Despite some criticism from the public about the new playground at the NYSA Sports Complex, the apparatus meets the American with Disabilities Act’s criteria for an all-inclusive design.
Santa Rosa County Commissioner Rob Williamson said the response to the playground, designed for children ages 2 to 12, has been positive.
“The response to the playground has been overwhelmingly positive,” Williamson said. “When Santa Rosa County gave me the opportunity to serve as commissioner, we had one main public playground in District 4. Now, we have two playgrounds.”
Specific components of the playground include features for children who have Autism/Sensory Processing Disorder, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, ADHD, learning disabilities or visual impairments.
“It’s designed for children ages 2 to 12, typically developing children, as well as children with physical and developmental needs, to play together within one area,” Santa Rosa County Public Information Officer Joy Tsubooka said. “The main difference is the surfacing material that allows for (children) of all abilities to utilize the entire play area and the addition of the specialty equipment.
“Commissioner Williamson took it one step past the requirements by adding the pour-in-place (surface),” Tsubooka said. “Currently, the ground covering can be engineered wood fiber, which does not allow all abilities to utilize.”
Traditional playgrounds, meanwhile, consist of play structures and stand-alone equipment. The all-inclusive playground at the sportsplex has that equipment as well but it specifically addresses children with different abilities.
Tsubooka said the proposal submitted to the county by Playmore described its equipment as inclusive, which encourages children to play together on the same components.
Independent playground consultant and Navarre resident Andrew Adams said that while the playground meets the criteria for being all-inclusive, he has his concerns.
“Although it meets the letter of the law, it doesn’t mean it meets the intent of the law,” Adams said.
Adams noted several features are missing that should be part of an all-inclusive playground.
“It’s designed for children between the ages of 5 and 12. There isn’t much for children ages 2 to 5,” Adams said. “I think one of the problems is that there are no natural elements or landscape, such as boulders or hills to climb. There isn’t a lot of shade either for the children when they are out there playing.”
A third playground is being planned in Holley, according to Williamson, and will be developed in phases. It will also be designed as all-inclusive. The first phase is expected to be completed in January and will include 2- to 5-year-old components, a pavilion, a grill and benches. It will be in a wooded natural area and feature educational components as well, including labeling indigenous plant material.
The second phase will add 5- to 12-year-old components and ADA amenities.
“My goal is to incorporate special needs amenities to not only meet the criteria necessary to receive an all-inclusive play designation, but also provide a variety of recreation opportunities throughout District 4.”
As seen in the Aug. 27 edition of Navarre Press. Subscribe online here.