Joco 913

Accessible playground on the way

Leawood approved an all-accessible site for Leawood City Park last year. Other parks in Johnson County are approving such parks, like this one in the Ivanhoe neighborhood in Kansas City. Such playgrounds provide access to all children, including those with disabilities.
Leawood approved an all-accessible site for Leawood City Park last year. Other parks in Johnson County are approving such parks, like this one in the Ivanhoe neighborhood in Kansas City. Such playgrounds provide access to all children, including those with disabilities. File photo

New playground equipment that is accessible to children with special needs is in the works for Shawnee Mission Park and Stilwell Community Park. The playgrounds will go into the planning stages now that the county commission has approved $2 million in spending from the reserves of the Park and Recreation District budget.

Once installed, the all-accessible equipment will greatly increase the number of such playgrounds in Johnson County. Only one other city is installing or has plans for that type of equipment, parks officials said. That city is Leawood, which approved an all-accessible site for Leawood City Park last year.

All accessible playground equipment is designed for use by children and adults of all abilities. The play area might include ramps and swings designed to take wheelchairs or mobility devices, for instance. However it’s still too early for any specifics on how the new playgrounds will look.

Park director Jill Geller said the district has been investigating the idea for about a year and had checked around Johnson County and the metro area. “We were trying not to duplicate what other cities were doing,” she said.

Park officials chose Shawnee Mission Park because of its location and because it has over 2 million visitors a year. Stilwell will get a playground because citizens there have been asking for one, Geller said.

Since the playgrounds were not included in the park district’s capital improvements for park and streamway development, Geller asked for the funding to be approved through the district’s reserves. The playground at Shawnee Mission will cost about $1 million and will also include a restroom that can be open year-round. The Stilwell amount will be $986,000 and will include a shelter and restroom improvements.

Some commissioners suggested the park district should adopt a long-range strategic plan of where to locate future accessible playgrounds.

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