New play­ground de­signed to be in­clu­sive, ac­ces­si­ble for all kids

Calgary Herald - - NEW CONDOS - BRIAN BUR­TON

A cer­tain logic would sug­gest that a chil­dren’s play­ground in Univer­sity Dis­trict has to be some­thing spe­cial.

Af­ter all, uni­ver­si­ties are about in­no­va­tion, ex­plo­ration and lead­ing-edge ideas, and chil­dren are the essence of op­por­tu­nity, po­ten­tial and fu­ture pos­si­bil­ity.

So, a play­ground in Univer­sity Dis­trict, now un­der devel­op­ment west of the Univer­sity of Cal­gary cam­pus, might be ex­pected to pro­vide in­no­va­tive ways for kids — all kids — to thrive and ex­press their po­ten­tial.

And, so it is with the brand-new play­ground in the heart of the Univer­sity Dis­trict.

“The new North­west Com­mons Park is part of our vi­sion to cre­ate a com­mu­nity that’s thought­fully and in­clu­sively de­signed for all res­i­dents and vis­i­tors,” says Travis Oberg, se­nior devel­op­ment man­ager at West Cam­pus Devel­op­ment Trust, the or­ga­ni­za­tion set up by the U of C to over­see devel­op­ment of Univer­sity Dis­trict.

For the newly com­pleted play­ground project, the trust part­nered with IBI Group, Park N Play De­sign, Level Play­ing Field and Wilco Con­trac­tors.

“We were try­ing to be thought­ful, mind­ful and in­clu­sive, and we were very aware that we’re ad­ja­cent to a chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal. Also, bring­ing the peo­ple of our com­mu­nity to­gether is part of our vi­sion,” Oberg says. “We felt that a thought­ful play­ground had to be part of this lo­ca­tion and that re­ally meant mak­ing it in­clu­sive.”

He notes that the park is lo­cated in the cen­tre of Univer­sity Dis­trict, so that it’s a short walk for all res­i­dents to get there.

Oberg says North­west Com­mons Park is a Play­core Na­tional Demon­stra­tion Site that in­cor­po­rates the seven prin­ci­ples for in­clu­sive play­ground de­sign: ac­ces­si­ble to chil­dren with mo­bil­ity chal­lenges; in­clu­sive of those with di­verse phys­i­cal abil­i­ties; easy to un­der­stand, en­ables par­tic­i­pa­tion and suc­cess; en­ables ev­ery child to par­tic­i­pate at their own level; pro­vides both safety and chal­lenge; sup­ports vary­ing de­grees of par­tic­i­pa­tion; and pro­vides com­fort for all lev­els of mo­tor con­trol.

The park is wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble, with wide ramps giv­ing ac­cess to mon­key bars, slides, swings and a climb­ing net, all un­der­laid with poured-in-place rub­ber mat­ting made from re­cy­cled tires.

Oberg said the swings are large, boat-like struc­tures that ac­com­mo­date a wheel­chair and seat­ing for ad­di­tional peo­ple, while the climb­ing net and mon­key bars in­clude trans­fer points, so that kids ar­riv­ing in wheel­chairs can move from their chairs to the equip­ment and back to their chairs more eas­ily.

Slides, mean­while, are built with rollers that give chil­dren a height­ened sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence that’s very im­por­tant for cer­tain types of dis­abil­i­ties.

“Parks mean dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple,” Oberg says.

Ac­cord­ingly, the area in­cludes a gi­ant pa­tio chess board and chess pieces and a weather-proof ping­pong ta­ble.

The Univer­sity Dis­trict is in an 80-hectare devel­op­ment that will even­tu­ally in­clude 6,000 homes, 250,000 square feet of re­tail and 1.5 mil­lion square feet of of­fice space, as well as 16 hectares of park space and 12 kilo­me­tres of walk­ing and bik­ing trails.

For those with pets, there’s a fenced dog park with sep­a­rate off-leash areas for large and small dogs. The dog park is cov­ered in ar­ti­fi­cial turf for ex­cel­lent drainage, easy main­te­nance and greater dura­bil­ity than nat­u­ral grass.

Oberg says the mas­ter plan for Univer­sity Dis­trict places spe­cial em­pha­sis on green space to off­set its ur­ban lo­ca­tion and higher-den­sity de­sign. While the city re­quires 10 per cent of new de­vel­op­ments to be given to parks, Univer­sity Dis­trict has al­lo­cated 20 per cent to green space.

WEST CAM­PUS DEVEL­OP­MENT TRUST

The new North­west Com­mons Park in the Univer­sity Dis­trict is de­signed to be in­clu­sive.

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