|Construction to begin in spring on Inclusive Playground in Oshkosh - February 25 2015
Approval for city funding, Foundation grant tops off three-year fundraising campaign
OSHKOSH, WI - After four years of planning, fundraising and building awareness about inclusivity, the Oshkosh Inclusive Playground project will become a reality this spring.
Caption: Inclusive Playground will feature activities and equipment for people of all abilities.
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The playground, to be constructed at South Park, would be the first fully accessible playground in the city and one of several projects slated over the next several years to make Oshkosh parks more accessible to people of all abilities.
"The playground encourages inclusivity for people of all ages and abilities to interact," said Ray Maurer, Oshkosh parks director. "We're taking steps across Oshkosh to make parks more accessible."
Construction plans for the Inclusive Playground will be put into place after the Oshkosh City Council's approval on Feb. 24 to match the $140,000 raised by the Oshkosh Inclusive Park Project Committee.
The funds that have been raised include a $50,000 grant from the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, a $25,000 match grant from Community First Credit Union, $25,000 from the John E. Kuenzl Foundation, and numerous donations from individuals and businesses.
"The Foundation is proud to support the Inclusive Park project not only because it will provide an environment for people of all abilities to have positive experiences together, but also because it has created an important community conversation that will lead to lasting and meaningful change in our community," said Diane Abraham, president and chief executive officer of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.
Maurer says excavation for the playground could begin in late April. The playground could be completed by mid-May.
"It's exciting to see it coming together," said Pam DeLap, a committee member and advocate for people with disabilities. "It has been a cool experience to talk about what it means to be inclusive in our community."
The playground will be south of South Park's existing basketball courts, about 35 feet from a parking lot. It will feature a rubberized surface that will allow easy access for people on foot, and those using wheel chairs, strollers or walkers. Equipment will be inclusive to people of all abilities throughout a play structure that resembles a ship with wide ramps connecting activity pods with sensory panels, shade canopys and a glider.
Other play equipment including a spinner, dome, spring riders and swings will surround the structure.
Construction will include 5-foot concrete walkways around the perimeter and access pathways from the parking lot. South Park also is slated for construction of a new restroom that will be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, Maurer said.
"South Park was chosen for this playground for its centralized location, that it's easy to get to and, the number of special events that happen there is a plus," he said.
South Park - a 24-acre green space located between Georgia and South Park streets in a residential area of the city's southeast side - includes three shelters, restrooms, a splash pad, playground, tennis and basketball courts, gazebo and a war memorial.
Reaching the fundraising goal has been a huge accomplishment considering most of the committee members had no fundraising experience, DeLap said. But what's more, the project has raised awareness.
"Inclusion is about all people, not just kids with disabilities, it's our senior citizens, our wounded veterans. It's everybody who might have barriers to use our parks," DeLap said. "We just don't think about that unless it personally impacts us in some way."
The committee formed in 2011 as a grassroots effort by parents, teachers, professionals and community volunteers. The idea for the playground was introduced through community events.
The committee secured a grant in 2012 from the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities to hold a carnival and run/walk, which attracted 800 people and raised thousands of dollars. DeLap said the goal of that event wasn't necessarily fundraising, but rather creating a dialogue about the difference between ADA compliance and inclusion.
"This project has given us the opportunity to educate people on ways we can make all members of our community feel welcome and valued," DeLap said, adding that leaders of several area playground projects and businesses have reached out to the committee about how to be more inclusive.
The Foundation's $50,000 grant in December catapulted fundraising for the project to its goal. With the city's funding approved, the committee has one last task to secure donations for fencing around the playground and will invite businesses and residents to purchase fence pickets that can be engraved with their names. People interested in purchasing a fence picket can contact Jessica Miller at 920-203-5527 or visit the project's Facebook page for information.
"The outcomes of this exceeded what our expectations were," DeLap said. "We definitely wanted a place besides the schools where children can learn with a diverse population in a natural environment. And in the process, we've created a community awareness that continues the conversation about inclusion."
Oshkosh Inclusive Park Project Committee: Ginger Beuk, Judy Britton, Pam DeLap, Gail Hawley, Mary Krummerow-Johnson, Ray Maurer, Jessica Miller, Sara Muhlbauer and Jennifer Tabbert.
The Oshkosh Area Community Foundation is a nonprofit charitable organization created by and for the people of Winnebago County, Waushara County, Green Lake County and Ripon. Through charitable giving, the Community Foundation strives to make our communities thrive. For more information, please call 920-426-3993.
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