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The City Journals

One West Valley City park playground to remove barriers for disabled users

Oct 14, 2019 04:02PM ● By Darrell Kirby

Current playground at Peachwood Park. It will be replaced with equipment that accommodates children with disabilities. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)

By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]

West Valley City is taking the first step toward making the playgrounds at its public parks more accessible for those with disabilities. 

The City Council has approved funding of nearly $172,000 for the installation of "inclusive" playground equipment at Peachwood Park. 

An inclusive playground is designed to enable children and adults with physical or mobility limitations to enjoy the use of swings, slides, climbing structures, and other features that they might not otherwise be able to at standard park playgrounds.  

While providing ramps and additional accessibility amenities for wheelchairs and other mobility devices, the space will still be available to able-bodied people. “Everybody can use the equipment. It’s not just strictly for people with limited abilities,” said Jason Erekson, assistant director of West Valley City's Parks and Recreation Department. 

The equipment will replace the 26-year-old play area at the small neighborhood park at 3530 W. 3965 South. Erekson said it is expected to be installed by mid-November. “We’re kind of doing this as a trial basis,” he said, adding that it could spread to other city parks when their playgrounds need to be updated. 

Inclusive—also referred to as all-abilities—playground equipment is a recent development in recreation. “It’s kind of a trend that’s moving forward in parks and recreation to have structures that are for all users,” Erekson said. 

The equipment is manufactured by GameTime of Fort Payne, Alabama and will be designed and installed by the company's exclusive representative in Utah, Logan-based Great Western Recreation. 

"Regardless of what a person’s ability or disability is, they just want to be part of a peer group. Inclusive playground equipment enables kids and even adults to do just that," said Lewis Painter, principal partner at Great Western. “Inclusion is saying we want to create a playspace for everyone that will be developmentally appropriate.”

Although not directly involved in the Peachwood Park project, Utah State University's Keith Christensen had a hand in the design of its new playground. The associate professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning and faculty fellow at the USU Center for People with Disabilities is the principal author of “Me2: 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design.” 

“Inclusive outdoor play environments can create opportunities to ensure that people of all ages and abilities can be both physically and socially active through play and recreation, while dramatically and positively impacting children’s play experiences,” Christensen said by email.  

If a similar playground at Orem's City Center Park is any indication, the all-abilities playground at Peachwood Park will be a popular draw. The All-Together Playground, as it's called, attracts not only local residents, but people from central and southern Utah who make the drive for their kids to enjoy the accessible equipment, according to Orem spokesman Pete Wolfley. 

"It's kind of become our flagship park," he said of the 19,000-square-foot playground, much larger than Peachwood Park's play area. "It's great for kids with disabilities, but also great for able-bodied kids to join their disabled friends." 

The All-Together Playground was built in just a week in September 2016 by 4,100 community volunteers under the supervision of construction professionals. "It's given the community a sense of ownership," Wolfley said. 

As for Peachwood Park's new playground: "We’re excited to put it in and see what the response is from the residents,” Erekson said.