Playground paves way for inclusivity

Public-philanthropic partnership helps turn idea into reality for Oshkosh residents

The bright blue sail is flying atop the nautical themed play structure at Oshkosh’s first inclusive playground, a sign that a simple suggestion from a city resident can fuel a movement that creates change in a community.

Photo caption: Once the construction fencing is removed from the new inclusive playground at Oshkosh's South Park, people of all abilities will enjoy playtime together. OACF photo

View photos from OACF's Donor Appreciation event

View photos from the June 5 ribbon cutting event

Donations: The Oshkosh Inclusive Park Committee would like to create a small endowment fund to maintain the new playground long into the future. Donations can be made to the
Oshkosh Inclusive Park Fund

“This project coming to fruition is so much more than an accessible playground to me,” says Sara Muhlbauer, a member of the Oshkosh Inclusive Park Project Committee and mother of a child with a disability.

“What started out as an opportunity to build a playground has evolved into open conversations about why inclusion is important to our community.”

The giggles and shrieks of children playing at the adjacent traditional playground at South Park will soon spill onto Inclusive Park, which features a rubberized surface that will allow easy access for people on foot, and those using wheel chairs, strollers or walkers. The construction barriers that went up in April will be gone by the end of May. Several community celebrations follow, including a ribbon cutting on June 5.

“The real message now,” Muhlbauer says, “is about celebrating our community’s support of a safe and friendly environment for everyone.”

The project garnered broad support during the fundraising campaign including grants from the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation ($50,000), Community First Credit Union ($25,000), the John E. Kuenzl Foundation ($25,000), and numerous donations from individuals and businesses.

As a public-philanthropic partnership, the project got the final approval in February from the Oshkosh City Council, which kicked in $140,000, half the total cost of the project.

Reaching the fundraising goal has been a huge accomplishment considering most of the committee members had no fundraising experience, says Pam DeLap, a committee member. But what's more, the project has raised awareness.

“Inclusive environments are being created all over Wisconsin and we were lucky to have other communities to use as a resource when we started on this project,” DeLap says. “We will pay forward what we have learned to help others continue to build inclusive, safe and accessible venues.”


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