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Accessible Play: No More Watching from the Sidelines

Editor, Stephen Kelly

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An important aspect of playground design today is making sure all kids can access the play. In the "old days," really not that long ago, children with disabilities, often in wheelchairs, could only watch from the sidelines. Vicarious play just doesn't cut it. All kids enjoy play and want to participate. Landscape architects are now designing playgrounds with special features to let both the able-bodied and less able-bodied children to play side-by-side and enjoy just being kids: transfer stations and ramps, wider paths, stable surfaces, table play, ample space around equipment, swings to accommodate wheelchair bound kids (and even wheelchairs!), and auditory and tactile elements.

This feature looks at seven playgrounds around the country and how landscape architects are designing for universal playground access.

Click on any of the underlined names below to go to that playground.

Where There's a Will There's Hope

Preston's H.O.P.E is a fully accessible park in Cleveland, Ohio, home to Imagination Village, composed of two-story playhouses connected by double-wide raised walkways, preschool and school age play areas, an amphitheater, a sand and water play area, a game pavilion and a wide variety of play components.
Photo: Brian Matz, Aerial Aspect Photography

The scope of work for the landscape architects--Cawrse & Associates, Inc.--began early in the conceptual planning stage of Preston's H.O.P.E. Park Playground in Cleveland. Ohio. The client did not want the look of a traditional playground. The challenge was to use traditional pieces of play equipment in a nontraditional way, make them accessible for kids of all abilities and ensure the play equipment met the required safety standards and accessibility guidelines.

The park entry welcomes visitors to a large gathering plaza that presents the "Tree of Life" sculpture (the project's logo), a timber arbor, seating and dedication pavers. The gaming/picnic pavilion and restroom building are here also. The plaza leads to the "Pathway of Dreams," which encircles the village.
Photo: Cawrse & Associates, Inc.

"During many design work sessions between the clients, our office, architects, certified playground inspectors and manufacturers, the design was created, modified and finalized for construction," explains Richard Washington, ASLA, of Cawrse & Associates. "We were responsible for developing the final park master plan including the playground, walks, the raised walkway and surfacing design and developing those ideas from design development through construction documents."

The preschool area equipment has sound elements that play when children walk by the motion detectors or step on sound pads in the rubberized safety surfacing. The preschool area leads to the Imagination Village raised walkway.
Photo: Cawrse & Associates, Inc.

A Wide Variety of Play Equipment

The architect designed the playhouses in conjunction with the design for the raised walkway. To get the widest variety of play equipment design, the landscape architect specified play pieces from, GameTime, Miracle, Landscape Structure, Little Tikes and Playworld Systems, plus the Imagination Village structures (playhouses, fire station, school house, police station, store, bank and hotel) built by the Cleveland Home Builders Association. Using play pieces from this variety of manufacturers did not allow connecting one manufacturer's play equipment with another. This problem was resolved by creating ramps with mounding and textured retaining walls. The play equipment is attached to the top of the walls instead of to other play pieces.

A raised platform allows children in wheelchairs the ability to transfer from their wheelchair and use the play equipment, while retaining the required safety zones. Ground-level play equipment was selected and designed to accommodate wheelchairs.

The central park feature is the two-story Imagination Village made up of themed playhouses--a fire station, a schoolhouse, a police station, a store, a bank and a hotel. This imaginative play environment has themed decorations inside and outside. There is a ground-level rubberized surfacing road circling the playhouses, winding under the raised walkway and connecting to all of the front doors.
Photo: Cawrse & Associates, Inc.

Custom Play, Access, Safety

"Designing custom play equipment, while still complying with playground safety standards was a challenge when laying out the equipment," Mr. Washington says. Another challenge was how to create a raised walkway on the second floor of the playhouses that all children could access.

The preschool area has an earthen accessible ramp with stamped concrete retaining walls similar to the school age area. The play equipment here is also attached to the wall with transfer platforms.
Photo: Cawrse & Associates, Inc.

"Different materials and construction methods were explored for the raised walkway," explains Mr. Washington. "Several playground manufacturers were contacted to see if they would design a custom doublewide walkway, since such an application was unprecedented. After working with Landscape Structures, they were able to fabricate a seven-foot wide walkway by customizing their standard ramp components."

The client deems the park an enormous success and well received.

Through working with the client, consultants and manufacturers, the landscape architecture firm was able to develop a cohesive design for the equipment and a site that gives children with disabilities the opportunity to use play equipment that might normally be out of their reach.

Above & Below: The village is comprised of city-themed playhouses with raised walkways. Landscape Structures was able to fabricate a seven-foot wide walkway by customizing their standard ramp components. The walkway starts at ground level and ramps up, providing wheelchair access to a second floor of playhouses and a view of the other play areas. Perpendicular to the raised walkways (see below) are nooks with play equipment and access to the lower level play features.
Photos: Cawrse & Associates, Inc.

Wired for Sound

Preston's H.O.P.E. owner notes many custom-designed elements accommodate youngsters with mobility issues, vision or hearing impairments: "The park is wired with sounds (train whistle, flowing water, etc) that can help a sight impaired child navigate. The large windows in the village houses allow parents to use sign language to communicate with hearing impaired children while they play inside. Broad ramps throughout the park let youngsters in wheelchairs get a loftier view of the world. And the slides have transfer decks so children in wheelchairs can be helped onto the equipment."

About the Firm

Cawrse & Associates, Inc. is a Chagrin Falls, Ohio land planning and landscape architectural firm. The firm has been involved in single and multi-family land planning, commercial and industrial site planning, landscape design, and park planning since 1981 for public and private clients. Their projects have ranged in size from 600-acre mixed-use developments, 1,800 acre planned residential developments, to park designs ranging in size from several acres to 300 acres. The firm has received numerous state and national design awards for land planning projects and landscape designs. The firm has had extensive involvement with city planning commissions, private institutions and other public agencies. Cawrse & Associates, Inc. has a staff of five: three registered landscape architects, one landscape designer and additional support personnel. We also specialize in providing land planning, site planning, graphic design, and project management. Our firm's assets are its ability to work with a design team (planners, architects, engineers, consultants, etc.), respond and develop the product a client needs in a timely fashion, while designing within realistic project budgets.

Preston's H.O.P.E.

Preston's H.O.P.E is a fully accessible intergenerational public park located on the property of the Mandell Jewish Community Center in Beachwood, Ohio. The park offers a unique recreational environment where families of children with all types of disabilities can play together and participate equally with their able-bodied peers. A central goal of Preston's H.O.P.E. was to go beyond the traditional playground environment to offer physical and imaginative exploration. With an overall budget of approximately $2 million, the Preston Fund secured funding through private funds and donations and was completed in 2006.

Project Team

Jackie Fisher - Preston's mother and project director
Stacie Halpern - project fundraiser
Cawrse & Associates, Inc. - Landscape Architect
Dorsky Hodgson + Partners - Architect
RSA Architects, Inc. - Architect
Ciuni & Lynn Associates - Civil Engineer
Boundless Playgrounds - Playground Consultant

"Together We Play" -- St. Louis Children's Hospital All-Inclusive Playground

Inclusive playground elements for the St. Louis Children's Hospital's playground include transfer stations and ramps, wider paths, stable surfaces, ample space around equipment, swings to accommodate wheelchair-bound kids and sensory and musical play features. There's even a stainless steel slide meant for children with cochlear (in-ear) implants, as static electricity can affect those devices. Colorful poured-in-place safety surfacing is used throughout play areas.

In 2005, Child magazine ranked St. Louis Children's Hospital among the 10 best children's hospitals in America. The hospital is affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine, ranked as the fourth medical school in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

St. Louis Children's Hospital has shared its health care expertise by assisting area schools with the development of their inclusive playgrounds. The St. Louis Children's Hospital "Together We Play" all-inclusive playground was the largest project the hospital had ever undertaken. Completed in October 2006, the $750,000 project, spanning over two acres, is the largest all-inclusive playground in the St. Louis area. The project was a public/private collaboration of efforts including St. Louis County Parks Department, St. Louis Children's Hospital and several interested community vendors. With input from therapists, ADA specialists and other health care professionals at St. Louis Children's Hospital, SWT Design carefully planned every detail of the all-inclusive playground.

A major component to creative contact is the wheelchair accessible sand play area. Children are encouraged to dig for "dinosaur bones," while staying alert for Tyrannosaurus Rex, who has left his tracks.

A Whimsical Village

The project goal was for a play experience that was "more than simply a playground structure in the middle of mulch." The layout of the playground is whimsical and themed as a "village," engaging all the senses, inspiring children of all ages and abilities to explore and discover. Providing accessible recreation and a variety of play experiences were the primary focus of the design. The inclusive playground includes elements such as transfer stations and ramps, wider paths, stable surfaces, ample space around equipment, swings to accommodate wheelchair bound kids, and sensory and musical play features. The playgrounds are accessible from the Spray Plaza level (four feet higher than the playground) and from the "Challenge Walk" that encircles the inclusive playground. A ramping system from one tier to the next allows all to experience the diversity of play.

The sand play area, wheelchair accessible, has play tables at various heights to accommodate the challenges of each individual. Surprise elements such as "dinosaur bones" are located in the sand for discovery. Families can enjoy a picnic at the large pavilion located in the center of the playground or cool off during the hot summer chasing the dancing fountain jets in the spray ground. The Sound Play area lets kids of all ages take a crack at playing various percussion instruments for onlookers to "enjoy." All of the activities are surrounded by colorful landscape designed to be beautiful during all seasons.

Above & Below: The spinning play equipment purportedly offers "vestibular stimulations" of children's brains, which help increase development (or makes them dizzy). Various climbers were incorporated to help with upper body strength.

Role of the Landscape Architect

SWT Design was the lead design professional that oversaw the design and implementation of the project from developing the conceptual design, managing the program development and planning the site layout of the facility. The intense level of involvement trickled down to the smallest details, such as the placement of bronze ant sculptures scurrying along the engraved nursery rhymes. SWT Design challenged the St. Louis Children's Hospital to extend the idea of inclusive play beyond the play structure. This was a unique concept for the hospital. After opening, the inclusive playground has been extremely well received by the public. The hospital management is contemplating development of similar facilities elsewhere in the region.

From the drop-off/parking court the entry to the St. Louis Children's Hospital all-inclusive playground is through the arch, bordered by stainless steel punched panels. Just beyond the entry, the space unfolds into the central plaza and sprayground. Surrounding the sprayground are seat walls that help protect plantings, while encouraging onlookers to sit and enjoy the fun. The seatwalls have engraved nursery rhymes and decorative bronze ant sculptures that discourage skateboard use.

Special Factors and Significance

The project challenges were to work with the existing topography, trees and pavilion and integrate those three elements in such a way that it appeared the inclusive play development was designed in the context of the larger park.

Swings were segregated from the main playground for additional safety. Several seat types are used for various ages and abilities. The surfacing provides additional continuity and maximizes accessibility.

About the Firm

SWT Design of St. Louis, Mo. was founded in 1995 by Jim Wolterman and Ted Spaid. The firm is one of the most sought after in the Midwest. Clients value the firm's high quality and creative solutions, expertise in a broad spectrum of projects and commitment to strong client relationships. The firm specializes in public and institutional projects that include landscape design, open space planning, park and facility inventory and assessment, recreation planning, parks and trails design, maintenance and management issues and campus planning. SWT Design's diverse team of professionals includes landscape architects, land-use planners, urban designers, horticulturists, trail designers and programmers.

Above & Below: On-grade access ramps to both play structures allow entry for all users, giving a sense of height and integration to most of the activities.

Centennial Hills Park: The Big Finish

Above & Below: The new playground at Centennial Hills Park is built into the hillside, which allows wheelchair access at three locations. Typically, accessible ramps let a child in a wheelchair go from the safety surfacing up to about a three-foot level. This play structure allows access to play structures at three, five and seven foot heights. The playground is reported to be the first fully ADA-compliant playground in Las Vegas.
Photo: JW Zunino & Associates

LASN's March 2006 issue featured the phase-one development of Centennial Hills Park in Las Vegas Valley, Nev. ( The article described the work of Stantec Consulting, Inc., of Las Vegas, Nevada, and Cary Baird, managing senior associate, who prepared the master plan for Centennial Hill Park's full build-out, then the working drawings for phase one (22 acres). The custom playground offered butterfly sun shades, mushroom-shaped tables and chairs and caterpillar benches, a splash pad, picnic pavilions, a professional volleyball complex with custom sprinkler systems to cool the sand, and dog runs.

At that time, plans called for a 100-acre, multi-use city park. Phase two of the park included the construction of a $40.5 million, 98,385 square foot community center. The center amenities include four pools, two indoor and two outdoor, two gymnasiums, dance room, fitness center, classrooms and an exclusive active adult center specifically designed for adults over 50.

The sloping turf amphitheater accommodates 3,000 people. LED light strips in the walk bisect the two seating areas, guiding footsteps and preventing light pollution from distracting performances. There are bays for accessible seating large enough to accommodate multiple wheelchairs or a single wheelchair and guests. Gary Haymann, of USA SHADE & Fabric Structures, explains the sun shade design: "We wanted to design a tension structure with a clear span over the performance space and created multiple overlapping panels."

Phase Three, the Final Phase

Phase three development of Centennial Hills Park came to fruition with the grand opening on 8-8-08. (Editor's note: Same day as my son's wedding and, apparently, thousands of other weddings. It's the "magic" of eight, apparently.) Phase three added about 30 acres to the facility, including parking, grassy open space, children's play areas and water features, elevated trails with an educational component and an outdoor amphitheater with seating space for 3,500.

An important aspect of phase three is what is reported to be the first fully American's with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant playground in Las Vegas. The playground is built into a hillside with all three levels accessible via ramps and bridges designed specifically to allow wheelchair access. The playground is also full of rigor and challenge for fully-able children.

The landscape architect did not want to disrupt the natural flow of the land, but build a park that embraced the landscape. Interpretive signage along the walking paths describes the area's history geology, flora and fauna, plus the hydrogeology and alluvial actions of old river channels.
Photo credits: Sun Ports and JW Zunino & Associates

"We strategically placed (the) large children's play area into the hillside and incorporated water play, swings, an entirely accessible play structure," explains Christopher Langham of J.W. Zunino & Associates, the landscape architect and project manager for phase three of the park. Other elements include open turf for passive play, horseshoe pits, public art features with steel sculptures of prehistoric animals that once roamed this area, a faux-fossil wall and replications of indigenous reptiles, educational signage and an interpretive overlook area at the highest slope.

The park also has butterfly and flower custom-designed playground shade structures that use the same over-lapping tension panel design from the amphitheater but provide it with shade fabric. "We wanted to come up with something fun and creative to tie in with the various other shaded play areas," says Gary Haymann, executive vice president of sales for USA SHADE & Fabric Structures (including Sun Ports and FabriTec Structures brands), who designed and manufactured the unique shade covers for the play areas.

Concrete sculptures of common desert reptiles (rattlesnakes, chuckwallas, horned lizards and tortoises) are at park entry points and included as play elements in the tot lot area. A spray pad is at right.

Working with Elevations

One of the most unique features of the newest phase of the park is the elevated areas. City planners opted to work with the natural structures created by erosion in the area, marked by an old riverbed that was discovered during collaborative work with the Geoscience Department at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. It's believed the old riverbed is the last remnant of what used to be a large network of river channels.

"What used to be the bottom of the river is now the top of these hills," explains Michael Vlaovich, architectural project manager for the city of Las Vegas Department of Public Works. The flowing waters here supported prehistoric life, evidenced by significant fossil discoveries here."

To help residents and visitors understand the area's history geology, flora and fauna, interpretive signage along the walking paths describes those aspects, plus the hydrogeology and alluvial actions of ancient waters. Large steel sculptures of prehistoric animals also adorn the walkways.

"J.W. Zunino & Associates was very fortunate in being selected to design and create a park experience on a site that has rolling terrain and large geological hills," explains Christopher Langham, landscape architect and project manager. "Our design has been developed using the topographic variations as an opportunity, not a constraint."

The designers did not want to disrupt the natural flow of the land, but build a park that embraced the landscape. The flat areas are now flat play areas, while an undulated area is the site of a large outdoor grass amphitheater with seating space for 3,500.

"We were able to balance, cut and fill the terrain to minimize impact to the preservation area," explains the landscape architect.

A small, but important feature that enhances this community hub is the addition of electrical hook ups in the parking lot to accommodate a future weekly Farmer's Market. The Farmer's Market will provide neighbors fresh fruits and vegetables along with artisans selling furniture and jewelry.

Funding for the $12 million project came from the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act through the Bureau of Land Management.

For the swinging set, the playground offers four traditional swings and two high-back therapeutic swing seats.
Photos: JW Zunino & Associates

About the Firm

JW Zunino, as project lead, coordinated the efforts with Poggemeyer Design Group (civil & structural engineering), TJK Consulting Engineers (electrical engineering), Sun Ports (amphitheater & Tot Lot shade structures), Miracle Playground (Tot Lot, water play equipment, picnic shelters), YESCO (metal animal sculptures), CemRock (Tot Lot wall and concrete animals), and LM Scofield (custom concrete colors).

A Park to Build a Dream On

The elevated built play area features a custom precast concrete ship's bow. The ship theme is based on the steamship Olivette that brought many Cuban immigrants to the west central Tampa area. Undulating waves are interpreted by the curvilinear seat walls and multi-hued blue rubber surfacing. Shade sails, a flag stanchion and sea turtles continue the theme.

Freedom Playground is a new, universally accessible public playground in Tampa, Fla. It is a project born of a family's dream.

In April 2001, the Busansky family of Tampa, Fla. learned their first child, Sarah, had cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects her ability to sit, stand and walk. Sarah wanted to play at the local park, but the equipment and surfacing were not accessible to Sarah in her wheelchair. Sarah's mother dreamed of a place where Sarah and other children with physical restrictions could play together with able-bodied children. She enlisted the help of friends and family to create the Freedom Playground Foundation. The result is Freedom Playground in MacFarlane Park, completed in Feb. 2008. This regional park is in historic west central Tampa, a working class neighborhood largely populated by descendants of early Cuban and Italian immigrants. The playground is situated on the southeast corner of the park on 2.25 acres of land. The spot had two neglected picnic pavilions, an old set of play equipment, a portion of the park's looped asphalt walking trail, a deteriorated bathroom building and a few large oak trees. Two major perimeter streets and the main park entrance boulevard bound the park on three sides, effectively forming a green peninsula.

The elevated sand tables on the upper playground deck make sand play accessible to children in wheelchairs. A significant effort was made to take advantage of the large shade trees by wrapping the playground around them.

The playground was sited to allow direct access from the existing parking lot and two pavilions. A significant effort was made to take advantage of the large shade trees by wrapping the playground them. The site layout required the demolition of the bathrooms, which allowed greater physical and visual connections of the playground elements. New bathrooms will be constructed adjacent to the playground as part of a separate city contract.

Three core beliefs were the basis for the playground design. First, playgrounds give children an environment to build strength, develop social skills, face challenges and overcome obstacles. Universally accessible playgrounds help children learn to appreciate and respect physical diversity, which aids in removing certain stigmas about children with disabilities and allow children to broaden their friendships. Families with disabled children can now share the playground experience. In short, playgrounds should be fun places for all people.

These core beliefs led to a design that incorporated manufactured play equipment with a series of curvilinear retaining walls of interlocking segmental units, PIP concrete walls, decorative colored concrete paving and glass fiber reinforced concrete filled boulders arranged to create a variety of spaces from the existing grade up to a height of 55 inches above grade. The manufactured equipment, organized in a U-shape, connects to the built environment in two locations and two separate heights. This arrangement allows for a loop circulation system.

While the design offers the disabled multiple access points to the play structures, it also gives kids alternative fun routes to the upper deck, like climbing through the portals of the ship's bow.

Four major features make up the upper level of the built environment.

The central sand play area has mechanical sand diggers, talk tubes and precast turtles that spray water through a push button activation system. The sand area is contained on one side by a low retaining wall of boulders that leads into the courtyard of the manufactured equipment. This area is surfaced with PIP safety rubber and allows a second access to the central sand area.

The music room, the lower access point to the manufactured equipment, offers a Jamaican drum, bongo drums, a whirl chime and a set of seven large chimes.

The free playroom provides access to a rolling lawn, an embankment slide and the upper access point of the manufactured equipment. A grand staircase gives access to play equipment at the existing grade.

The key thematic element of the playground is a realistic interpretation of a ship's bow. The bow is a single piece of custom precast concrete. The ship theme is the result of the design team working with a city historian and reviewing transcripts of interviews of long-time residents of the neighborhood. They learned that many of the Cuban immigrants who settled the west central Tampa neighborhood arrived on the steamship Olivette. The nautical theme is carried throughout the project by the shade sails, a flag stanchion and multi-hued ocean water teeming with sea turtles.

Brick entry piers with decorative metal signage and hexagonal black and white pavers were other elements incorporated into the park that had cultural and historical significance.

Bench and table seating, including an abundance of handicap accessible models, are positioned throughout the playground for optimal observation and relaxation.

The entry at Freedom Playground at MacFarlane Park in Tampa, Fla. features brick piers with decorative metal signage and hexagonal black and white pavers. A custom ADA accessible community garden planter is just inside.

Approximately 12 feet of the asphalt parking lot was encroaching on the oak trees. That asphalt was removed and converted to a usable play area. The reduction in the asphalt was made possible by realigning the parking spaces for one-way traffic. Great care was given to protecting the trees' roots. The lead designer, an arborist and landscape architect, specified a protective construction offset, ranging from 10 to 15 feet around the trees.

The site grading was designed so the required concrete subslab under the PIP rubber surfacing could be poured on grade, eliminating potential root damage. In addition, WANE 3000 tree root feeders were installed in the concrete and rubber surfacing on 20 and 30-foot radii from the trees. Over 20 existing trees were relocated on site, the majority on the south side of the asphalt walking trail, in an effort to provide additional shade.

A decorative metal fence was installed to separate the playground from the parking lot. A concrete sidewalk, flush with the pavement was also installed the entire length of the parking. All of the parking spaces were re-striped to meet ADA handicap parking space dimensions, even though only four are posted as handicap parking. This allows for functional overflow handicap parking spaces needed during special events, plus provides convenient traditional parking spaces for most days. All spaces satisfy ADA requirements.

The glass fiber reinforced concrete rocks and a curving climbable retaining wall (with safety fencing) separate the upper sand area and the courtyard playroom. The sand area also has a PIP safety rubber surface.

About the Firm

Hardeman Kempton & Associates (HKA) provides landscape architecture, land planning and civil engineering design services for municipal and private recreations projects. HKA was originally founded to create a complete landscape architecture design/build operation with its associate company, Hardeman Landscape Nursery, Inc., allowing the firm to provide consultation and design services with a complete understanding of the construction process. Over the past 15 years, HKA's park and sports planning studio has developed an extensive portfolio of significant park projects throughout west central Florida, including regional sports parks, urban green spaces, waterfront parks and playgrounds.

Adventure Island's Sound of Music

Above & Below: The concrete ramping outside the playground gives children in wheelchairs access to the second story play pieces. The slope is 1:12 (8.33 percent), which meets ADA requirements. The playground is closed at night. The lighting (Quality Lighting) is security lighting activated by motion sensors. The 20-inch wide housing is finned cast aluminum and accommodates up to 400 watt lamps.

Imagine a playground where children search for hidden artifacts in an archaeological dig, conduct a symphony, or launch to the moon in a spaceship.

Now imagine that all children can experience that kind of fun no matter what their ability level. Also imagine that children in wheelchairs or those with sensory, visual or cognitive disabilities can play side-by-side with their able-bodied peers.

That's Adventure Island, a universally accessible playground in Settler's Park, Meridian Idaho.

The tuned drums (Freenotes) area is a social setting for children of all abilities and ages. Constructed of painted vinyl the varied sizes and heights of the drums make distinctive pitches

While more and more states are integrating accessibility into their playgrounds, Adventure Island is believed to be the first of its kind in Idaho and a model for other communities in the gem state.

This is a community built playground, meaning hand-assembled by volunteers in Meridian.

Several of the parents who initiated Adventure Island Playground have children who attended JumpStart, a program of Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center for children with neurological disorders. Because JumpStart partners with other child development/education programs, JumpStart children play and learn with children who do not have neurological challenges. Such meaningful interactions and experiences is the mission of Adventure Island Playground.

The anodized aluminum chimes ("Swirl") deeply resonate by an ABS and PVC plate.

The landscape architects of The Land Group, Inc., Matthew T. Adams, ASLA, principal, provided design work as an in-kind donation to the Adventure Island Group, working from initial concept through construction drawings and construction observation, including product selection and specification, community facilitation, permitting and bidding services. (Note: The landscape architects were contracted to prepare design documents for the 58-acre Settlers Park, of which Adventure Island is a part.)

The durable plastic-coated play elements (Playworld Systems) provide tactile play opportunities for children of all abilities. Poured-in-place rubber (NoFault) is the safety surfacing.

Sound Garden

The Sound Garden is the most recent phase of Adventure Island. The "sound" refers to nine large-scale musical instruments that provide interactive play for children of all abilities. The Sound Garden is just adjacent to the climbing area--Little City of Rocks. These play elements, along with the existing playground structure, swing area and splash pad, are the cornerstone of the 56-acre community park.

Peer interaction and social gathering for children is a major focus and component of the playground. Children of all abilities are able to interact socially with their peers because the physical and spatial qualities of the site do not limit access to any particular location or play element.

The ramp to the second story play equipment is accessed from the sidewalk. The wheelchair ramps (1:12 slope) have continuous handrails. There are landings at each foot of rise and are large enough to allow for a wheelchair turning space (60-in. dia.).

About the Firm

The Land Group, Inc. of Eagle, Idaho was founded in 1988 by David Koga and Phil Hull. From the start, the firm's reputation has been based on providing technically-sound and cost-effective services. Originally focusing on landscape architecture services, the firm now provides a full range of design and consulting services in the fields of landscape architecture, civil engineering, surveying, planning, golf course engineering and irrigation, graphic communication and photography. The firm's focus is working together across disciplines as a cohesive team.

  • Project: Adventure Island PlaygroundOwner: City of Meridian,
  • IdahoProject Landscape Architects: Jeremy Ainsworth and Matthew T. Adams, The Land Group, Inc.
  • Community Group: Adventure Island Group

Felburn Foundation Boundless Playground: Wakulla County, Fla.

The Felburn Foundation Boundless Playground is at the Wakulla Station Trailhead along the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail in Wakulla County, Fla. The facility's grand opening was June 3, 2008. RS&H provided all design services for the Boundless Playground pro bono. The Felburn Foundation, a nature-based organization, donated $250,000 for construction costs.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Office of Greenways & Trails (OGT) teamed with facilities and infrastructure consulting firm RS&H and Miller Recreation to construct the Felburn Foundation Boundless Playground at the Wakulla Station Trailhead along the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail in Wakulla County, Florida.

Barrier-free Boundless Playgrounds enable all children--including those with physical, developmental, cognitive and sensory disabilities--to experience independent, self-directed play. Playground equipment is sensory rich so children with developmental and sensory disabilities can actively and safely play with their peers. Simple differences include a poured-in-place rubber surface, ramps on the play sets, elevated sand table and activity panels and swings and bouncers with high-back support. Such extraordinary playgrounds encourage everyone to be in the middle of play, including interaction with parents or grandparents who may also require a barrier-free situation.

The girl in pink shows her skills on the balance beam in the Beta Play Center, home to play elements designed for children 2 to 5. Here, the activities are at or near ground level, which is said to "encourages autonomous and looping play, as well as physical and sensory development." A combination of safety surfaces provides visual interest. A simple wooden perimeter fence separates play areas from vehicle parking.

RS&H joined the Florida Department of Environment Protection's (DEP) Office of Greenways & Trail (OGT) to celebrate the grand opening of the Felburn Foundation Boundless Playground on June 3, 2008. DEP Deputy Secretary Bob Ballard, OGT Director Jena Brooks and Jim DeBeaugrine, interim director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), were in attendance, along with OGT Public Outreach Coordinator Carol Sheppard and RS&H Community Design Service Group Leader Ron Sill.

The Felburn Foundation, a nature-based organization, donated $250,000 for construction costs.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Office of Greenways & Trails - Owner

The DEP's Office of Greenways & Trails (OGT) constructed its first Boundless Playground on the Cross Florida Greenway near Ocala in 2005. In June 2008, it opened a second barrier-free playground in Wakulla County, Fla. along the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail.

The OGT, with the support of the nature-based Felburn Foundation, facilitated the creation of Boundless Playgrounds on the state's greenways and trails. Most of Florida's Boundless Playgrounds are located on school properties and therefore have limited hours of operation and public accessibility. The location of these well-designed playgrounds on state trails allows more playtime for more children.

The Gamma Play Center offers more rigorous and challenging play experiences for children 5 to 12, like the Hula Climber, which our girl in pink is navigating.

The OGT has recently been recognized with state and national awards for its work in promoting trail accessibility and the creation of the Boundless Playgrounds on its managed lands.

"All children should have access to outdoor recreation and these barrier-free playgrounds," said OGT director Jena Brooks. "With the generosity of the Felburn Foundation and the community-spirit of companies such as RS&H, we've been able to provide these accessible playgrounds on two of our properties and hope to build more of these facilities in the future."

For the Boundless Playground at Wakulla Station, Miller Recreation identified several of its age-appropriate play centers that would be fun, challenging and rigorous. The team focused on the mission of the National Center for Boundless Playgrounds: "Play is a primary life function. It is an independent, self-directed activity that leads to the progressive acquisition of life skills. All children, with and without disabilities, must play. Play is quintessential to learning."

The side-by-side upright, articulated Sand Diggers allow children with disabilities to play alongside other kids. In the background, children play on swings and bouncers with high back supports. Shaded picnic pavilions are scattered throughout the site and the nearby woods provide a picturesque backdrop for the playground.

About the Firm

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A Place to Play Outside the Hospital: Lake Taylor Hospital Pediatric Playground, Norfolk, Va.

The pediatric playground at the Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital in Norfolk, Va. was built specifically for the severely mentally and physically handicapped children living at the hospital. Taking the children to local parks was just not practical. Poured-in-place surfacing in pleasing colors, access ramps, and a fabric shade are pictured. The designers focused on play elements for the senses. All plants were specifically selected for their nontoxic qualities, in case the children chewed on them.

The LandMark Design Group prepared the master plan for the Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital Pediatric Playground in Norfolk, Va. Work included a topographic survey, contract documents for bidding and assistance throughout the bidding.

Because of the significant amount of medical attention the young patients require, they live at the hospital. The children, from infants to 18 year olds, are severely mentally and physically handicapped. All are wheelchair-bound and many are dependent upon ventilators and respirators.

While the hospital has indoor facilities for the children, including classrooms and playrooms, there was no outdoor play area. As the children have debilitating handicaps, the staff could not easily take them to a neighborhood park or the beach.

The water spray/mister is appreciated by the children during those hot, humid Norfolk, Va. summer months. The sprayer has two activating options, one that can be operated by the children and a manual valve that enables the staff to turn the mister on and off.

Working closely with the professional staff at Lake Taylor Hospital, the LandMark planners and designers basically sought to provide the young people with stimulating play. The play program focuses on sense of touch, sight, sound and scent. Tactile stimulation is present in the activity tables, a water spray/mister, a deck with assorted equipment and specified areas where sensory plantings of turf and other plant materials are within the children's reach. The tables are varying heights to accommodate several styles and sizes of wheelchairs. A water spray/mister helps cool off the children in Norfolk's hot summer months.

A special swing set with platforms was designed to load wheelchairs and let the children experience swinging, an activity universal to kids everywhere.

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December 7, 2019, 3:40 am PDT

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