Power of play extends beyond swings at fully inclusive playgrounds

Published: Sunday, July 22 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

Money can be spent more efficiently and effectively, Schulze said.

"I've seen people put millions of dollars into something that ends up being boring for some kids," she said. "They spent a tremendous amount of money but didn't think about the design. It is really important to talk to families in the community and choose something that everyone will enjoy."

Because universally accessible playgrounds are typically larger and more complex than traditional playgrounds, they are also more expensive.

Boushh estimated that the average cost for a normal playground is around $100,000. The average cost for everything associated with a fully inclusive playground is between $500,000 and $1 million, he said.

Fencing, surfacing, ramping and pathways all increase the cost associated with these playgrounds.

"The majority, about 75 percent of the funding, comes from outside sources," Boushh said. "Most are funded by grants and fundraisers."

The cost of these playgrounds has not deterred many community members and parents from advocating for them, however.

"There is often money from the city, park district or school," Kaplan said. "People fund-raise and raise money the way they always have. There is also a lot of support from local foundations and businesses because the playgrounds are built for the community and their needs."

Despite the financial obstacles that may prevent some communities from building these playgrounds, experts agree they are worth every penny.

"I hope there will be more in the future and that people will make conscious decisions on how to design these playgrounds," Kaplan said. "It's no fun to sit on the sidelines and watch siblings and friends play."

Schulze will not soon forget her first experience at Millstone Creek Park. She recalls the festive atmosphere with, friends and family members skipping rocks and frolicking in the wading pool. She hopes that all parents will be able to share her same joy someday.

"I am encouraged that I see more of these parks coming," Schulze said. "Millstone is just amazing because everyone can play together. Every time I drive by it makes me smile."

Email: tbetar@desnews.com

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