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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Central Park inclusive playground continues to approach funding goal

Gabriela Rożnawska

Grinnell’s Parks & Recreation Department (P&R) announced in March of this year a new initiative to build Central Park’s All-Inclusive Playground. The playground will accommodate a range of sensory and mobility needs so that children of all abilities can engage in play together. 

The P&R aims for construction to start in the spring of 2024 and to open the playground by the fall of that year.

According to Jordan Allsup, director of the P&R, the idea of an all-inclusive playground in Grinnell first surfaced in 2021, when a community member told the P&R board that her wheelchair-bound grandchild faced difficulties accessing play spaces independently.

“Inclusive play was always on the back of our minds, but actually hearing it from an individual and what their experiences are really brought everything to the front,” Allsup said, adding that while many of Grinnell’s playgrounds have met basic standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they remain inaccessible to a range of individuals with special needs. 

Inclusive play was always on the back of our minds, but actually hearing it from an individual and what their experiences are really brought everything to the front.

— Jordan Allsupp

Allsup said that the closest inclusive playground is currently a 40-minute drive away. 

He added that Central Park’s playground was chosen for the project due to its strategic location and its pre-existing infrastructure to accommodate disabilities, like accessible restrooms and handicap parking. 

According to Allsup, fundraising began in 2022 with a goal to reach $300,000 by spring of 2024. The money would go towards a variety of smart, inclusive and interactive features. 

These features include sensory play equipment, communication boards and a Yalp Sona Arch, a machine that can run games for people of all abilities, one of only three in Iowa. All equipment and the playground surface itself would be designed to accommodate wheelchairs. 

Allsup said feedback from community organizations and individuals has been positive. 

Local insurance company Grinnell Mutual contributed $40,000 in a challenge fund – a donation contigent upon other donors matching the amount. Grinnell College matched the donation with another investment of $30,000.

According to Monica Chavez-Silva, Vice President of Community Engagement and Strategic Planning, the College considers the scale of a project’s impact as well as the degree of partnership between the College and the broader community when deciding which projects to support. 

Acknowledging the “large footprint” the College has within the community, she stressed the importance of connecting the two to “build a place that we all want to be in.” 

“It’s a small town, and there are limited resources, so things work better when we’re all working towards similar goals, where we are all contributing,” Chavez-Silva said.

Chavez-Silva and Wilke both noted that the playground would also allow current and future Grinnell staff, faculty and students who are disabled or have family members with disabilities the right to fully engage with what the community has to offer. 

Allsup echoed this sentiment in regard to the general community. 

“Even if there’s just one child that is disabled, isn’t that almost enough?” he asked. 

Even if there’s just one child that is disabled, isn’t that almost enough?

— Jordan Allsup

“Why should they have to sit on the side and watch their friends play while they have trouble getting around?”

All future development plans by the P&R moving forward will consciously incorporate principles of inclusive design, according to Allsup. 

The P&R remains around $20,000 shy of their goal. They will continue to accept donations made in check to the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation.

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About the Contributors
Natalie Ng
Natalie Ng, Staff Writer
Natalie is a first-year from Singapore who intends to major in anthropology and biology. She never suffers from jet lag because her sleep schedule is messed up in all timezones. Once, she rolled down a hill and survived.
Gabriela Rożnawska
Gabriela Rożnawska, Graphic Designer
Gabriela Rożnawska is a second-year student majoring in Computer Science, Psychology and concentrating in Linguistics from Krakow, Poland. She is likely to be spotted longboarding around town and, if stopped, would be delighted to discuss tornados, planes, rodents and plans for an upcoming multi-city trip.
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