AP NEWS

Ceremony held to celebrate Florence’s first inclusive playground

March 30, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – Florence’s first inclusive playground is open.

The city of Florence held a ceremony Friday evening to mark the opening of B.K.’s Playground. The playground is on the city’s Barnes Street Recreation Campus adjacent to the new Pearl Moore Basketball Center. The playground is named after Brian Kelley, a founding board member of I Play Florence. Kelley died before the playground’s completion but played an integral role in its creation.

“Let us celebrate here today,” Florence Mayor Stephen J. Wukela said. “The purpose of this park is to be inclusive. In truth, if you have a city that is not accessible or enjoyable for some of us, it’s certainly not enjoyable by any of us. So much of what we try to do in the city is bring people together and this is just another step in that direction.”

Wukela also thanked the city’s staff, I Play Florence, the Parks Commissioners, and state Sen. Hugh K. Leatherman Sr.

“What a beautiful day,” Leatherman said. “The mayor talked about celebrating. We’re actually celebrating the life of a person who really, really cared about people and he showed that in all the things he did.”

George Scipio III also spoke. He welcomed everyone to the park and thanked several people who contributed to it.

Erika Chapman, president of I Play Florence, was the last speaker.

“Four years ago, we began this journey to build an inclusive playground in Florence,” Chapman said. “We believed our community would get behind this chance to bring inclusion to Florence and we were right.”

Chapman said that Kelley was instrumental in the building of the park.

The playground is the result of a partnership between the city and I Play Florence.

An inclusive playground is designed with all children in mind, allowing children of all abilities to play together. The playground is wheelchair- and walker-accessible and features a variety of equipment including ramps, a misting station, swings, a zip line designed for children with limited upper-body mobility, climbing equipment, a teeter totter with wheelchair accessibility and a merry-go-round accessible for all children.

There is also an adult sized changing table in a private space within the Pearl Moore Basketball Center available to families.

Funding for the playground equipment, surfacing and installation was made possible through a grant from the Foundation for the Carolinas Longleaf Fund and contributions by the city. A “Meet Me at the Park” grant from the Disney Foundation that was coordinated through the National Recreation & Parks Association for $30,000 was also received.

I Play Florence formed four years ago by concerned residents with a desire to have an inclusive playground. Through collaboration with city leaders, a partnership was formed and the group’s vision became reality.

The city of Florence purchased the property for the playground location and provided necessary environmental studies, demolition and site work. Florence additionally provided many employee hours for in-kind services associated with the playground site.

Other community contributors for the project included Women in Philanthropy, Pee Dee Electric, M.A.R.C.H. men’s group, F3, Ebenezer Weekday Ministries, Bloom, ACS Technologies, McLeod Park Baseball, and the Lions Club.