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The new All-Abilities Playground at McCormick Park in Missoula is one step closer to completion after several members of the Montana Contractors Association recently donated thousands of dollars’ worth of materials.

The All-Abilities Playground, located between the Mobash skatepark and the Currents Aquatics Center, is currently about 50 percent constructed and is slated for a tentative opening in mid-August. An installer will put in features this week. The nature-themed, 2,300-square-foot playground is designed to give kids with physical and mental disabilities a safe recreational outlet, while still being functional as a play space for everyone.

So far, the nonprofit All-Abilities Playground Project has raised $350,000 in private donations, including a large matching challenge grant from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. Many other organizations and groups have donated, including $100 from a group of schoolkids. The Missoula Parks and Recreation Deptartment chipped in $50,000 plus employee hours and expertise.

Recently, several members of the Montana Contractors Association donated their services to get the project off the ground. Knife River Corp. donated $7,500 of gravel and concrete, Poteet Construction donated $4,000 worth of fencing and LS Jensen Construction also donated $7,500 worth of gravel and concrete.

“It made the whole thing possible, it was absolutely critical,” said Jenny Montgomery, chair of the playground project.

The playground will feature three tall swings, a basket swing, a modern merry-go-round, a climbing apparatus, a modern wiggle seesaw and a play mound with all-metal slides, because plastic slides cause static that interferes with cochlear implants in hearing-impaired children.

The play mound will be fully covered in rubber fall-zone material, the first playground in the state to have such an amenity, according to city parks services and systems manager David Selvage. A climbing wall will be constructed in September.

If more funds are donated, Selvage said more amenities, such as a garden, will be added.

“We are actively working with our partners to bring in a sensory play area,” Selvage said. “We will have a ‘cabin in the woods’ play area, which is an imaginative play space. It will have a sandbox, so kids can pretend they are at the beach or in a cabin in the woods.”

The climbing mountain will be a miniature version of Mount Sentinel, complete with an “M,” according to Montgomery.

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“That was one of the things that kids really said they wanted, when we did a wheelchair focus group,” she explained. “They wanted the opportunity to get up high. So they will be able to climb on wheels up a curving incline that leads to an overlook. The climbing feature is a rubberized mountain, and it’s graded so power chairs can get to the top. Other kids who can crawl can get to the top. One side is steep for able-bodied kids. There are some cool features down there.”

The playground was designed by Dave Shaw, the city’s parks and trails design and development manager.

“Incorporating ideas from kids on the autism spectrum and youth with other disabilities, Shaw and his team envisioned a nature-themed playground designed to meet all children’s needs,” Montgomery wrote in a blog post. “At the borders, quiet spaces invite kids with sensory issues to retreat and enjoy tactile play and gardening. A circular stage ringed by boulder seating entices kids of all abilities to act, perform and play beautifully tuned chimes. Fun, fast play equipment provides body support and allows kids to roll-on or transfer from an assistive device. And rubberized surfacing allows kids on wheels to navigate freely, unimpeded by wood chips or sand.”

For more information, visit allabilitiesplayground.org.

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Reporter David Erickson can be reached at david.erickson@missoulian.com.

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