FRIDAY, Sept. 24 — Another major renovation is headed to downtown Lansing — and this time, it’s for the children. The Capital Region Community Foundation, in partnership with the city of Lansing, broke ground today on a $1.8 million “universally accessible” playground at Adado Riverfront Park on the western banks of the Grand River.
The 10,000-square-foot fun zone on the west bank of the Grand River between Shiawassee Street and Oakland Avenue is designed for children of all ability levels and will be the first of its kind in the region when the project is fully finished by next summer.
“The mission is for people with disabilities to be included in every aspect of the human experience,” said Mark Pierce, executive director of the Capital Area Disability Network. “I know this will be a place for all people to enjoy.”
Early design renderings of the project display a multi-colored complex of slides, swings, seesaws, monkey bars and several other kid-friendly features, such as a miniature pirate ship. The park was specifically designed to accommodate children (and parents) with sensory or developmental disabilities and is fully compliant with the Americans for Disabilities Act. It also received major input from the Disability Network, the Mid-Michigan Autism Association and 50 local families who have children with disabilities.
Major donors included the AF Group, CASE Credit Union, Peckham, Sparrow Health System, Michigan Medicine, Mary Free Bed and Auto-Owners. The Community Foundation matched private donations dollar for dollar. The goal is for the playground to provide a fun space that “maximizes inclusivity” and “normalize differences,” so all children, regardless of ability level, can play side-by-side.
Design elements that make this possible include a “sensoried climber” and an arched tube where children climb to the top in order to view a map of Michigan. The climb is constructed so that children in wheelchairs can hoist themselves up alongside other children who will traverse the twisty tube on their hands and knees. The park’s track ride features a universally accessible seat, with back and neck support, as well as a handle to hang from. The swingset is also designed to move side-to-side instead of front-to-back, a design preference for many children with autism, officials explained.
“These kids are going to be included, not just with a couple pieces of equipment off to the side, watching the other kids on the big stuff. This is about kids with and without disabilities playing together throughout the whole park,” said Laurie Baumer, executive vice president of the Capital Region Community Foundation.