The equipment is designed so children with disabilities can use their imagination, analytical and problem-solving skills, and children without disabilities can also play with them on the equipment.
BAY COUNTY — New playground equipment at county parks is designed to make sure children with disabilities don’t feel singled out.
“The idea is that it is inclusive,” said Valerie Sale, a spokeswoman for Bay County, as she looked over the new equipment at H.G. Harders Park, all of which complies with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “The idea is that all kids can play on this playground including those that have developmental disabilities.”
Under construction at the park at 8110 John Pitts Road is an ADA-compliant and handicap-accessible park featuring a climbing dome, right next to the regular playground equipment. Plans call for a handicapped parking lot being built and sidewalks connecting the playground areas so it is all one park.
Bay County hired Kompan, an international company, to construct the ADA playground at a cost of $98,000, which is coming out of park impact fees paid by new development. The playground will feature a soft "poured in place" surface.
“This is our first project in Bay County,” said Stacy Mosely, a playground consultant for Kompan. She said the company’s equipment is designed so children with disabilities can use their imagination, analytical and problem-solving skills, and children without disabilities can also play with them on the equipment.
She said the poured-in-place surface makes it safer in the event of a fall and allows easy wheelchair access to amenities.
“You kind of rock on your feet a little when you stand on it. The kids love it,” she said.
She said the ADA playground equipment is generally lower to the ground.
“(Children) can be involved with the equipment with other children. Ultimately, children want to play together," she said.
Derick Thomas, the division manager for Bay County Parks and Recreation, said people who see the equipment might not even notice that it has features to make it easier to use for people with disabilities.
“It is kind of disguised,” he said. "It’s not just an outright handicapped structure. All children can come out here. If a child has mobility challenges, they will be able to access these structures. It has hidden features that will allow children to play together."
The Harders Park ADA playground is expected to be completed in about a week.
A smaller playground area is already complete at David W. Hutchinson Park at County Road 2301 and Bear Creek Bridge. The brightly colored plastic equipment includes an ADA-compliant swing set and slide attraction. There is an incline to the slide for wheelchair access the slide, and mulch that does not put out splinters is spread on the ground to buffer a fall. A company named PlayWorld was hired at a cost of $38,000 to install the equipment.