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Bachman Lake's Equal Opportunity Playground

By Leslie McGuire, managing editor

Karl von Bieberstein, of NJB, Inc., Landscape Architects, who designed the innovative new playground at Bachman Lake, Texas--Child's Play--will tell you delightedly that the most important thing about this playground is the concept behind it. And he's correct. Although there are many playgrounds that have been designed for use by handicapped children and children with disabilities, the initial research and talks with physical therapists that were conducted by the team that built Child's Play indicated that what these children desperately need is to be able to play with children who have no handicaps,






The site, donated by the city of Dallas, is adjacent to a parking area and some existing bald cypress trees. The landscape architects worked around the trees so they could be preserved. A picnic pavillion was renovated and incorporated into the site as a shade structure and place where Rotary members can meet and hold events.


The initiative then became finding a way to design a playground that was completely accessible yet fun and challenging for all children of all abilities. When faced with this task and its even more challenging criteria, the team had to meet often. Two to three design workshops were held with the architects, Debra Muse of Recreation Consultants of Texas, LLC, and Landscape Structures, Inc., as well as Custom Swings of Texas. In addition, there were many conference calls because, due to the massive size of the project, fund raising was of primary concern.






Southwest Airlines donated a custom pilot panel and one of the pieces of play equipment, a spring toy model of a Southwest airplane.


The playground is a network of ramps, platforms and non-traditional activity centers all accessible to children in wheelchairs, on crutches or using walkers. Instead of sand or pebbles underneath the equipment, resilient rubber and wood fiber can cushion falls while facilitating wheelchair access. The playground is also adjacent to Scottish Rite Hospital that treats disabled children. So not only can children access the playground from the center, it is within walking distance, they can also access the equipment--all of it. The playground is also--most importantly for the children--putting them on equipment which is usually only available to children who can walk.






Instead of sand or pebbles underneath the equipment, resilient rubber and wood fiber can cushion falls while facilitating wheelchair access. Concrete and rustic terrrazo were placed in the entry plaza adjacent to the playground to form an entry portal.


Interestingly enough, once everyone began to think about what was required and what the benefits would be, there emerged more and more reasons why this was an extremely good idea. For starters, a totally accessible playground is then accessible to children whose parents are handicapped or in wheelchairs, which is something no one ever thinks about! That allows the adults to participate in creative play with their able bodied children. In yet another configuration, creating a totally accessible playground with equipment that's fun for all abilities allows parents who have a handicapped child as well as able-bodied children to take them to the same park where they can all play together. In a family where one child is on crutches or in a wheel chair and the others are not, this playground becomes a very special place, not just recreationally, but psychologically and emotionally as well.






The "Lighthouse" is a play structure with a sidebar climbing panel. The surfacing below is Fibar, an engineered, shredded wood fiber with a minimum depth of 12 inches.


The third, and in many ways most important, aspect of the project was that this was a project initiated by the Rotary Club of Park Cities. 2005 was the 100th anniversary of the Rotary International, and there was a worldwide challenge for all the groups to come up with a powerful project. The Rotary Club decided to build this playground and launched a major fund raising appeal to get, in addition to the money, $175 thousand of in-kind donations from contractors, installers, and fabricators. The total value of money raised, either actual cash or donated time, is about a half a million dollars. The cash outlay was about two to three hundred thousand, and a very significant community effort was required to put it all together. To maximize the funds available, 60 volunteers from the Rotary Club were used to help with the work.

In a family where one child is on crutches or in a wheel chair and the others are not, this playground becomes a very special place, not just recreationally, but psychologically and emotionally as well.

Using land donated by the city of Dallas, the club raised money from area foundations, businesses and private donors. The headquarters of Southwest Airlines is located in Dallas, right across the lake from the playground. Debra Muse's father, Lamar, founder Southwest airlines, is one of the benefactors. The playground is adjacent to Bachman Lake and is themed with nautical items, such as a ship with bow and wheel, a lighthouse, and a boat with open stern that's accessible for wheelchairs.






A three-ramp entry way, which added to the complexity of the design and construction, was necessary to provide complete accessibility to all areas of the playground.


The site is next to the Scottish Rite hospital which treats disabled children. Only one playground in the city, Reverchon Park, was designed specifically with handicapped children in mind. The nearest playground to the center is a quarter mile away and not wheelchair accessible. This is the second playground designed with handicapped children in mind, and not only will it be able to cater to the Bachman Lake Recreation Center, but to the summer and after school programs for hundreds of disabled children every year. The park will also serve the Easter Seals Foundation of Greater Dallas' Treatment Center at Bachman Creek Plaza. Children coming to the center for treatment will also benefit from this wide-ranging site. Karl von Bieberstein is a past president of the Rotary Club of Park Cities, and NJB donated their design and all their fees for the playground as a gift to the children of Dallas.



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December 6, 2019, 12:39 pm PDT

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