Universal Access Playground at Wabun Picnic Area
People for Parks collaborated with volunteer group Falls4All and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) to work toward creating a playground where children and adults, whether with or without disabilities, can challenge themselves to explore, interact and play on universally accessible playground facilities with independence and dignity. The universal access playground is sited at Wabun Picnic area, east of Minnehaha Falls. A universal playground is a playground that incorporates special features to make it accessible to people with disabilities, while also supporting the activities of people without disabilities. Wabun was officially opened on July 31st, 2014.
The Park Board committed $300,000 to the Wabun project and Falls4All raised over $450,000 to make this a true universal playground. Equipment includes ramped wheelchair access to the highest platforms, accessible pathways made from special rubberized surfacing; dual slides that allow a caregiver to slide with their child and harnessed swings that hold children securely. The Wabun playground is the first playground of its kind in Minneapolis and provides a model for other communities to emulate.
Children with disabilities face many challenges affecting their future interpersonal relationships including poor integration into their peers' play. Playgrounds are traditional sites for youth interaction, but typical playground designs often require children with disabilities to sit on the sidelines due to deficiencies in surface material, type of access and difficulty level. For children with disabilities, play can often be characterized as passive, sedentary, and solitary.
In contrast, when provided with play equipment that emphasizes their skills, children with disabilities gain a sense of self-confidence and individuality. They feel competent on pieces of equipment that they are able to use, and furthermore, non-disabled children have the chance to see the abilities of their peers with disabilities, promoting social interaction.
Improvements already in place at Wabun include four new picnic shelters, a new restroom building, a zero entry wading pool, reconstructed parking lots, a disc golf course, a volleyball court, and a new bike/pedestrian trail. These improvements have all been designed to meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act for accessibility.
OUR GENEROUS DONORS WHO MADE THIS PLAYGROUND POSSIBLE
Minnesota State Legacy Funding $300,000
Hennepin County Youth Sports $200,000
Community Project Partners
Titanium Level ($80,000+)
Platinum Level ($25,000- $79,000)
Craig H. Neilsen Foundation
People for Parks
The Falls 4 All Committee
Gold Level ($10,000-$24,999)
Tom Braun & Felicity Britton
Silver Level ($5,000-$9,999)
Longfellow Community Council
Peggy and Jay Halvorson
Noreen and Steven Linney
Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
Bronze Level ($2,500- $4,999)
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
C.H. Robinson Worldwide
Friend Level ($1,000-$2,499)
Wild Rumpus Bookstore for Young Readers
The Minneapolis Foundation (matching grant)
Judy and Jim Dick
Flagship Recreation (in kind)
Why a Universal Access Playground?
“All kids need the opportunity to play, to experience the same fun as their able bodied peers. Play is emotionally and physically healthy. We stretch our limits when we can climb high, stretch our limbs, take risks, problem solve and feel the success of accomplishments. Kids with disabilities need these opportunities to become responsible adults. If kids with disabilities are allowed to live “on the back burner” while they are growing (with limited opportunity), they will live their adult lives “on the back burner” too (they will not stretch beyond the limits others have imposed on them).
Everyone needs to live life to the fullest. On the playground, in the classroom and in their vocations and their communities. This playground represents another opportunity for kids with disabilities to interact equally with able bodied kids. So important if we want to be accepted in the classroom and later on the job. The disability community has come a long way in the last 40 years, but though recreation, we are becoming more visible, more accepted.”
Sharon Van Winkle, Courage Center
"Being a mother with a disability can be difficult for sure.
Some of the smallest things can hurt my own soul. Every mother wants to play with their children at the playground. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to do when you're in a wheelchair. I hope that we can gain a broader vision of
the needs of our community and produce a playground that would be fully accessible to everyone. Laughter and fun is good for the soul."
Sheri Melander Smith
See photos of the Touch a Truck event here.
Read a great article about the playground by Tesha Christiensen of the Longfellow Messenger here or download the article from the PDF below.
Article in Access Press about the playground.
ARTICLE FROM MET COUNCIL:
MINNEHAHA REGIONAL PARK GETS A ‘UNIVERSALLY ACCESSIBLE’ PLAY AREA
As children kick their heels and swing into the air, a father in a wheelchair is able to roll up to the swing set and place his daughter on a swing. Nearby, a child in a wheelchair can join his playmates on a multi-level climbing structure, thanks to a ramp from the sidewalk.
On July 31, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board opened two new play areas at Wabun Picnic Area in Minnehaha Regional Park. One of them, the Wabun Universal Access Play Area, is accessible to children and adults of all physical abilities.
The catalyst for the project was Peggy Halvorson, who was inspired by an organization in North Carolina that opened a universally accessible playground. “It occurred to me that this is something that every community should have,” she said.
Halvorson established and became chair of Falls 4 All, a volunteer committee whose mission was to unite the community through providing a universally accessible play area for people with and without disabilities. The committee, working in conjunction with theMinneapolis Park and Recreation Board and People for Parks, raised $456,000 towards construction and implementation.
“I love it,” Halvorson said after the grand opening. “I see kids in wheelchairs, kids with sensory issues, all playing together [and think] ‘OK, this was four years of hard work and it was worth it.’” She said that she has gotten feedback from other people who have been to the park and are pleased with the playground.
“Universally accessible means that it is for everyone,” said Geri Gavanda Mauck, a mother of two adopted children with disabilities, Carly and Dan. Daniel, 24, is legally blind and has simple tic Tourette syndrome. Carly, 18, was born without eyes, is nonverbal, and uses a wheelchair. She also has a brain malformation.
Mauck attended the grand opening of the universally accessible play area with Carly. “Her favorite thing to do is be on the swing,” said Mauck. “She loves the motion and it also improves her brain function.”
Mauck said that attending the event informed her about other ways the play area is important. “From a parental perspective, you think the playground was built for children with special needs,” said Mauck. “[But] my husband noticed, during the grand opening, that a woman in a wheelchair rolled up to the swing with their child in her lap so she could place her child in the swing. Sometimes you don’t think that parents who are disabled miss out on those kinds of experiences with their children.”