Universally Accessible Playgrounds in Sacramento
By Lauren Ivy Chiong
If you are a parent of a special needs child, you might feel the playground options in Sacramento are few. Yet there are several universally accessible playgrounds in the area, hidden gems that will delight children of all abilities. One has a solar-system theme and special play panels featuring Braille. Another has a magical forest theme, and the third features a wheel-chair accessible swing. All of these playgrounds facilitate and celebrate play, guaranteeing hours of fun while encouraging kids to use their imaginations, and enabling them to develop fine and gross motor skills.
Mahany Park in Roseville | 1545 Pleasant Grove Blvd., at the corner of Woodcreek Oaks and Pleasant Grove Boulevard
This park started with a request by two local moms for an accessible swing for their community. According to Tara Gee, Park Planning & Development Superintendent of Parks, Recreation & Libraries for the City of Roseville, community interest quickly grew, and grassroots fundraising began. “Project Play,” which sought to provide access to play for all abilities, soon took shape. The universally accessible playground at Mahany Park is the result. (Maidu Regional Park is also part of “Project Play.”)
The two local moms, Jackie DeMuth and Laurie Newton, ultimately received the Champion of the Community Award from the California Park & Recreation Society for their efforts. “‘Project Play” at Mahany was a once-in-a-lifetime project,” explains Gee. “The community-based project raised over $1.7 million in funds. To make this project universally accessible, it cost more than four times the amount of a typical playground. We had great partners not only in the fundraising, but with the designers and contractors.”
Gee stated that a typical playground, while meeting standards and requirements of accessibility, is not universally accessible. “‘Universal accessibility means ‘no barriers at all’. We designed the playground to touch all of the senses: sound, sight, mobility, and touch,” Gee said.
The enriching experience for kids of all ages and varying abilities features an inviting magical forest theme in an adventure area for older kids, a wheelchair-accessible hollow log for exploring, and a toddler play area.
Kloss Park in Elk Grove | 6501 Laguna Park Drive, next to Foulks Ranch Elementary School
Updated to a universally accessible design in 2007, children of all abilities will love this neighborhood playground featuring children’s favorites such as bowl spinners, sand/water play, and a kid-sized model of an ambulance for exciting “let’s pretend” games.
The playground’s most outstanding feature, however, is its wheelchair swing. Paul Mewton, Chief of Planning, Design & Construction at the Cosumnes Community Services District Parks and Recreation Department, explained that it is one of the few of its kind in the area.
“This was something that some local parents and activists asked for during the planning of the playground,” said Mewton. “Including pieces that provide movement and are safe for kids with disabilities is a challenge, and this particular swing, which comes from Australia, was one of the few pieces available at the time that allowed kids who had never had the experience of swinging the opportunity to fly through the air, just like their more able playmates.”
Southside Playground in Downtown Sacramento | 2115 6th Street near U Street
This popular playground in the heart of downtown Sacramento encourages the inquisitiveness of children with a solar-system theme. The 16,800-square-foot playground accommodates different age groups with three distinct play areas: a play section with a rubber surface for babies and toddlers under two, a tot lot for preschoolers (age two to five), and an adventure play area for children age five to twelve. The adventure and preschool play equipment feature multiple levels with numerous access ramps and handrails.
The Southside Playground is especially focused on creating sensory experiences for young children. The preschool play area has play panels featuring opportunities to learn Braille and a slide with a tactile surface. This aesthetically-pleasing playground boasts therapeutic gardens as well as unique artwork in the form of tiled mosaics on a decorative wall, and a sun pattern in the paving enhances the galaxy theme.