Every child deserves to experience the magic only playgrounds can create.
But some families worry about their young ones being unable to enjoy park visits because of their limitations.
That’s why many public play spaces in Louisiana have incorporated important aspects of inclusivity into their playground designs, so children of all abilities can interact and play together. Here are a few to explore around town.
Zachary, Highland, and North Sherwood Forest community parks all have wheelchair-friendly access to ground elements such as multi-sensory panels and musical toys. Howell Park features multi-child swings and spin discs, where kids and their companions can sit or lay together. BREC is also designing a few new inclusive playgrounds, scheduled to open in the next year or two at Greenwood Community Park, Jackson Community Park and Independence Park. “The new playground at Jackson Community Park will be designed to have a wheelchair-accessible glider that sways and bounces,” says Reed Richard, BREC’s assistant superintendent of system planning. brec.org
The Pilot Club of Denham Springs designed a welcoming playground on the corner of River Road and Government Street. Kidz Korner Playland has more than just adaptive swings and activity panels. Children can work on their auditory and spatial awareness skills by playing the NEOS 360 game system, or they can cool off by running through the splash pad. There is also a large covered pavilion with accessible picnic tables, where visitors can host celebrations and family events. Amanda McMorris, a member of the Pilot Club, says the playground is not only special for children but for many disabled adults and parents. “A mother with a physical disability brought her 4-year-old daughter to the grand opening,” she says, “and tearfully shared that she had never been able to play with her at a playground until that day.” kidzkornerplayland.org
If your child loves exploring the seven seas, shift your sails south and visit Kidz Kove Discovery Park on South Francois Avenue in Gonzales. This pirate themed-park will thrill any adventurous spirit. “We wanted the park to be a destination and experience for kids, and not just make it like every other park around with the only difference being specialized equipment,” says Michael Burtula, architect of Domain Architecture. The surface of the playground is padded to cushion children’s falls. It is colored a soothing shade reminiscent of the deep blue sea. Children can feel like they are onboard a pirate ship, riding the waves when they play on the accessible equipment. There is also an exceptionally painted shipwreck backdrop by the shade-covered areas and restrooms. Erin Lanoux, co-founder of the park, loves that her daughter Alex, who has Down syndrome, now has a place to play. “This park symbolizes the acceptance she and all others deserve,” she says.
If you are thinking about adventuring further east, check out Kids Konnection Playground at the Tammany Trace Trailhead, located right off Interstate-12 in the Mandeville area. All activity areas are wide enough for wheelchair-bound kids to play beside others. The playground’s surface is latex-free, mindful of those with allergies. One slide is specifically made for individuals with cochlear implants, whose hearing might otherwise be disrupted by the static electricity typically generated on slides. It also has a sandpit with mechanized diggers and multi-leveled water tables. Susan McHugh has a son with a rare congenital muscle disease and is a co-founder of the playground. “I love the fact that all disabled individuals can move freely around and feel the joy of parallel play at our playground,” McHugh says.
This article was originally published in the July 2021 issue of 225 magazine.