Kara Peck is used to watching her son sit on the sidelines at playgrounds.
Miles Peck, 12, is a sixth grader at Brentwood Middle School who has Down syndrome. Crowded play spaces are often unsafe or uninviting for him, just as they are for others with intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities.
This time next year, however, Miles will have a new favorite place to play.
Miles Together Playground, under construction at Brentwood's Granny White Park, is one of at least two inclusive playgrounds planned for construction in Williamson County. The spaces are designed to give kids of all intellectual, developmental and physical abilities a place to play.
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"These are experiences that maybe a family has never had with their child, so that's cool," Kara Peck said. "Every child should have that opportunity to play, and play safely and play with friends."
Many families might not notice the special features at an inclusive playground, but they can make a big difference for a child with a disability.
The Miles Together Playground will sit on a rubberized surface rather than sand or mulch, giving people who use wheelchairs easier access. The swing set will have multiple seat options to accommodate older users or people who require additional support to sit up. There will also be space for independent playtime, which can be especially important for children on the autism spectrum.
"When parents get that diagnosis, or in the beginning, the world's so upside-down anyway, and all you're told is everything they're not going to be able to do," Kara Peck said. "To fast forward 12 years, for the hope and opportunity that this park represents... it's exciting, it's motivating and it's encouraging."
Miles Together Playground will be funded by the Miles for Miles Foundation, the Brentwood Rotary Clubs, the City of Brentwood 50th Anniversary Committee and other business and community donors. The park website also notes that another park may be built at Crockett Park.
Ellie G's Dream World
The City of Franklin is also designing an inclusive park for its future Southeast Municipal Complex. The park will be named Ellie G's Dream World after Elliott Grace Castro, who died at age 4. Ellie G, the granddaughter of Franklin Vice Mayor Brandy Blanton, had a rare, terminal form of dwarfism.
"You want to walk in and create a place to where, when you walk in, the entire family can be together," said Lisa Clayton, director of Franklin's Parks Department. "You create this space to where everybody is included so that those without disabilities and those with can be together."
Franklin's park will be funded by a public-private partnership. Community organizations will raise half of the $3 million estimated cost. Clayton said the City of Franklin will pay the remaining $1.5 million.
Kara Peck said it's special to have such a visible symbol of inclusion for her community. In her eyes, society has come a long way in providing opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.
"We hope Miles can be on the same trajectory as his peers, and for people to strive to have excellence in those milestones," Peck said. "To me, it's just a matter of people being open and creating good things for this community."
So what does Miles think of the upcoming park?
"He's going to be so excited," Peck said. "He sat in on some of the city meetings, trying to put his two cents in on the equipment."
To see a full list of inclusive playgrounds in Tennessee, visit accessibleplayground.net.
Cole Villena covers Williamson County at The Tennessean, part of the USA Today Network — Tennessee. Reach Cole at email@example.com or 615-925-0493. Follow Cole on Twitter at @ColeVillena and on Instagram at @CVinTennessee.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Williamson County, Tennessee kids are inspiring inclusive parks