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Neighbors Team Up For a Group Adventure

By Erik Skindrud, regional editor






The park's Lilliput feature is set adjacent to the larger Grand Voyage play structure. This part of the park was designed for children up to five years old and is cushioned with rubberized, poured-in-place material. Photos courtesy of www.recreationidaho.com


Idaho's Adventure Island playground is a year old, and a sparkling example of how neighborhood advocates can team up with design firms and manufacturers to bring amenities to local parks.

From Vision to Reality

The story starts back in 1999, when Meridian, Ida. mom Angela Lindig searched for ways to include daughter Amber in local outings. Now 9, Amber has Rett Syndrome, a developmental disability that limits coordination and mobility.

"Finding places to go was becoming difficult," Lindig recalled. "Then I read an article about a universally-accessible playground. I thought first how amazing the idea was--and then I knew we had to create something like it here."

It would take close to five years for the dream to turn into hardscape, turf and play structures. In August of 2004, more than 300 volunteers converged on Settler's Park to install most of the playground's first phase. The park opened to the public in November 2004.

Among the volunteers were employees from The Design Group Inc., a landscape architecture firm based in the Boise suburb of Eagle. With principal David Koga, the firm completed almost all of the phase 1 design work on a pro-bono basis. The firm is completing design work for phase 2 at "greatly reduced" rates, Lindig said.






PlayWorld Systems Inc. donated play structures for Meridian, Ida.'s Adventure Island Playground. Note how the walkway passes through the structure, easily wheelchair-accessible from the sidewalk at the photo's extreme right.


Design Details

The Adventure Island project parallels the better-known National Center for Boundless Playgrounds, the Connecticut-based group that pioneered the accessible-play movement. Since the group's founding a decade ago, more than 80 playgrounds sponsored by Boundless Playgrounds have opened across the U.S.

So far Adventure Island is the first universally-accessible playground in Idaho. As built, the park incorporates ramps and elevated walkways that let wheelchair-bound children enter and interact. The main play structures are surrounded by rubberized, poured-in-place surfaces that are set flush with surrounding hardscapes to ensure safety.

Curbs and ladders are among items that are avoided to keep the playground safe and accessible. In this sense, the project suggests that a few simple changes can create playgrounds that are much more accessible than traditional ones.

Building Community

Bringing people together--who might not otherwise work or play together--is the key project benefit.

The teamwork that built the playground also created what Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam calls "social capital"--the sense of shared purpose that prompts neighbors to engage in cooperative endeavors. It's a factor that seems to be in decline in the country--according to Putnam--but one that landscape architects can play a role in bringing back.

Forging ties between disabled youngsters and their higher-functioning peers may help all involved grow into more tolerant and communicative adults.

Final Phase

Fundraising for the playground's final phase is continuing, with another $500,000 or more needed to install a number of smaller and more specialized play features. These "sensory rich exploratory areas" will include a splash pad, swings, a sand-play area and outdoor musical instruments. The project's web site, www.adventureislandplayground.org, has more phase 2 information and details for anyone looking to join the team or lend a hand.

The Land Group Inc.'s web site is at www.thelandgroupinc.com

The team hopes to complete the playground's second phase by the end of 2006.







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December 14, 2019, 7:43 am PDT

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