PIQUA — Piqua has become the first city in this area to offer an entire playground for children with disabilities. The playground is open for all children to play on, but all of the structures are specially designed to be wheelchair-accessible.
“There aren’t many cities that have playgrounds like this,” Brian Brookhart, assistant director of the Piqua Public Works Department, said, nothing that people would have to go to Dayton or Cincinnati to find another playground like the one now located in Pitsenbarger Park.
“We found there was a grant for playground equipment, and we need more playground equipment,” Brookhart said. “We need updated playground equipment in our parks, and I knew that we didn’t have anything like this for children with different abilities to be able to use playground equipment. And we wanted to give everybody access to play.”
Brookhart explained that the city wants every child to be able to come out to a park and have fun. “This incorporates everybody,” Brookhart said.
The equipment is designged for all children between the ages of 2-12 years.
The playground was made possible thanks to a $20,000 Kaboom grant, along with several other donations, including funds from the Hartzell-Norris Charitable Trust, the Piqua Community Foundation, Unity National Bank, the Lundguard Foundation, and private citizens. The total amount spent on the park was nearly $50,000.
The playground equipment was assembled by a group of volunteers from Hartzell Hardwood. Employees from the Piqua Public Works Department also installed additional equipment that was purchased at a later date, Brookhart said.
The playground equipment was purchased from Playground Structures. Ben Gover of the Piqua Public Works Department designed the landscaping and the fence surrounding the playground, part of which features wood posts in the shape of giant pencils.
There are six play structures currently at the playground, including a stationary cyclone, a “we-saw,” a cozy dome, an “omni-spinner,” and a single-person spinner.
On the stationary cyclone, kids are able to reach up and spin the piece of equipment with their arms.
The “we-saw” is a large seesaw that is meant to accommodate more than the usual two to four kids. There are four seats on the “we-saw,” and then there are spots for other kids to hang onto in the middle of the play structure.
The cozy dome is simply a dome for kids to climb on and play underneath.
The “omni-spinner” is a merry-go-round with seats to sit in instead of bars to hang onto while someone spins the structure. For the single-person spinner, it is the child’s body weight that makes him or her spin.
There is also another stationary play structure meant for sensory play. It incorporates drums on the side of it along with a maze and an alphabet.
All of these pieces of equipment are for children of any ability, but they are specially designed for children in wheelchairs to be able to get in and out of their wheelchairs to play on the structures with ease.
Brookhart explained that they hope to continue to expand the playground and incorporate more pieces of equipment for all children, possibly including a swing set.
Brookhart, along with park board member Jim Cruse, Piqua Mayor Lucy Fess, mayoral candidate and park board member Kazy Hinds, Teen Leadership Director Joe Hinds of the Piqua YMCA, Kazy and Joe Hinds’ son Paulie Hinds, and Piqua City Commissioner Judy Terry attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the park, which was held on Saturday.
“It’s fantastic,” Cruse said about the new playground. Cruse is on his second five-year term with the park board, previously serving as the chairperson. Cruse explained he is “trying to make Piqua better, trying to do my part” by volunteering on the park board.
“What a nice place for kids with disabilities to come and other kids, too,” Terry said. “I’m sure everybody is going to be very welcome in this play area. And when we grow it, it really will be a nice playground for kids in the area and kids all over town. This park is very well-used.”
“The vision for me is the future, and that this is the beginning of the future,” Kazy Hinds said. Hinds stated that the vision that Brookhart has to expand the playground area and make it a full playground for all kids “is wonderful.”
“It brings everybody together,” she said. “Community can really happen here.” Hinds said that community can happen in the form of families and children spending time together as well as people coming to the park simply to relax.
“What a celebration that we’ve dedicated this whole area to play, and for kids — for all kids, no matter what their abilities are — all of them are welcome here,” Hinds said. “I think that’s beautiful.”
Mayor Fess added that the city is “thrilled” with the new facility. “(It) is pretty much the first one in the region to accommodate children who have disabilities that can’t really enjoy the regular park equipment,” she said. “I think as we move into the future, we’ll see more added to this. I think the city employees have done a magnificent job in putting this together. It’s so attractive and really draws your eye. Great addition to Pitsenbarger (Park).”
Pitsenbarger Park is located off of South Street and McKinley Avenue. This new playground is next to the McKinley Avenue and Clark Avenue entrance.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall