Pasadena's new playground created for one and all
Months before the city of Pasadena dedicated its first universal-access playground Jan. 14, the new play area already was a popular site with area children and their parents.
The city wouldn't have it any other way, Parks and Recreation Director Kirby Cardenas said.
"It's built for people to use, he said. "It's something we're very, very proud of."
The 7,000-square-foot playground features a wide array of play components, both elevated and ground level. Most are accessible by wheelchair.
The playground, based at Pasadena's Multipurpose Recreation Center, 5200 Burke Road, was designed to provide a place where children with and without disabilities can play together.
"It's not just the kids," said Tim Miller, recreation superintendent. "It allows parents in wheelchairs to be fully engaged in that play with them."
The project was initiated several years ago by the Pasadena Rotary Club, spearheaded by then Rotary member Sherry Gray, which offered to provide the city's parks and recreation department $100,000 toward a universal playground.
After some research, city officials accepted the offer and agreed to move forward. Additional funding came from a $88,000 federal Community Development Block Grant. Pasadena covered the remaining $170,000.
The city worked with Lone Star Recreation of north Houston to design and build the playground. The equipment was purchased from Landscape Structures Inc., based in Minnesota.
Among the playground features is a roller slide. Unlike a traditional slide, which creates friction on a child's skin, this slide allows for use without the risk of skin tears or injuries.
This feature is especially valuable for children with little or no sensation in their lower extremities.
"We developed it," said Bryan de la Rua of Lone Star Recreation, who added the slide has room for siblings to ride together, one supporting the other.
Another element, Sway Fun, can hold wheelchairs as it glides back and forth. The element also has benches and a table.
"You can roll right onto it," de la Rua said. "You get a swinging sensation."
The playground also features a number of traditional swings and two bucket swings with straps, and the sandbox has a crane device so children in wheelchairs can dig in the sand. A sand table allows similar play.
Nearby is a pavilion with wheelchair access for parents and children.
The ground is covered with a pour-and-play material designed with some give for children who fall and which provides a smooth surface for wheelchairs and scooters.
The overall play area has a Pasadena history theme and includes a train and caboose named the Strawberry Express.
The city plans to add landscaping to the site, Cardenas said, and a group of students from Sam Rayburn High School will add a mural to a wall on the grounds.
Aurora "Markie" Aguirre, who lives nearby in Houston's Sagemont area, attends monthly meetings of the Exceptional Parents of Little Angels with Special Needs support group at Pasadena's multipurpose center.
She and the other parents in the group have taken their children to play on the playground a number of times.
"I really loved it," said Aguirre, whose 16-year-old son, Max, has autism and developmental delays.
Accessible playgrounds like this provide children with disabilities invaluable playtime and memories and chances to simply enjoy being kids, she said.
In recent years, Aguirre and some other members of her group have driven their children to San Antonio so they could spend time at Morgan's Wonderland, an accessible family fun park. "The new playground in Pasadena is a big start for us here in Pasadena," Aguirre said.
Gray, who became director of the Rotary three years ago, said the playground was a much needed facility.
"Children with disabilities are often sitting on the sidelines. This gives them a chance for interactive play," Gray said.
"I'm thrilled to be a part of it."
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