Open house is July 15 

A decade ago there were only about 100 inclusive playgrounds in the country, said Garrett Beck, Burnsville’s parks, recreation and facilities director.

Soon, there will be two in Burnsville alone.

The city expects to complete its first inclusive playground by mid- to late fall at Red Oak Park, 12100 River Hills Drive, Beck said. The other one, a school project, opened in 2017 at Gideon Pond Elementary.

Inclusive playgrounds are wheelchair- and walker-friendly and have play equipment geared to a wide range of children’s abilities. Nationally, their popularity has grown “as we become more aware of the needs of people around us and the different types of play and the value our parks play in development of individuals,” Beck said.

Before construction begins in August, city officials want to hear from residents and potential park users.

An open house where people can review and vote on design proposals will be held Monday, July 15, from 3-6 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Civic Center Parkway.

Working with a consultant, the city has an initial design concept that includes a large accessible play structure along with Bankshot Basketball, an inclusive seated spinner, sensory panels, a walking loop, a gaga ball pit, a multiperson disc swing, an accessible teeter totter, musical instruments and multiple seating areas.

A committee that includes School District 191 officials involved with the Gideon Pond project has been working on the plans, Beck said.

Key to inclusive playgrounds is a “poured-in-place” surface over which wheels can travel, Beck said. Traditional wood-chip playground surfaces are considered Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, “but it’s absolutely not a preferred surface for an inclusive playground location,” he said.

Inclusive playgrounds “can be anywhere from three to 10 times more expensive than a typical playground,” Beck said.

That shouldn’t be a barrier to having an inclusive playground in Burnsville’s mature parks system, he said. Parks officials heard from people with disabilities when seeking input on a 2017 rewrite of the city’s parks and recreation master plan.

“It definitely came up in our efforts to connect with the community that there was an interest in inclusion across our entire parks system,” Beck said.

Several years ago his department reviewed the parks system’s Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.

“While we are in a good place on a lot of our stuff, every time we come into a park each year and have to make improvements, those types of things are at the top of our list, whether it’s curb cuts or accessibility to a particular feature,” he said.

Red Oak site

The Red Oak Park playground is more than 25 years old and needs replacement, Beck said. Red Oak is designated a community park, with features that make it a destination park for many users.

The city has designated $100,000 for the project — which is more than doubled by a $140,000 donation from the Burnsville Lions Club, Beck said.

“These things are difficult to do from a budget perspective without a partner in the community,” he said. “And they’ve been amazing.”

The inclusive playground at Gideon Pond was funded by a variety of sources, including school-based fundraising, a grant from U.S. Bank and the Minnesota Vikings and contributions from School District 191 and Intermediate School District 917.

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