Five inches of rain, snow flurries and cold temperatures couldn't stop a group of community volunteers from installing the equipment at a new accessible playground in Edwardsville last week.
A group of 150 people met at Edwardsville Township Park (also known as Airplane Park, 6314 Center Grove Road, Edwardsville, Ill., 62025) to participate in the Edwardsville/Glen Carbon Junior Service Club's playground project on April 19 and 20, said Christie Lampe, playground chair for the organization.
"It is amazing the way the community is pulling together," Lampe said. Their goal is to create a playground where all kids, regardless of ability, can play together. The Boundless Playground, as it's called, will open to the public on Sunday, May 19.
Lampe, a former special education teacher, became passionate about bringing an accessible playground to the metro east after her daughter was born and she started spending more time at playgrounds. "I never saw any children that had special needs at an area park, and it just made me sad because I knew there were children in the community that needed a place like this to play," she recalled. "Our group was looking for a big service project, and they got very enthusiastic and behind this playground."
Unlike standard playgrounds, this new playground features ramps to the top play decks and solid surfacing that makes getting around easier for those who use walkers and wheelchairs. The playground has swings with back supports and harnesses, higher-sided slides, sensory panels and extra hand rails. These features provide support for children with a variety of needs, Lampe said. Play areas, including a musical play area, are designed so children with special needs can play alongside their peers, she said. The centerpiece of the playground is a custom-made treehouse. The tree encourages kids to congregate inside the bottom of its trunk and up on top, Lampe said.
The $450,000 playground project has been supported by donations, Lampe said. It's the only accessible playground of its kind in Madison County.
The Junior Service Club is planning a ribbon-cutting and opening ceremony for the park at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 19. In addition to playing on the new equipment, families can also participate in special activities at the event.
Another community build day is scheduled for Friday, May 3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The club is looking for volunteers to help with landscaping. Volunteers should visit the club's website for details.