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All-Inclusive Playground fills important need

October 13, 2018

A 13,000-pound concrete tree is lowered into place at the St. Cloud Commons All-Inclusive Playground in Huntington's West End on Tuesday. Officials of the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District expect the playground to be a destination for families from a large area.

Work continues on the St. Cloud Commons All-Inclusive Playground in Huntington’s West End. This week, a 13,000-pound treehouse was set in place as the project progresses.

The playground is an important part in providing children of all abilities a place to play and interact with others. It will be fully accessible to children with a variety of special needs and gives them something they have lacked at many area playgrounds.

Most playground equipment is for climbing or running or swinging. Not all children are able to enjoy those activities. In recent years, the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District has added all-inclusive equipment at some parks, such as at Harris Riverfront Park.

Last year, Cabell County’s elementary schools began adding all-inclusive equipment on their playgrounds, such as games children can walk up to or roll up to.

The park at St. Cloud, however, is aimed specifically at children with disabilities. It will sit on poured-in-place rubber surfacing and will be built by GameTime, a PlayCore company, and Cunningham Recreation, which supplies GameTime equipment.

Decorative fencing will surround the area in order to provide a more secure environment for visitors.

The entire project will cost about $1.2 million. The Park District had been working on the project for about two years, but it would not start construction until it had at least half the necessary money in hand. That fundraising goal was achieved earlier this year, and construction began in August.

What’s happening now at St. Cloud is the first of four phases. Phase Two will be a fully accessible restroom facility with a family restroom and adult changing tables. Phase Three will include redoing the parking lot to include 42 lighted parking spaces. Phase Four will complete the project by installing the final playground equipment.

When finished, the park will occupy about 3 acres along a residential street just off Interstate 64 near the West 17th Street bridge. That will make it accessible to families from a wide area looking for a place for their children to play. Kevin Brady, executive director of the Park District, has described the All-Inclusive Park as a destination for families, schools and groups from a wide radius around Huntington, including Ohio and Kentucky.

A study done earlier this decade showed that about 16 percent of West Virginia’s 246,963 students enrolled in school between ages 6 and 21 have a disability. That compares with 12.9 percent nationally.

In a best-case scenario, the All-Inclusive Park will inspire other communities and schools to add all-inclusive equipment at their playgrounds or perhaps to build their own. Children of all ages and abilities will see that they, too, are welcome at community play areas and are invited to participate in activities that had previously been unavailable to them.

Which is exactly what parks and playgrounds are supposed to do.

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