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Playground Born from a Family's Love

By Gregory Harris, assistant editor




The play structure at Angels Playground in Costa Mesa, Calif. is ADA compliant and 'barrier free'. The structure incorporates a series of canvas shade structures or 'sails' to provide shade to individual play equipment components. The canvas sails were composed of a variety of primary colors matching those of the play equipment and site amenities. The structures were repeated throughout the play areas to provide visual continuity. The concrete sidewalks connect to the existing pedestrian circulation system in the park and provided comfortable transition to the adjacent park areas.
Landscape Communications
John Deere
Rain Bird
John Deere
Ferris Industries Playworld

A family’s unconditional love for their daughter and contributions from many Orange County, Calif.-based businesses — including the landscape architecture firm Lynn Capouya, Inc. — has resulted in Costa Mesa, California’s first universally accessible playground.

Doug and Jennifer Hansen were anticipating the birth of their first child when an ultrasound revealed many birth defects. Their doctors said the numerous birth defects would result in only a few days survival for their newborn and recommended that the pregnancy be terminated.






The steel arbor structures ‘mimic’ the curved form of the play area and adjacent sidewalk. Each of the arbors provides surface mounted benches color coordinated with the arbor. The recycled rubber play surfacing exhibits both rectilinear and curvilinear forms in the color pattern, and coordinates with the primary color palette of the play structure and site amenities. The design provides generous fall zone area for user safety and comfortable circulation.


“We could not believe what we were hearing,” Doug Hansen said.

The Hansens immediately agreed that they would continue the pregnancy and agreed to name their baby daughter Angel, “and leave the future up to God.” Angel was born with multiple muscular-skeletal deformities, conjoined fingers, dislocated hips and a brain malformation resulting in Angel having about 25 percent of her brain.



"I wanted a play structure that would be big. It came in several sections and is exactly what I wanted."—Doug Hansen



Despite the many birth defects, the doctor’s initial prediction of a few days’ survival has proven to be wrong. Angel celebrated her seventh birthday in June.






Refurbishing of the playground site included a new bathroom facility (at top) equipped with ADA accessible design features, including ‘family’ bathroom facilities to accommodate parent and child of differing genders.


Hansen said his daughter began physical therapy as an infant and that during one of these sessions, he and the physical therapist began discussing accessible playgrounds. “The physical therapist said there are a couple of accessible playgrounds in the Los Angeles area, including one at Griffith Park,” Hansen said, noting the Griffith Park location more than one hour from his Orange County home.






The universally accessible play structure includes ramps that allow for wheelchair access. A primary goal of the project was to build a playground that gives all children the opportunity to play togther. In addition to the ramps on the play structure, many of the play areas on site have features that can be used by able-bodied children and wheelchair-bound children simultaneously.


Hansen visited the playground at Griffith Park and immediately determined that a similar playground was needed in Orange County.

“I spent hours on the Internet looking at what was needed for an accessible playground,” he said.






TeWinkle Park utilizes a uniform signage program to identify individual areas or features in the park. The placement of and orientation of the sign provided for a distinct arrival experience. The colors, materials and scale of the sign are consistent with other park areas (tennis club, skate park).


Hansen soon found out that building a universally accessible playground is a costly endeavor. As a result, the Hansens formed a charity – Angels Charity – to help improve the lives of special needs children.

“When went to the local playground, we would take Angel and our son DJ (who is three years younger than Angel),” Hansen said. “Angel would be in her wheelchair watching DJ play, and when he would move from one part of the playground to another, would move her wheelchair accordingly so she could watch him play.”






Opening Day! The City of Costa Mesa sponsored the opening day ceremonies and ribbon cutting. The event was attended by state and local dignitaries. Children, both ‘challenged’ and ‘able-bodied’ were able to experience the playground and participate together in a safe community park environment.


After extensive research and conducting a variety of fundraisers — including Angel’s Run, which saw Hansen run for 24 straight hours on a treadmill — Angels Playground went from a dream to reality.

“Doug is amazing in his dedication,” said Lynn Capouya, president of her namesake landscape architecture firm. “The city of Costa Mesa put up the land and some of the funding, and as a joint project, Christine Lampert (of Lampert Architects, Inc.) remodeled the bathroom facilities next to the playground.”






The play structure is approximately two times the size of the previous equipment and provides coverage over a large portion of the rubberized play surface material. The generous size and quantity of the components, and width of the transition platforms, allows for unimpeded play opportunities for users. The interrelationship between the curvilinear form of the individual play components and play surface patterns provides a sense of ‘movement’ and creates the opportunity for a dynamic play environment.


The new bathroom facility features ADA accessible design features and includes ‘family’ bathroom facilities to accommodate parent and child of differing genders. Lampert, an instructor at Orange Coast College, had her students submit design concepts for the restroom project. These student concepts were critiqued and evaluated for appropriateness and applicability to the site. Selected students were then employed by the architect to work on the design of the restroom facility.

The new universally accessible playground sits in Costa Mesa’s TeWinkle Park, a 1960s-era park that has been totally refurbished as a result of this project.






Lynn Capouya Inc.’s site plan for TeWinkle Park illustrates a playground that is designed around the size of the play structure. The existing sidewalks from an old playground were retained and the design allowed for 61 trees to be saved with an additional 32 being planted. Only eight trees were lost as a result of the project.


Capouya said the playground features a rubber mat surface manufactured by Surface America that wheelchairs can easily navigate, and a play structure by Landscape Structures. “I wanted a play structure that would be big,” Hansen added. “It came in several sections and is exactly what I wanted.”






The project area encompasses approximately 3 acres of park site and includes bathroom facilities, a play area (approximately 9,200 square feet) with play equipment and swings, two gazebo structures, four detached arbors, concrete seat walls, site amenities including handicap-accessible picnic tables, benches, barbeque stoves, trash receptacles, handicap-accessible drinking fountain, and safety/pedestrian light standards and fixtures. The design incorporated irrigation improvements, additional tree planting, and installation of sod turf throughout the project area.


The play area is roughly 9,200 square feet, which allows for the large play structure. In addition to the new play structure, Angels Playground includes two gazebo structures, four detached arbors, concrete seat walls, site amenities including handicap-accessible picnic tables, benches, barbeque stoves, trash receptacles, a handicap-accessible drinking fountain, and safety/pedestrian light standards and fixtures. The play structure includes a “glider” which allows two children using wheelchairs to play along side other children, and the site includes an elevated sand table that give wheelchair-bound children the opportunity to play in the sand.






The client requested incorporation of a sand play area to accommodate interactive play equipment for both the ‘physically challenged’ and ‘able-bodied’ child. This area also incorporates a ‘shade sail’ to visually connect the area to the primary play area.


The play structure is ADA compliant and “barrier free.” The structure incorporates a series of canvas shade structures or “sails” to provide shade to individual play equipment components. The canvas sails were composed of a variety of primary colors matching those of the play equipment and site amenities. The structures were repeated throughout the play areas to provide visual continuity. The concrete sidewalks connect to the existing pedestrian circulation system in the park and provided comfortable transition to the adjacent park areas.






The large gazebo structure is located proximate to the play equipment allowing the opportunity for joint uses. A coordinate effort was required to protect the existing mature trees within and around the playground area. A small hill with rock out-cropping provided a background to the large gazebo and picnic area viewed from the play area. This feature provided enclosure for the project area between the hill and adjacent residential areas.


In addition to the shade structures at the playground, the site features numerous trees that offer additional shade. Sixty-one trees were saved during the construction of the site, 32 trees were planted and only eight were lost as a result of the project.

Hansen said the playground has become wildly popular in the community, in fact, he visits the facility three or four times per week.






The concrete sidewalk system required coordination with the consulting arborist to protect the exiting tree inventory and incorporated the design of safety/pedestrian lighting. The placement of lighting fixtures required consideration and sensitivity to the adjacent residential areas as well.


“The opening was a dream come true,” he said. “It was a lot of work, but seeing all the kids and their families enjoying themselves is truly wonderful.”

Angels Playground would not have been successful without the contributions of a number of volunteers including:

 

  • Lynn Capouya Landscape ArchitectsAmerican Wrecking, Inc.Micon Construction, Inc. Landscape Structures Inc.California Department of Parks & Recreation The city of Costa Mesa
  • Numerous community foundations and individual contributions






The project included a new bathroom facility with detached shade arbor. The bathroom features ADA accessible design features and includes ‘family’ bathroom facilities to accommodate parent and child of differing genders. Placement of the facility structure is proximate to the play area, large and small picnic areas, and parking facilities.



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December 7, 2019, 4:30 am PDT

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