|Plans for a Universally Accessible Playground Move Forward
By Jason Islas
October 6, 2011 -- Santa Monica may soon be getting it's first universally accessible playground after a joint meeting of the Parks & Recreation and Disabilities Commission gave their seal of approval to move forward with designs for the park Monday.
The park – located on the old site of Pacific Ocean Park, between Barnard Way and the bike path – will be “a play place for children of all abilities,” said Katherine Spitz, principal of Katherine Spitz Associates, Inc.
Diane Scanlan, who has worked as the associate director of design for Shane's Inspiration – a non-profit organization for building accessible playgrounds – talked about what that means.
Special equipment, like a carousel that would allow for secure wheelchair access and high-backed swings for children with mobility problems, like Downs Syndrome, give all children a chance to play.
“Quiet spaces” so that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or Autism would be able to take breaks from stimulating play were added to the design, Scanlan said .
Though both commissions were enthusiastic about the proposed park, they did offer a few notes to the designer.
The designs differed superficially – one was meant as an homage to Pacific Ocean Park, with the fence surrounding the park designed to look like a roller coaster. In the center of that design, there would be a yellow submarine. Shade would be provided by canopies meant to look like circus tents and there would be a boardwalk and a lifeguard tower for play.
However, the majority of commissioners favored the second design: a tall ship themed park. Many of the play features would be the same, but the whole park will be designed to look like an antique clipper ship.
The proximity of the bike path raised some eyebrows, however. Both designs feature a 42 inch fence that would snake around the border, but it still remained a point of concern for many of the commissioners.
“We want to make sure that we maximize the opportunity for activities for all children,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Harry Matthew Keily.
He and other commissioners particularly liked the idea of raised sandboxes above a wheel chair-accessible surface so that children could play with the sand without having to maneuver through it.
The project is still far from being completed, but after Monday's meeting, Spitz and her design team will move forward with the clipper ship design, since that was the favorite.
If all goes according to plan, after the designs go before the City Council and other commissions for approval, the park would be ready for use by May of 2013, Spitz said.
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