The St. Clair Park Board is looking into the possibility of developing an all-inclusive playground.
At the Monday, Feb. 26 meeting, board members heard a presentation from Steve Casada and Bethany Smisson with Play & Park Structures on options for an all-inclusive playground. The playground would either be at Orchard Park or Evergreen Park.
PlayCore, a national playground equipment company, is the parent of Play & Park Structures. About 28 companies are owned by PlayCore.
The park board is in the preliminary stages of hearing playground design options and exploring grant and sponsorship funding opportunities, according to City Administrator Travis Dierker.
He said the board is aware of how costly playground equipment can be, and for an all-inclusive park, the cost ranges between $20,000 to $100,000.
An inclusive playground is one where children of all abilities can play on – whether they have special needs, disabilities or those who are developing typically. The playground can incorporate sensory stations to provide children with physical and social experiences.
“It would be just an added opportunity for kids and youth to have another avenue to play, to be out in the community and to kind of get families out in the parks,” Dierker said.
In Franklin County, he said there is a growing need for inclusive playgrounds.
“If you look at the all-abilities parks, they are neat because they integrate kids with certain disabilities or a kid that may be in a wheelchair, they integrate them in the same play structure as a kid whose able to walk freely,” Dierker said.
“As well as they’re able to maybe integrate a kid that has autism or something, and they have certain mechanisms, certain play equipment that helps those children play in the same play structure.”
He added that St. Clair has play equipment for those with disabilities, but it is not unified with the rest of the playgrounds. With an inclusive playground, all play equipment will be combined.
Last spring, an all-inclusive playground was completed at Veterans Memorial Park in Union. It is called the Kiwanis Playground, which is located at the entrance of the park off Progress Parkway, on the east side of town. A second all-inclusive playground is scheduled to open this fall. Construction will begin soon.
In August, a Liberty Swing was unveiled at Campbell-Chapman Park in Sullivan.
The swing, designed for children with disabilities, provides children with the feeling of riding a roller coaster. Those in wheelchairs can ride the swing and it is suitable for children with Down syndrome, autism and other special needs.
A group of people from ABILITY Developmental Services of Franklin County, Atro Engineered Systems and the city of Sullivan formed the Partnership for Disability Awareness committee to raise funds for the swing.
The swing was manufactured and shipped from Australia. The total cost was $29,000; $12,000 for the swing and $10,000 for the cushion around the swing, among other costs.
The committee received donations and contributions from Atro Engineered Systems, the city of Sullivan, community businesses, families, Missouri Vinyl Products and the United Way.
Funds were also raised from the Disability Awareness Fair that took place for three years in Sullivan.