All Children To Get In on the Fun

Moorhead Parks and Recreation officially opens the Inclusive Playground at 1:30 p.m. Friday, June 7. (Photos/Moorhead Parks and Recreation.)Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Moorhead’s parks are magnets. Their big attraction: A chance for youngsters to swing, climb, jump, slide and generally work off their energy with their friends.
But not all kids have been able to take part in that traditional high point of childhood … until now.
On Friday, June 7, that officially changes. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for Moorhead’s new Inclusive Playground is planned at 1:30 p.m. at the park, located within Southside Regional Park at 2000 40th Ave. S.
When the ribbon is cut at the brand-new Inclusive Playground, children with mobility limitations will, for the first time, be able to use the entire variety of playground amenities along with the rest of their friends.
“The rest of our playgrounds in Moorhead do have one or two features that are accessible to kids with mobility challenges, but they can’t use most of the equipment or navigate areas covered with rocks or wood chips,” Parks and Recreation director Holly Heitkamp explains. “This is a playground where all children can play together, whether using the slides, the swings, the teeter-totter or the zip line.”
The playground has been designed with a rubber surface, sidewalks and convenient landscaping, all intended to increase accessibility for children who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices. The design enables them to play much more independently, moving easily from one thing to another.”
The design of the park, she says, provides just the right level of challenge with lots of opportunities to succeed. “It goes well beyond minimum accessibility,” she says, adding that it’s intended to create play experiences that meet a variety of needs and interests for all ages and abilities.
The inclusive playground has been on the list of community projects created by the Park Advisory Board’s planning projects in 2019. Over the past five years, nearly ^500,000 became available through several funding sources, including some $346,000 through the American Rescue Plan Act. A group of motivated mothers became the project’s champions; so far, they have raised $58,309 in pubic gifts. Donations of $10,000 have been received from the Moorhead Kiwanis Club, Kevin and Sandy VanDyke, and the Jeromy Brown Family Fund.
Fund-raising continues to underwrite the second phase of the project, a fence to enclose the area and permit children to run freely within the play area. The cost of completing the enclosure is $26,000; $4,000 has already been received, with grants being sought to reach that goal.
The Inclusive Playground site is next to the Miracle Field, where athletes with mobility challenges can play baseball and softball. The two destinations, the director says, aim to foster a sense of belonging and camaraderie among community members of all abilities and their families.

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