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City to open first inclusive playground
The Renton School District and the city will officially open Renton's first inclusive playground this weekend.
A special ceremony to open the Meadow Crest Playground, in the Highlands, starts at 10 a.m., May 17 and will feature such dignitaries as Mayor Denis Law, Superintendent Merri Rieger, Terri Higashiyama, community services administrator and former superintendent Mary Alice Heuschel.
Here, inclusive means the playground has been designed with children of all ability levels in mind. It is the brain child of Higashiyama, from when she was president of Renton Rotary, according to Todd Black, Renton's capital project coordinator. Higashiyama wanted to have Renton service organizations all pitch in to create the city's first inclusive playground.
According to project developers, one of the many firsts for the project is that it's an interlocal agreement between the school district and the city, where no property has been exchanged, but the project sits on land owned by both entities. The project cost about $2 million with design and permits.
"The idea is that we have a lot of students in this school with disabilities," said Janice Kelly, Meadow Crest principal. "And so, the equipment is accessible to them."
The colorful park has a tree and meadow motif outlined in the playground's synthetic surfaces and in the critters that make up some of the play toys and equipment. Barriers have been removed from the design like sawdust, sand and railroad tie curbs around equipment to make it easier for wheelchair and walker bound children to access the park.
There's a giant tandem swing, with a ramp, to accommodate those with wheelchairs and other aides. Noise makers, chimes, drums and a xylophone, specifically designed to be outdoors by professional musicians, expose children to music at the playground.
"Well, children in wheelchairs with mobility problems just can't get in there and play with the other kids," said Kelly. "But here, all the surfaces and, like this ramp, makes them part of the play instead of on the sidelines of play."
The design team came to the school and specifically met with Meadow Crest's occupational and physical therapists to decide what equipment should be in the playground. Everything has a purpose or a function from the 25-foot-long caterpillar with climbing grooves, to the Wavy-Walk Path for rolling over with tricycles or other wheels.
"Children learn through play and they develop their skills through play, so we want to have equipment that supports that," said Kelly. "There are so many cool pieces here; the kids are going to love it. I can hardly wait."
Meadow Crest Playground will be in use by the school during school hours and open to the public all other hours, including Fridays and breaks when the school is closed. With a Renton Housing Authority senior center neighboring the park, those residents were invited to visit the playground as well. The project team included the center in their presentations prior to the playground being built.
A number of organizations contributed to the project's development including the Renton Community Foundation, First Financial Bank Foundation of the Northwest, Renton Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, several Lions clubs and Soroptimist International all donated.
"It's a wonderfully collaborative project for the entire community; the City of Renton just supports schools so much and all the organizations in Renton," Kelly said. "It's really a community that supports their children and this is evidence of that of the city and the school district coming together."