Santa Rosa welcomes first “all-inclusive” playground
- August 6, 2015
- / Louis Cooper
- / community-dashboard
Children play at the all-inclusive playground at the Navarre Sports Complex designed for children meeting the requirements of the American with Disabilities Act Monday, August 3, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/ Studer Community Institute)
Children of all ability levels now have a playground designed for them in Santa Rosa County.
Work is substantially complete on the county’s first “all-inclusive” playground, located at the Navarre Sports Complex on High School Road.
“An all-inclusive playground is designed for … typically developing children, as well as children with physical and developmental needs, to play together within one play area,” said Tammy Simmons, Santa Rosa’s parks director.
“The main difference is the surfacing material that allows for all abilities to utilize the entire play area and the addition of specialty equipment.”
The new playground meets the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
County Commissioner Rob Williamson, whose District 4 includes the Navarre area, said bringing more recreation to the area was among his priorities when he was elected last year.
“One requirement was that any new facility must be accessible to everyone regardless of ability. It was during … initial planning meetings I learned of the ‘all inclusive’ designation,” Williamson said. “We were going to provide these features before we knew there was a special name for it. Providing access to all is just the right thing to do.”
The surface material assists in the park’s inclusiveness because it is a poured-in-place solid form.
“This type of surfacing makes it easier for wheelchairs and strollers to enter and navigate in the play space, unlike mulch or other loose materials,” Simmons said. “Travel routes around and through the playground and surrounding areas should be wide enough for people and wheelchairs to pass, transfer onto and off of equipment, and get close to activities.”
All of the equipment at the park is intended to be enjoyable by any child, ages 2 to 12, but some is also designed to address children with specific challenges, like autism, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Larry Thompson, president of the Miracle League of Pensacola, praised Santa Rosa's decision to install the all-inclusive park. Thompson was instrumental in establishing the Miracle League baseball park on Nine Mile Road in Pensacola, a facility designed for special needs children.
"Those families pay taxes just like every other family pays taxes. Why shouldn't a portion of that money be paid every few years to help them," Thompson said. "It's money well spent."
Like the new playground in Navarre, the Miracle League park uses a rubbery, solid surface. Thompson said he feels like those surfaces are just safer for children in general.
"When you stop to think about what it would take just for a wheelchair to get through sand, even if it is motorized ... It just makes sense," he said.
The equipment in the new playground comes from Playworld, based in Pennsylvania.
The all-inclusive playground at the Navarre Sports Complex is designed for children meeting the requirements of the American with Disabilities Act Monday, August 3, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/ Studer Community Institute)
“Playworld utilizes eight keys to inclusion that make our inclusive playground designs accessible for people of all ages and abilities. All of our play environments provide multiple challenges that stimulate sensory, social and physical well-being,” according to Playworld’s website.
“Protective surfaces are absorbent, strong and easily navigable via wheelchair; we group activities into pods, rooms and zones that allow for calmness as well as stimulation. Finally, the design itself always features a ‘coolest thing’ that everyone will want to access — and we make it accessible to everyone.”
The park cost $173,882, which is about $71,000 more than a traditional playground would have cost. Most of that difference – about $57,000 – was included in the price of the superior surface material.
While the new equipment at Navarre Sports Complex is the first all-inclusive play facility in the county, Simmons said it may not be the last.
“There are talks of extending the Benny Russell Park (in Pace) to include an area with special needs equipment and surfacing to be adjoined to the current play area,” she said.