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Providing Play for All
Landscape Architecture by Borrecco/Kilian & Associates

Kit Steven, Miracle Playsystems

Providing Play for All

The All Abilities Playground at Heather Farm Park, located in the East Bay Area town of Walnut Creek, Calif., was designed jointly by Brian Kilian of Borrecco/Kilian & Associates and Miracle Playsystems, and included custom-designed play equipment, artificial rocks, boulders and fallen trees, special shade structures, and colorful pour-in-place rubber surfacing.

Providing Play for All

The manmade mounds and surrounding areas are covered with synthetic turf. All told, the play area encompasses 30,000 square feet.

Providing Play for All

Many details of the play area work to serve kids of all abilities; including the colors that were chosen, which are sensitive to children with disabilities, and play pieces that allow for children of all abilities to play together in harmony. Some examples of this are ramps, gliders, sand play, a pull along, therapeutic swings, and sensory play panels.

Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek, California, (a community located about 20 miles east of San Francisco) is a truly awe-inspiring project that changes the overall feeling of a community and brings excitement and life to an otherwise tired and dated park. Carolyne Challice, architect with the city of Walnut Creek, brought together a support team of designers to makeover Heather Farm Park. The team included a collaborative effort from landscape architect Brian Kilian of Borrecco/Kilian & Associates and Miracle Playsystems, a manufacturer's rep of Miracle Recreation Equipment Company.
The existing 30,000-square-foot play area was one that had dated back to the early 1990's and needed a major renovation to bring it to current code compliance and to bring the fun back. Heather Farm Park is the largest public park in the city of Walnut Creek, which includes an aquatic complex, tennis center, skate park, ball fields as well as lakes with walking trails throughout. The city wanted a truly unique, destination playground that also offered fully inclusive play for children of all abilities. With the help of city funds, extensive donations from the local community, businesses and hospitals in the area, the project became a reality. What grew from this dream is the All Abilities Playground at Heather Farm Park.

Starting in 2013, Challice began to envision what this new playground would look like and how it could best cater to the city and the surrounding communities who call the park home.

With the added support of Kilian, she reached out to three different manufacturers and began getting ideas for the space. Through this process they chose which company would design and supply the equipment that would sit at the center of this special park. The custom designed playgrounds by this U.S. company and a European playground manufacturer, along with the manmade rocks, boulders and fallen trees, as well as the special shade structures throughout the play area, all work to add to the exciting space.

With the addition of colorful pour-in-place rubber surfacing coupled with synthetic turf mounds, the play area is designed for access for people of all abilities. It's common to see the children sliding down the man-made turf hills as part of the enjoyment in the park - just one more design element that was added through the planning process.

Providing Play for All

The ramps were positioned to direct movement and allow for a child in a wheelchair to access the playground from ground level up to a 6' elevated level.

Providing Play for All

In the sand play area, the inclusive sand flower was specifically designed with multiple access points, and offers sensory play for children with varied developmental and physical needs. Kids can enjoy tactile play elements, including the sand diggers, at the "just right" height for everyone. The divided sections also enable children to play among peers while staying in their own personal space.

The manufacturer's team of sales representatives and designers were able to help the city through the design process to ensure the new playgrounds would serve its intended purpose of inclusiveness. This can be seen throughout the park with many details; from the colors of the park to all ability play pieces.

For example, the swaying, bouncing, wheelchair-accessible glider makes play exciting for all kids. Two large side benches include springs for added motion, exterior standing ledges provide additional space, plus handles for gripping and pushing. The push-pull motion of the glider helps kids develop balance, coordination, eye tracking and muscle tone. Wheelchair access ensures that all children have the chance to feel the exhilaration of moving through space in fun, enriching ways!

The sand offers a unique tactile play opportunity to engage the senses at different heights. Children can enjoy the nurturing and valuable elements that allow for digging, pouring, sifting, and scooping sand.

Providing Play for All

Sensory Play Panels offer interactive, activities that encourage sensory development, problem solving, and cooperation through tactile, proprioceptive (awareness of one's body position relative to the environment), and vestibular (responding to the position of the head in relation to gravity) input. These Braille, Maze and Music and Braille panels also provide social areas where all children can play together on the same level.

Providing Play for All

The first two Mega Towers in this structure are connected by a berma bridge and the second and third are connected with a large crawl tube. Each upper level tower has many play panels offering different types of interactive play. On the left side is an ADA and wheelchair accessible section. There are also 2 large tube slides and a climbing challenge.

The Pull Along is a fun way for kids of all abilities to recline, grab the overhead bars and pull their bodies along a slide bed way. The Pull Along allows children to slide back and forth providing deep muscle pressure that supports and develops the vital sense of body awareness -proprioception. Learning about position grading of force and developing upper body strength and coordination are other benefits of the Pull Along.

The Therapeutic Swing provides a safety harness for children in need of extra security and support. This snug, supportive seat offers all children a high-flying ride while helping them coordinate head and eye movements, stay upright against gravity, develop balance, equilibrium, and coordinate actions on the right and left sides of the body.

The original park design had significant issues with access and elevation changes that made for a difficult start to the project. With the help of Borreco/Killian & Associates, the entire play space of over 10,000 square feet was redesigned to function as a fully-inclusive play environment. Because the main play structure has ramps that start at grade and move up to a 6-foot high level, the grading of the play areas needed to be just right. This new park ended up being so popular that the existing 45,000-square-foot parking area adjacent to the playground is often full and overflow parking is required!

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August 23, 2019, 9:30 am PDT

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