Tulare County widens the playing field with first fully inclusive playground

Tulare County General Services Agency receives $450,000 grant, builds inclusive playground at Mooney Grove Park

VISALIA – Tulare County General Services Agency is working to build the county’s first fully inclusive playground for children and adolescents with access and functional needs.

On June 14, Tulare County General Services Agency (GSA) announced that Tulare County Parks was one of six recipients of the Grants for Community Integration for Children and Adolescents. It was awarded by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). The Parks Division of the GSA has been working with the Central Valley Regional Center (CVRC) on the development of this project. The grant awarded in the amount of $450,000 will be used to purchase inclusive playground equipment for children and adolescents with access and functional needs and will be installed at Mooney Grove Park.

“In 2022 Tulare County Parks adopted a mission to ‘provide the public with welcoming environments for recreational opportunities by being stewards of outdoor green spaces at County Parks,’” Albert Cendejas, parks manager said. “An all-inclusive playground does just that, we welcome everyone and everyone gets to play!”

Though the county is still in the planning process according to community outreach specialist Janet Zaragoza-Martinez, the playground design has been finalized. She said it will be placed in the southern portion of the park near the restrooms and the sheriff’s communications area in the park. Despite there not being a current start date, the project is scheduled to be completed in December 2023.

The equipment in the playground will include a full playground unit with ramps, an inclusive orbit, a roller slide, inclusive swings, wheelchair accessibility swings and more. The playground equipment will be multi-generational as parents, grandparents and caregivers may benefit from ramps and flat surfaces.

“GSA is thrilled to be a part of this unique opportunity to provide recreational opportunities for an underserved population in our community,” Brooke Sisk, GSA director said. “We appreciate our partners at the Central Valley Regional Center for making this project possible.”

This project is intended to enhance and develop integrated and inclusive social recreation programming for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) ages three-21. In a press release from the GSA, Tulare County Board Supervisor Amy Shuklian, district 3 said the inclusive playground is yet another example of the county’s commitment to parks and youth.

“This playground will ensure that every child, regardless of their physical, sensory or cognitive abilities, can fully participate in play activities,” Shuklian said.

Images of the playground design can be found on the Tulare County Parks Instagram and Facebook pages at @Tularecountyparks. This will be the first Inclusive Playground in Tulare County that is fully accessible for children and adolescents with access and functional needs.

Zaragoza-Martinez said if there is money left over from the grant, they may look into creating more Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible areas surrounding the playground. For example, more ADA parking spaces near the playground.

DDS has awarded a total of $975,854 in grant funding to six Central Valley projects, one of which was the county’s Mooney Grove Park. DDS awarded more than $8 million to community groups of all 21 regional centers to increase social recreation opportunities for Californians who experience I/DD according to CVRC.

“We appreciate the support from the Department of Developmental Services for recognizing the importance of these projects, and the lasting impact each will have in the lives of the youth we support,” said CVRC executive director Ed Araim.

The city of Visalia is also in a similar process, but they are planning to create a fully inclusive park. The city’s parks and recreation department will be holding an Inclusive Play Park meeting on Tuesday, June 20th at 5:30 p.m. to hear community input. The city’s park will be funded through a State of California parks grant.

According to a press release from the city, this park will be the city’s first fully inclusive play park. There will be a space carefully designed to promote play among children of differing abilities, ages, and communities.

“Inclusive play parks are developed and built to be developmentally appropriate for children with and without disabilities,” Kelli Kincaid, city of Visalia parks and recreation director said. “An inclusive playground takes away the barriers to exclusion, both physical and social, providing a fun and immersive experience for all.”

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