Playground add-ons give easier access for disabled
Riverview Park has undergone more than a year of renovations, with much of the attention going to baseball and softball facilities, and another piece is going into place this month, with no bats, balls or gloves involved.
A playground, with particular emphasis on accessibility for the handicapped, is taking shape just beyond the outfield of North Augusta High School's softball field.
"Our goal, all along, was to have it ready for the first of March and for opening day," said Rick Meyer, director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services, referring to the first day of rec-league baseball and softball.
"If the weather cooperates, that playground will be ready by the first or second week in February," said Meyer. "That will make a lot of mamas in North Augusta happy, because they have stopped by and asked about where the playground was at Riverview Park."
Funding, a $100,000 federal grant, is through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The facility is being described as an "adaptive" playground, "which means it can be used by all," Meyer said, noting that the specific target age range is 4 to 12.
"It's for every kid, and we need to emphasize that, because some people have the idea that it's only for handicapped kids."
Karl Waldhauer, the department's superintendent of programs and facilities, made similar comments and noted that the playground will have a rubberized surface, rather than sand, which the park's previous large playground had as its base.
"We said, 'We spent $5 million to renovate this park,'" said Meyer. "Are we going to come back and put a small playground in?"
The renovations were excellent and large-scale, so the desire was "to hit a home run" with the new playground, as well. The proposal for an adaptive playground, he said, was a strong candidate for grant funding.
Among those involved in planning the project was local resident Pam Stickler, leader of the RECing Crew, a local organization that helps provide recreation and social opportunities for the disabled.
She pointed out that the playground includes a ramp that helps wheelchair users reach the center of the entire set-up, with access to various stations. "Anybody that's in a wheelchair will not have to get out of the wheelchair to use the equipment."
"It's going to open the door for a lot of them to play with their own peers - the other kids that are in school and don't have any disabilities," said Stickler. "There isn't an area that they won't be able to reach and utilize if they have a physical disability."
The hope is to help users be "as independent as they can," in Stickler's words. "It's going to be real nice. It's very exciting."