing,” he said. “I think it’s good regardless of whether we’re the ones doing it or (another city) is doing it because there’s such a need.”

Currently, families with children who have disabilities have to drive to St. Charles, Lake Saint Louis, Clayton or another community to take their children to a similar park.

“You have to make it a day outing if you’re doing that,” he said. “I think it’s good to have it here in Franklin County, so it’s feasible for kids to get that experience without having to drive 45 minutes to an hour.”