“It’s a lot of fun and it’s amazing”: New Inclusive Playground Opens in Eagan
“The fun part is when you watch a kid play, you’ll see where they gravitate to,” said Jay Webber, the designer. “The Americans with Disabilities Act has a law that governs how we design, but we actually go beyond that.”
There is wheelchair access almost everywhere. Studded ramps take you smoothly from the parking lot to the playground itself. Raised play areas – normally a barrier for disabled children – have their own ramps.
“There are kids I’ve seen in wheelchairs who watch their friends and can’t participate,” said Sarah Bertram of Apple Valley. “So that’s a very beautiful thing.”
There are basketball hoops of almost any height and a pulley tower with a special strap chair that makes it accessible to everyone.
“It’s a safe and accessible place,” said Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire. “You can play a melody or play a bank stroke, do whatever you want here.”
And then there is the specially designed rubber flooring to prevent fall injuries.
“Previously, the number was 80 to 85% of all injuries from falls off the playing field,” said Webber. “If there is no adequate surface under the playing equipment, you are going to find more injuries.”
Kimmel said the padded surface and improved access to a number of play areas are major benefits for her and her family.
“And on some of them, I can go there, like there’s a winding ramp,” she said. “Some of them are just big enough that I can drive over some of these structures with my wheelchair.”
Kimmel said she and her mother, Angie, are planning to bring her 7-year-old niece.
“Anna can access most of these places, although she ends up on the deck (an elevated play area) with her,” Angie Kimmel said. “My niece thinks she’s playing with Anna, and she is playing with Anna. “
Even with the recent heat wave, the plastic and rubber materials keep the playing field cool. The slides and seats are pastel colored to keep them from getting too hot to the touch. The padded floor areas are beige in color, cooler than, say, green or black.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Bertram. “We have been looking for something accessible in this area for a long time.
There are touch panels that emit animal sounds that allow her 5 year old son Matthew, who has been blind since birth, to learn and grow.
She also likes the safety of the playground.
“So we’re really drawn to the sound, which is a really interesting piece for this park,” explained Bertram. “So his balance is not very good… he would fall on some playgrounds with wood chips, sand and gravel, so something as flat like this is perfect for him.”
A place for all children and their families.
“Being able to interact with your child is something, especially if your child has a disability,” said Angie Kimmel. “There are all these sensory things.”
If you listen carefully you will almost hear the wonderful sound of summer: children laughing and playing.
“All of the kids in the community now have a place to come to,” said Webber. “Whether they have mobility problems, sensory problems or whether they are able to come and play together in the same place.”