$1.2 mil­lion play­ground for kids with dis­abil­i­ties opens in Atas­cadero

The Tribune (SLO) - - NEIGHBORS - By Sarah Linn [email protected]­BUNE­NEWS.COM SarahLinn:805-781-7907,@she­likestowatch

Anew Atas­cadero play­ground aims to be fully in­clu­sive, with equip­ment geared to­ward kids and grownups with dis­abil­i­ties.

The new Joy Play­ground re­cently opened at Colony Park next to the Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in Atas­cadero.

In the works since 2014, the play­ground is the re­sult of a part­ner­ship be­tween the city of Atas­cadero and Par­ents for Joy, a group of lo­cal par­ents, fam­i­lies and teach­ers who live with or are as­so­ci­ated with chil­dren with spe­cial needs, a city news re­lease said.

“It’s the first of its kind in San Luis Obispo County,” said Par­ents of Joy mem­ber Geoff Auslen, who has lived in Atas­cadero “on and off” for 30 years.

The clos­est all-in­clu­sive play­ground is lo­cated in Sali­nas, he said. The Joy Play­ground is “the cen­ter­piece of Atas­cadero, as far as we’re con­cerned,” said Auslen, the owner of Glenn’s Re­pair and Rental in Atas­cadero. “It’s amaz­ing what this com­mu­nity has done.”

Sarah Sullivan, co-founder of Par­ent for Joy, was de­lighted to see the mo­ment they’d worked for fi­nally come true on Fri­day.

“Just see­ing typ­i­cal chil­dren — what­ever typ­i­cal means — playing next to our kids, playing next to a child with autism, Down syn­drome, and they’re just hav­ing fun. They’re playing to­gether. They’re be­com­ing friends,” she told The Tri­bune at the grand open­ing. “I’m up here cry­ing just away. I can’t even con­tain my­self.”

De­signed by an Alabama

com­pany named GameTime, the Joy Play­ground fea­tures an en­chanted for­est theme com­plete with logs, vine climbers, leaf spin­ners and a mushroom ta­ble and toad­stools, ac­cord­ing to the Par­ents for Joy web­site.

The poured-in-place rub­ber sur­fac­ing fea­tures dec­o­ra­tive paths and “rivers” run­ning through it, the site says.

In ad­di­tion to stan­dards such as slides and swings, the play­ground fea­tures a rock­ing plas­tic egg, a wave-themed rocker that seats six, a merry-go-round with space for up to 12 chil­dren and a drag­on­fly teeter-tot­ter with a tac­tile face for peo­ple with vis­ual im­pair­ment or sen­sory is­sues.

There’s also a cus­tom “ac­ces­si­ble tree­house with slides and fun pan­els to play with,” the Par­ents for Joy site says. “So many chil­dren with spe­cial needs are not able to climb up a ladder to play in a tree­house. With our one-of-a-kind de­sign, they can feel what it’s like to be high up in a tree, but still be very safe.”

The play­ground is fully fenced with a sin­gle gate. The en­tire project cov­ers more than 10,000 square feet, ac­cord­ing to Ter­rie Ban­ish, Atas­cadero deputy city man­ager.

The open­ing of the Joy Play­ground comes af­ter five years of fundrais­ing ef­forts by Par­ents for Joy. So far, the group has raised about $1.1mil­lion to­ward the $1.2 mil­lion project, leav­ing it about $50,000 short, Auslen said.

In ad­di­tion, Par­ents for Joy needs to raise $100,000 for a main­te­nance fund, he said.

In 2017, the city of Atas­cadero awarded $505,000 in park­land fa­cil­i­ties fees to­ward the project, the re­lease said.

A ground­break­ing cer­e­mony for the play­ground was held in May 2018, and site work be­gan shortly after­ward, Ban­ish wrote in an email.

The Joy Play­ground isn’t the only new play­ground to de­but in San Luis Obispo County in re­cent months.

Di­nosaur Caves Park in Pismo Beach re­opened in Fe­bru­ary af­ter an ex­ten­sive re­model.

JOE JOHN­STON jjohn­[email protected]­bune­news.com

The new Joy Play­ground in Atas­cadero opened Fri­day. The city of Atas­cadero has been work­ing with Par­ents for Joy, a group of lo­cal par­ents, fam­i­lies and teach­ers who live with or are as­so­ci­ated with chil­dren with spe­cial needs, on the play­ground project for five years.

JOE JOHN­STON jjohn­[email protected]­bune­news.com

A new play­ground, Joy Play­ground, re­cently opened in Atas­cadero.

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