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Mitchell seeks to add more accessible playgrounds

Daily Republic - 10/30/2019

Oct. 30--Individuals living with disabilities could soon be playing on a local playground completely equipped with accessible features, a first of its kind for the city of Mitchell.

Plans for an accessible playground at Patton Young Park will go before the Mitchell Parks and Recreation Board at an upcoming meeting. Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell said it's a chance to create a more inclusive atmosphere in city-managed parks.

"I want to provide opportunities for everybody, and it doesn't matter what your physical abilities are, we should all be able to use our city's facilities, parks and playgrounds," Powell said. "We embrace our population of people who have different disabilities, and we want to make sure they are all included in our recreation opportunities."

Powell estimates the accessible playground will cost $120,000, which would be constructed at Patton Young Park by 2021, should the Parks and Recreation Board and City Council approve the project. The project will replace the existing playground at the park.

The playground design features a ramp that extends throughout the entire playground, giving wheelchair users access to all the slides and features. Another unique element would be the rocking boat that sits just above ground level.

"Everything will be (Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant), and this will be the most accessible, inclusive playground that we offer here in Mitchell," Powell said. "It's exciting, because there is nobody that could not use this playground. I would also look to add some interactive features that could be installed throughout the playground."

The ADA now requires newly constructed and altered playgrounds to be accessible for people who have disabilities, but Powell said there are playgrounds meeting minimum ADA requirements that lack complete accessibility throughout the entire play-set.

The city's existing playgrounds fulfill the minimum ADA requirements, but Powell said he would like to see more accessible features at all the parks and playgrounds. Hitchcock Park is a prime example of a playground meeting ADA requirements but lacking all of the accessible features that the new Patton Young Park would have. Some of the common ADA-compliant surfaces for playgrounds include synthetic turf, rubber tile and wood chips.

"I love Hitchcock Park and the ADA surface is great, as you can roll a wheelchair up to the play features on the playground surface but you can't access every element of the playground," Powell said.

For Pam Hanna, who serves as the executive director of LifeQuest, the addition of the accessible playground would be a vital asset to the community. As the leader of a local organization that offers support to people living with developmental disabilities, Hanna said the playground reflects the city's leadership efforts to create a more inclusive community.

"It would provide opportunities for all children to unite and play together so they could interact and laugh," Hanna said. "That's such a valuable part of every child's life, and those kids could play and interact together, so nobody would be watching from the sidelines. We all need that, and inclusion is so important for everybody, not just for people with disabilities."

Considering Patton Young Park -- located in the southwest section of the city -- is among the community's most popular parks, Powell said it makes for a great location to implement the first all-accessible playground. His goal for the future includes adding similar accessible playgrounds throughout the city.

"I would love to see each part of town to have a similar inclusive and accessible playground, and this is one way we are providing the same opportunities for everyone," Powell said.

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