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Sam Harris Park Reopens with Auburns First Poured in Place Playground

July 7, 2017
Source: Opelika Auburn News (Alabama)

Auburn's [Alabama] Sam Harris Park reopened this month after a complete renovation, including new playground equipment and poured-in-place flooring to offer recreation space for those with disabilities.

Renovations began in February with the removal of outdated equipment, and the city saw the renovations as an opportunity to further its Americans with Disabilities Act [(ADA)] transition plan. Funds set aside for ADA projects and leftover funds from the previous fiscal years budget were used to purchase new equipment and spruce up the rest of the park.

The park is Auburn's first accessible poured-in-place playground with tactile functions for children with autism, said Kevin Kelly, Auburn Parks and Recreations financial project management director. The poured-in-place flooring creates a rubbery surface for easy wheelchair access and a soft surface to cushion falls.

The tactile functions include groove patterns, bongo drums, a bell, a horn and other imprinted areas that allow children to hear and feel different things on the equipment.

The previously graveled parking lot was paved and parking doubled. The park now has 20 spaces with two accessible spots. All new sidewalks were installed, and trash cans and benches were placed along an accessible pathway.

An accessible picnic table was added, and all bathrooms were updated. New roofs were put on both the pavilion and the bathrooms.

While the playground is for those 12 and younger, Kelly said the department is looking for ways to give all ages something to do at the park. They are working on getting a basketball hoop for the parking lot and other activities for older siblings or parents to play.

“A lot of people live in that area, but the park wasn't really used in the past,” Kelly said, adding that the department is working to get everyone outside and moving.

There is more to come

The park is only the beginning of updates to come across the city, Kelly said. Though some playgrounds have mulch, which is considered ADA compliant, one imprint can take it out of compliance.

“Unless you have someone standing out there all the time raking it smooth, somebody who comes in a wheel chair has a tough time coming across it,” Kelly said.

And as Auburn's population grows, families like Ann Bergman, the departments public relations specialist, are moving to the area for Auburn City Schools reputation for providing care for students with disabilities, creating a greater need for accessible playgrounds.

“That's really one of the reasons (Parks and Recreation) just found it so necessary,” Bergman said. “You just want inclusion. You just want to make it so one of the children isn't limited.”

The department is working on creating a large-scale accessible park with multiple features like those now at Sam Harris. In addition, the department is working on transitioning one park in each of the city's four quadrants to poured-in-place flooring.

Creating more accessible recreation options is on the forefront of parks and recreation planning, Bergman said. The city is in the midst of creating a Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan that will lay out a trajectory for the city's recreation needs over the next 20 years which will include a timeline for renovations to existing parks and creating new parks.

By incorporating newer features with traditional playground equipment, Bergman added that accessible playgrounds allow those with or without disabilities to play side by side.

“Everyone can play together, and everybody can be included,” Bergman said. “Nobody [is] on the sidelines.”

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