Board gets first glimpse of planned inclusive playground

·3 min read

May 18—PLEASANT VALLEY — Most playgrounds have one or two inclusive elements that meet federal guidelines for disability access, but the City of Fairmont wants to take it to the next level.

At the corner of Morgantown Avenue and Suncrest Boulevard, across from the Circle K, sits a quaint playground with a few swings, some seesaws and a couple of paved courts. Soon, this sight will be home to an entirely inclusive playground.

An inclusive playground consists of an environment that goes beyond meeting the baseline accessibility disability access requirements and focuses completely on integrating play between children and adults of all abilities to play and interact.

"Usually, we see a park that's been there forever and we want it to be inclusive so we put a handicap swing in," said Jim Christie, a landscape architect for Civil & Environmental Consultants. "Usually, it's not beside the other swings — it's somewhere else. That's more segregation than inclusion."

The Fairmont Parks Commission contracted with CEC to design the project, and met with the commission at Morris Park in Pleasant Valley Monday to discuss the preliminary sketches and talk about what needs to happen to bring the project to fruition.

Something that impressed the board was that CEC went out of its way to be inclusive on their planning committee.

"What we've done is we've included other groups to be all inclusive," Christie said. "The Disability Action Center is a big part of this, Playworks out of Morgantown, Messenger Speech Therapy, WVU Music Therapy, and the Challenger League."

Christie and the board is striving for the park to be a destination for families who need an accessible park, both in the community and outside.

"It's going to be designed with inclusivity and universal accessibility in mind from the ground up," said Hanna Turner, marketing and communications manager for the City of Fairmont. "We're not just dropping an [ADA] compliant piece here and a compliant piece there. That's what's going to make the difference."

The community has lacked a nearby inclusive play space for some time, with most parks including just a few accessible areas. The board hopes this will fill that void.

"I think this is a very big project we took on, but I think it's very needed in our community," said Fairmont City Council Member Josh Rice, who also serves as president of the Fairmont Parks Commission. "It's going to take care of a lot of kids. I know people are going to love it and I can't wait until it's done."

As of now, CEC and the board are in the initial planning stages. The park will be funded by tax increment financing and donations. The current preliminary budget for the project is around $900,000. Planning will continue throughout the summer and a groundbreaking date will be set based on the market for the price of materials.

Much of the planning is still in the very early stages.

Questions or suggestions about the project should be sent to Hannah Turner at hturner@fairmontwv.gov.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.